A Q&A With The Brown Family - From Brooke Adams Plural Life Blog
This just hit today. A little further look in to the Brown family from the previous video. Hopefully, at some point, folks will stop stereotyping people living in plural marriages whether lived on the grounds of religious or secular belief. Thanks again to Brooke Adams for all the work she does!
Q&A with The Browns
Posted on July 13, 2009, 9:00 am, by Brooke, under Apostolic United Brethren (AUB).
After watching the Brown Family video — and because of the reaction of some of you – I contacted Kody Brown and asked if he and his wives would participate in a Q&A for my readers. The Browns agreed. First, a bit of background.
Kody grew up in northern Wyoming and converted to fundamentalism after going on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christine Brown, one of the women in the family, has spoken publicly about their plural family; the other two women have not. They are reticent about being identified though they participated in answering my questions. I have used initials, A. and E., to identify them.
The family, which lives in Utah, has 12 children ranging in age from 4 to 15.
Question: Who made the video, when and how did your family come to be featured in it?
Answer: Humphrey Hawksley, a leading BBC foreign correspondent, and his cameraman Ian, made the video. We (Christine and I) met them at the State Capitol on Feb. 12 during the Legislature Awareness Day, sponsored by Principle Voices, and he asked if he could see us with the family.
Q: Did you and your wives grow up in plural families?
A: I grew up in the LDS Church. My parents adopted a “fundamentalist” belief when I was young. One of my wives, the second, grew up in the LDS faith as well. The other two grew up as “fundamentalists” in the faith I have adopted.
Q: How did your plural family come together?
A: I married E. in 1990 when she was 19 and I was 22. She got the “conventional” courtship. After her father gave consent, we actually dated, got engaged and then married. The experience was oozing with romance.
A. came into the family in 1993, when she was 23 and I was 24. She was a friend of the family. I had known her before I married E., although we were not romantically inclined at that time. Ours was a great friendship. In November of 1992, she asked my dad to pave the way for her, then she asked me to bring her into my family. Today, she denies that she asked me, but I remember the time, place and what she was wearing! She had actually asked E. if she could have a moment alone with me to do it.
Christine came into the family a year after A., when she was 21 and I was 25. She had been friends with me and E. from since late summer of 1990. She was fun and crazy. E., A. and I all loved her. After I teased her for about a year that she had to “ask my dad if she could court me,” she actually did.
Q: How do support such a large family? Do you work? Do some or all the wives work?
A: We all work. Some full time, some go to school part time. There is always a mother at home. The children always have a parent to go to at home. My family costs me the same it costs any other guy — everything I’ve got!
Q: Some plural families share a home, some live independently. What’s your approach?
A: Income level usually dictates how we have lived. Once, all four of us lived in a three-bedroom home with more kids than we want family services to know! That was short-lived, while we built a second house. A few years ago I developed a mantra that “we work to get everybody what they want.” All needs get fulfilled.
Our family belief is that each mother needs her own kitchen and autonomy. That is were we are at now. Each mother has her own kitchen, living room and master suite. Some children share rooms. Each child has his or her own bed or bunk. On non-school nights, there tend to be a lot of “sleepovers.” The small children almost never want to be alone.
Q: Do your children attend public, private or home school?
A: When the children were small, we did home school. Now they are all in a private school. This fall my oldest child will attend public high school. He has already made friends in the athletic programs. He is a very well-adjusted individual, so I do not worry about him fitting in.
Q: What is your philosophy about raising your children in a plural family? Do they understand the family is different from some?
A: I have never been very “secretive” about my lifestyle, only private. Not having grown up in the culture, I was not cautioned by parents or have the experience of raids, the threat of foster care or such things that has driven the polygamous culture into secrecy.
We have been a close family — and very fun! As a result, small children want to “brag” about moms and dad. We had to explain that we “are a little different,” and we need to be sensitive to others sentiments. We teach the children to be “cautious and open.” As adults, we never embarrass the little ones through denial or shame, so to some we may seem “in your face” or too open.
In public, my little ones are allowed to yell “Hi Daddy!” across a hall and get acknowledged by me. The generations in polygamy before mine were actually in fear of their lives, livelihood and freedom. It was a federal mandate that kept fathers from acknowledging their kids.
Q: Are there pluses in living as a plural family?
A: Yes. Having a large family and the support structure to raise them. If you like excitement, there is seldom a dull moment in a large family. My oldest loves having a variety of parental “talent” to help and advise him.
In times past we have lived in a very rural area and my children were never in want of companionship due to the remote location. They always had siblings to associate with.
“The more the merrier,” “Two heads are better than one, three better than two,” “many hands make light work” and many other cliches apply.
If you embrace, love and live the polygamist lifestyle, you will never know long-term loneliness.
Anytime that a task or undertaking seems overwhelming or daunting, there is a hand to help and a shoulder to cry on.
Also: There is exponential emotional maturation.
If I am at work, traveling or, as many men will be occasionally, emotionally unavailable, these women have someone who understands and empathizes.
And there is multiple personality exposure. If you are the type that likes being in a crowd and near the action, you will seldom have to leave home for exposure to some of the most dramatic personalities and displays of human interaction.
FROM A.: What are some of the benefits? For me, when all the children were small, it was nice because we had each other to help with child care. I could watch children if one or both of the others were away and vice versa.
