The Daily News

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Schadenfreude or Lesson Learning: Nadya Suleman Footage on Fox

Because posts about family size--like the "without children/with children," breastfeeding, or circumcision factions--tend to bring out the same type of people who don't actually read the post but instead just leave a comment furthering their argument, I thought I'd address these bullet points before jumping into this post:
  • I have no strong feelings about family size. I don't think we should look at the number but rather look at the individual family and examine what they can realistically support based on finances, house-size, outside support, desire for a certain number of children, needs to existing children, etc. So I'm pro-big family and I'm pro-small family.
  • I do have strong feelings on single motherhood--I'm all for it. I don't think anyone should feel limitations about reaching for their bliss. I think it needs to be a personal decision--not one size fits all--but I fully support SPBC. I think we need to spend less time harping about the number or sexuality of parents in the house and start looking at what children do need--one or more attentive adults who have the desire and ability to provide a child with love, affection, knowledge, and ethics. Back to family size, the number of people a single person can raise is entirely contingent on all the same criteria used to look at how many children two adults can raise.
  • I don't have strong feelings about Nadya Suleman or Kate Gosselin or Michelle Duggar (though now that I've caught one episode of Duggar's show, I've told Josh that it is going to be our new thing). I only know them via a heavily-edited vehicle which is meant to make me see them from a certain angle. Therefore, when I write about them, it is merely examining what is on the screen and trying not to pull in assumptions. I don't always succeed, but I do try. Just for the record, when I argue about a post, I do the same thing. I work with the words actually on the screen, and not make assumptions about what the author really meant.
  • Because television is a heavily-edited medium ( In other words, the director of a reality show is choosing the lens through which we see the person), I take everything I see on the screen with a grain of salt. I don't know Fox's motivations, but I can guess them based on some pretty heavy-handed clues such as ominous voiceovers. So, yeah, I get that Fox was trying to make Suleman appear a certain way. And I get that this post may appear as if I have agreed with them. I'm writing this not to address Nadya Suleman as a whole, but to highlight certain words she spoke during the documentary.
  • I'm pro-circumcision, anti-breastfeeding, and anti-Santa! No vaccinations! Burn all the books! No peanut butter in schools! Free the whales! No wars! Chop down more trees! Who else can I offend?
  • I often foam at the mouth--you know what I'm talking about, that stream of spittle pooling up in the corner and sometimes showering down on the front row?--when I'm up on my soapbox. I just wanted you to keep that image in mind.
Julie from A Little Pregnant asked a few weeks ago if people were going to watch the Nadya Suleman documentary on Fox, alerting me to how much you miss when you don't turn on your television (why bother, I thought, now that the Next Food Network Star has been decided). I have to admit that I missed it, but the blog posts that popped up afterward made me track it down on Hulu and like the thousands or millions--I'm not sure how many people tuned in for the broadcast--watched life in Suleman household.

Because remember, it's a person's life. It's 14 people's lives.

There were two ways you could watch the footage. One is purely out of schadenfreude, taking pleasure in her pain and watching it with human cruelty. It can be rubber necking, a thankful-it's-not-us exercise.

The other way is to use it as a lesson, an examination that while most people could keep a child--or even 14 children--alive, it is a very different proposition to raise a child. That being a parent is more than rocking the child to sleep, giving a bottle, and playing with them. That is simply the black-and-white side of parenting. But it's also teaching right from wrong and building self-esteem and encouraging strengths--that greyer side that keeps bringing in the paychecks for Super Nanny or parenting book authors. After all, we wouldn't say a nurse in the NICU parents the child. We say that she keeps the baby healthy and alive and cares for him. And the same is true at home. Almost everyone can keep a baby healthy and alive. It is quite another thing to parent.

It illustrated why preschools and daycares limit the number of children that can be adequately and safely watched by a single person. Humans simply weren't made to be able to adequately take care of 14 children under the age of 9 at once. The Duggars have sort of perfected (if we can call it that) the idea of building a large family. Children are spaced so that the oldest can help with the youngest. The first child was born in 1988 and was over five when the fifth child was born. While life is still chaotic and busy at the Duggar house, the children have been raised understanding how they can help the family run smoothly and that system is certainly missing from the Suleman household, even with a nine-year-old present.

While family size and timing was somewhat out of Nadya Suleman's hands--there is a big difference between family building without assistance and utilizing IVF--she did make the choice to transfer all six frozen embryos at once rather than attempt several future pregnancies, donate the embryos, or destroy them. There were options that allowed her to use them that did not include transferring all at once. And despite her claim that she never thought higher order multiples could happen, the possibility was definitely there. It is like a person exclaiming that they didn't know a car accident could possibly happen when they got behind the wheel of a car, simply because they've driven before and it hasn't happened. Car accidents are not a certainty, but they are always a possibility. And multiples are always a possibility when you transfer more than one embryo. Hell, they are a possibility even if you only transfer one.

But, as Suleman keeps repeating in the footage, the past is the past, the decisions have been made and the actions taken and now it comes down to what she does in the future. As I watched it, I kept in mind that Fox edited it to reflect a certain story, with all footage to the contrary on the cutting room floor. And at the same time, no family would hold up well to the scrutiny of cameras and an outsider's editing work--especially in those early days of babyhood. I shudder to think of what Fox could have done with my own life if I allowed cameras in my house.

And maybe that's the point. I wouldn't allow cameras into my home, no matter how interested the world was about what goes on behind our closed doors.

Fox's footage was sensationalized, edited to show a woman with poor decision making skills who never considered the future. This isn't just in regard to her children; they drive the point home with showing her laughing through a story from her teenage years where she made her mother ride in the trunk of the car and how she would swerve around and slam on the brakes.

Nine times, the ominous voiceover warned me prior to commercial that I would be watching footage that I "won't believe exists" (actually, once they told me the footage exists, I believed them the first time), which turned out to be the camera showing the backs of nurses and doctors blocking the view of Suleman's c-section while the camerawoman placed getting her footage over the well-being and safety of anyone in the room. I'm not sure what Fox found to be the unbelievable part--the fact that the camerawoman was wholly out of line, or the fact that we have shakey footage of the backs of nurses.

It is easier to watch it from the schadenfreude point-of-view: from the fact that Suleman squeals relentlessly in regard to every situation: "How is this possible?" or "This is not what I expected at all" to the truly bizarre opening showing her concerned about paparazzi taking pictures of the babies even though she is currently having the babies filmed and immediately fixing her make-up rather than tending to the crying infants. In one scene, she calls herself Octomum prior to her phone call to the police and admits that she had the term trademarked so she could use it for business ventures in the future.

It is easier to watch it from that schadenfreude vantage point when she continuously harps on how private she is and how she doesn't want attention. When she mocks Kate Gosselin and states how Kate is desperate for attention. How she just wishes everyone would leave her alone because she is truly a very very private person and never dreamed she would get this attention. And yet, it is the push-me-pull-you contradictions that make it difficult to not rubber neck as she tells the filmmaker that she thinks reality television is a wonderful opportunity because they'll get a lot of free experiences just as Jon and Kate have grabbed for their children. That at the end of the day, this very private person is showing her home life on television. And private and public are contradictions in and of themselves. She is not an actress with a job who happens to also have a private life that is under scrutiny. She is a mother with no job who has willingly placed her private life to be under scrutiny for payment.

It is difficult to see her arguing with her mother on camera. You have to wonder if they have had that conversation before and we're just seeing the reenactment of a long-standing argument, or if her mother was finally giving her a too-late parenting lesson. I was deeply offended by Nadya's understanding of adoption, believing that it's a lack of love that moves one to create an adoption plan.
Mother: "You could have had an adoption. You didn't have to have [the embryos] destroyed."

Nadya: "...the audacity to say that any of these children should be adopted because I have more love for these children than I think...well, almost...I'm sure that many parents would have just as much love."
My offense is not that she would choose to parent instead of create an adoption plan--that is a personal decision and there are certainly people who could raise (again, meaning: not only keep alive; but also parent and guide) 14 children. It is that she holds such an immature and ill-informed notion of her options that I'm not sure how she made a decision.