One of us was primarily home — working only part time — so I knew I had daycare. It didn’t matter whether kids were sick, as well as someone who really cared about what was happening to them during the day. I rarely ever had to miss work for a sick child or leave school for mishaps. I had someone who had my back and could take care of whatever came up.
I can remember one time I was bombed at work. I remembered that one of my children had a science project presentation due the next day. I was able to call home and someone was willing to make sure it got completed.
Another practical benefit is that I take no joy or pride in ironing my husband’s shirts, etc. Let’s face it: husbands are hard work and often more needy than your children. I adore my husband, but pleeeze! There are others in my family who take pride and gain some fulfillment in seeing to those duties — so hey, go for it!
Finally, there is a great deal of companionship. The four of us have some great conversations. I will be honest, it took a few years for us to become more secure in who we were. Until that, the emotions were sometimes too high to be very good friends, but now I find that I prefer to spend time, as much if not more, with my family than friends.
We are anticipating an upcoming vacation all together. We will be gone for a week. I spent a week last year with my sister, and while we had a great time, I think it will be easier to travel with my husband, sister wives and children. After being together for so long, our family has meshed its own culture, if you will. We all understand the needs of each other, and we are individuals, but we still think a great deal alike — just like any family that has been together a long time.
Q: What are the hardships?
The difficult task of making everyone happy. The worst days are when you can’t make anyone happy.
The experiences that cause “exponential emotional maturation.”
Most men and women are challenged by the financial hardship that having a large family can cause.
The NOISE! I asked for this, and I love it . . . but sometimes I just want some peace and quiet, as do my wives and teenage children.
Cleaning up after little children is constant. One year we had five in diapers at the same time.
Q: How open can you be about your plural family?
A: I usually have a sense about who may be really prejudiced and bigoted toward my lifestyle and faith. I take time getting to know people before I “come out of the closet.”
With some folks I am completely open. Employers and customers are usually my biggest concern. They are the last to know, if they ever find out. Being open with them could cost me a payday or even my job.
Some prejudice is because of moral issues, other prejudices are because of stereotyping. Those who consider “open-mindedness” a moral virtue are usually my best allies.
In public with more than one wife, I try to be sensitive to potential offenses. I’m not hiding anything, I will just avoid being too affectionate. I have to be a bit diplomatic, so I try to be sensitive to the feelings of others.
In the past polygamists have had to be secret due to the threat of indictment or expulsion from work. Our civil rights got thrown out a long time ago. Our current Attorney General is not coming after us, however, my civil rights are not being protected. Even though society has evolved to the point of not knocking on my door with pitch forks and a lynch mob, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t get away with it.
So, I guess we are open with those we trust, or when it is mutually beneficial to be open.
Q: What are the biggest stereotypes you see perpetuated in the media about fundamentalist Mormons and plural marriage?
A: That polygamists have poor taste and no fashion sense. That all polygamists marry cousins. That all polygamists men marry child brides.
That all polygamists are cult-like and brainwashed and have no other option than to be in polygamy.
Q: Why are you/were you willing to be public about the lifestyle?
A: To dispel these stereotypes and replace the current public image that polygamists have.
Q: One person who watched the Brown Family video wrote on my blog: “It was also nice to hear that the children get to know and acknowledge who Dad is.” Another wrote: “I’ve read about the AUB not allowing their children to call their fathers “dad” but using “uncle” instead.”
What is your reaction to that?
A: Once again, this may have happened to protect the “innocent” from indictment and persecution. A father may think it safer to deny children’s identity in public than to risk loss of job or state removal of children.
This is purely caused by social discrimination and state persecution of families, trampling their civil rights regaring love, lifestyle and choice issues. This type of stuff happened simple out of fear. We have seen in Texas how fear has chased some in this lifestyle deep into secrecy, only creating a more closed society than before and eventually an environment that breeds more cult-like behavior.
Q: Another said: “Lives have been shattered beyond repair by what is taught in fundamentalist Mormonism.” What is your reaction to that?
A: This is a personal opinion, a stereotype, and a prejudice. It is stated in a way that incites bigotry and social persecution. It seems like the comment someone who has read some book about a child bride escaping a polygamist cult would make. Someone who hates a faith because of the actions of an individual or individuals. Not a person who has really known people who chose this lifestyle and faith, which is actually the norm. Unlike what is being stereotyped by a few authors who left home to escape their own inability to say “NO!” and make their own choices. Don’t blame me and some 40,0000 others because of some cult-like behavior of a few weak individuals.
Q: One reader wondered why the other two wives did not appear in the video clip. Any reason for that?
A: Humphrey and Ian did not have a very flexible schedule, and this was very spontaneous. Both the other wives were unable to break away from work. Neither of them have ever been involved with public exposure. They were feeling a bit cautious. Christine addresses the press quite often.
Q: Some say that plural marriage is illegal, period, and that anyone who lives it should be jailed and their children removed from what they see as an inherently abusive environment. What’s your response?
A: These kind of people don’t get out much. Prejudice and bigotry promote fear. We don’t like what we don’t understand. Fear loves suffering, so let’s put good parents in jail because they scare us (sarcasm). GOOD GRIEF! This motivates me (Kody) to go public in an attempt to dispel such closed mindedness. That could be an effort in futility though.