Which brings us back to the second way this documentary can be used: as a learning experience and as proof that it takes more than love, more than money, more than age to raise a child. And for people to understand before they procreate what it means to parent. That it goes beyond providing food, shelter, and clothing for a child. That it isn't about holding a bottle or cuddling in the rocking chair or making sure they get through each 24 hour period in one piece. That you can have all the love and resources in the world, and it still might not be enough because children need guidance as much as food and hugs to grow. By which I mean grow emotionally. Just because a child is growing larger doesn't mean that their conscience or self-esteem are keeping pace.

That parenting is so much more than feeding and burping and the best parents are the ones that realize the realities of the task beyond their love for babies. It is easy to love babies--they are cute and cuddly and generally under your command. It is much harder to raise children who need to develop their own world view, their own code of ethics, their own happiness. Because beyond the baby years are all the other years. And while Nadya Suleman speaks often about how she loves babies, I never heard her talk about the children in the future, how she envisions having this large family co-exist and thrive with one another. Because say what you want to about the Duggars, but that mother has a vision and she sticks to that vision regardless of the behaviour or feedback from her children or the outside world. And it is what makes her a ship continue to move forward rather than Suleman's rickety boat spinning in circles.

Nadya Suleman would probably ask if anyone else thinks they could do better with 14 kids. And the answer is that I wouldn't have gotten myself in that situation in the first place. I thought about my personal limits and acted accordingly. So no, I could not do better with 14 kids. And that's why we made the family building choices we did.

cross-posted (sort of) with BlogHer.


areyoukiddingme said...

Interesting take - I didn't watch the show. I know that those kids are in for a hard road, because there is no way anyone can give an adequate amount of attention to 6 or 8 toddlers at the same time. I also know that her family support is inadequate due to the coverage at the time of the birth. I don't want to watch the fallout, and I doubt that she would accept any real help beyond monetary donations. It's a very sad situation.

Delenn said...

Very objective post.

I have avoided most of those shows (although did watch JK+8 for awhile--mainly to see how they did it, which, after a while it wasn't about that).

Growing up, I happened to live next door to a blended family of 10children. I often stayed over at their house, because their mother was like "whats one more child". There is definately a different dynamic that has to be a part of a larger family, and being part of a team and having responsibilities is one of them.

While I don't like the Duggers ideology (I happened upon the one where they went to the creation museum) I do think they work well as a family. From what I did see, it greatly reminded me of the family that I grew up with.

As for Nadya--umm, not to be too judgemental here...oh, heck, yes, I am going for it here...she's flipping crazy and I worry about those kids. And I don't need to see footage to know that.

Anonymous said...

There is ..not..enough love or time. I agree, I love kids too, but I decided to give my one little guy the attention. Working full time, I always felt he was short changed. I would never have put another child in the mix so that the attention he got, had to be halfed.

Being a Mother, is about loving your children more than yourself. More than what you want. That child comes first.

I love being a Mother, but you have to never quit trying to make it better and watch for what your child needs, they are all different...thats the deal. There is no road just have to always be watching the signs along the road, and trying to make the best descisions for the child. It is hard.

Natalie said...

I refuse to watch that show on Nadya, I got quite enough from news articles when it all hit the fan. I have watched some of the Duggars shows, and while I definitely do not agree with their beliefs and would never make those choices for myself, I *do* have a respect for them that they are fully functioning and have created a home that is very loving, very supportive, and very... calm. I love watching the show just for the sense of peace that they have about themselves. Which is something that Suleman just doesn't get. She seems very hypocritical, very selfish, and everything I have read or seen about her just disgusts me.

HereWeGoAJen said...

Mel, how dare you insult the medium sized family! Obviously you are anti-medium family, your omission was very pointed. ;)

I don't know anything about Nadya Suleman, other than she appears to be a few bricks short of a house big enough for fourteen people. I've never watched a minute of her on television. I do, however, love the Duggars. I don't agree with everything they believe (but I don't agree with everything anyone believes, or at least no one that I've met yet) but I think they are a wonderful example of how to raise a large family. Actually, I think they are a wonderful example of how to raise any size family. I agree with a large number of their parenting methods. (Yes, watch their show. It's worth it, in my opinion.)

Calliope said...

I watched this "special" when it originally aired. I watched because I was curious. I sort of have a cringe reaction to all things Nadya because I feel like her decisions become a sort of giant anti- single parent via IVF bumper sticker. I remember filling out forms in the hospital after W was born and explaining some of the hows of W's conception (which I did willingly and openly) but more then 2 nurses or staff referenced my life to that of Nadya's. As in, "oh you did the IVF like that lady in California." Nadya was, until they met me, their ONLY insight to single parent by choice. This will always bum me out.

But the actual show? I had to stop watching after hearing Nadya tell the story about how she put her Mother in the trunk and took delight in hearing her roll around and cry out in pain.

I try not to judge another person's family building choices, but celebrate that there ARE choices, i just wish the spotlight wasn't so bright on this one out of the norm family.

battynurse said...

I missed the Fox show about Suleman. I was at work that night but I doubt I would have watched if I had been home. From the interviews with her I've seen and the various articles I've read she has always come across as very selfish and immature.
I don't typically watch much reality TV period but I've lately watched a little of John & Kate plus 8 (some of the early shows) and I've seen some of the stuff on the Duggars. Even though like others have stated I dislike their ideology I agree that they are making it work and are really providing well for their children. John & Kate seem to at least at the beginning really truly care for and want the best for their children also although some of that may have become really overshadowed by the fame they have achieved. As far as Suleman goes it's just sad. Sad that all of those children will likely never get the attention, love or guidance that they require because their mother is way to immature to parent that many children.

Heather said...

I watched. Although I'm not sure why. I think just morbid curiosity. The same reason to watch the Duggars or Jon and Kate.

I think it is sad. I think she is ill prepared to handle that many children - I think most people would be. I couldn't do it.

Michelle said...

I watched the show. I first found that it bored me. I felt it was all a way to make a dime while she was sitting there making fun of others who did the same. It drove me nuts how it seemed most of the time the kids were crying yet no one was paying attention and I thought if this is what she does on camera I would hate to see what happens off. I am sad for the kids because it does not seem that they will be in a loving and supportive environment and when all the sensationalizm goes away then what will they do. She does not have any support and no skills (that I saw) in parenting despite her 6 other kids and lots of practice. You hit it right on the head she is just very immature and it is the kids that will pay the price.

I was upset with the mother because I understand that she does not support the choices her daughter made but it is time to get over that part and do what ever you can. I understand it is not her responsibility but just sitting there all the time and telling everything that HAPPENED was wrong is not helping the situation. If that is all she is going to do then it is just making the situation worse and would be better if she just went away. But like you said it is probably a product of what FOX wanted us to see and not see.

Overall, I am over her and do not really want to see her again. I feel really bad for the children and worry about what there future will be like. What happens if something happens to their mother? What are they going to become as adults? The whole situation is just sad.

Once A Mother said...

One can't help but wonder how this will all play out for those kids, the older one's feeling neglected by the situation, and the little babies no longer able to live a "normal" life by any sense of the word. I cannot understand how this woman, living off of her parents, could bring all these babies into an environment where the only way she can support them is to sensationalize their story.
Maybe alot of this is edited for the benefit of ratings, and in a lot of ways i HOPE thats the truth, that this woman is more capable than she appears and able to provide for these children. I hope it, but doubt it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this... very interesting Mel.

Cassandra said...

The point about day care ratios is a great one. In California, they allow a 14:1 ratio once the kids are 5 years old. It's 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for toddlers, 12:1 for preschoolers. If she were running a family day care instead of a household, they'd be shut down -- and from the looks of the show, for good reason.

Lorza said...

Very insightful post Mel! I actually did watch it b/c I have a morbid curiosity. Sad, I know- but it is like a train wreck. I agree with you on the keeping a child alive vs parenting. I do think this is going to be something that these children will lack. I wish them all the best despite the shitstorm they were all born into.

I was personally PISSED OFF at the camera woman during the delivery. She put those babies lives at risk by refusing to move out of the way- THREATENING lawsuit during a critical delivery. She should be ashamed of herself. What if one of those babies didn't have a heart beat or some other emergency? She would surely have tried to get footage of that- and possibly endanger the children.

I am of the belief that a physican should be able to say "CUT IT OFF" to a camera person if there is a situation that is getting hairy and they need their FULL attention on saving a life. What about those poor babies that have no say so to fact that they were filmed for public consumption? UGH.
The whole thing pisses me off.

Beautiful Mess said...

I haven't watched the Fox special. I'm not sure if I want too. Although it may allow me to understand more of what's being blogged about.

I'm not sure how I would watch it, though. I'm not sure if I would be able to watch it from a neutral point of view, as it seems you have.

You definitely got me thinking, as always. Thank you!

Kristin said...

Brilliant post...balanced, objective, and even handed. Way to go Mel.

Aurelia said...

Sometimes Mel, you are way too evenhanded for me. Really. And I say that with love.

What's wrong with saying she's incompetent? She is! There, I said it, now you don't have to.

I will say that I don't think it's about family size. She'd be incompetent if she was all alone with no family. And the mother? You mentioned the trunk incident. Well who the hell gets in a trunk, then escapes after all that and DOESN'T call the cops? Why didn't she make her daughter take responsibility for her actions? Was this a long-standing pattern?

The mother was incompetent, and the daughter is incompetent and the children will grow up to be incompetent at raising their kids.

It's a long standing circle that continues on and on, and always has. It's why it is so hard to break the cycles of poverty and abuse and low achievement.

Funny thing is, that adoption of a child or an embryo into a family that is very competent, doesn't always change the child's future, because poor executive decision making and poor impulse control are often genetic. We can try and change it....but sometimes, it is what it is.

I really hate that she is associated with IVF anyway, because with all the media coverage of well-educated and articulate people out there, they seem to have forgotten the millions of working class people who swear and smoke and speak like her and joyride and do dumb things.

Nadya Suleman is only unusual because of the 8 babies at once, but really, she is exactly like 90% of my high school graduating class. They just never end up on TV.

Anonymous said...

I did not watch the show because I live in the UK but I have followed the story because, well, it was everywhere and you couldn't avoid it. I tried though. I tried to not read a single word because I agree with everything you say and some from Aurelia's comment as well. The thing that makes me shudder is the 'freakshow' aspect of all of these programmes. The desire to point and laugh, to treat the poor decision making that is happenning on behalf of these children as entertainment. I can't help but judge Nadya Suleman, but I reserve far greater judgement for the contemptuous gawkers that take such pleasure in her dismal circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I hasten to add that I don't think that Mel or anyone here is doing that! But it does seem to be the prevelant attitude in other media and on teh internetz.

Thalia said...

I agree with most of the comments about Ms Suleman, although like afteriris the programme hasn't been shown in the UK so I haven't seen it.

But I'm also a little horrified by the general positivity in the post but more so in the comments about the Duggars. Yes their home is nice and calm and quiet (as far as we can see). And in one instance that I've seen I rather liked the way Michelle Duggar handled a toddler tantrum. But those children are (i) being raised with no attempt to develop their critical faculties. They are hermetically sealed into a world of beliefs which are simply not true, isolated from anyone who might even have a conversation with them about this, let alone show them what is erroneous about these beliefs. At the very least they should be being taught how to see the world from multiple angles, not just from their own. If they go to a creation exhibit one day (no it's not a museum if it's not factual), then why aren't they at a natural history museum the next? Why don't they get the chance to talk to a science teacher about other views? That's not parenting, that's brainwashing.

And (ii) they are given a lot of responsibility early on - I would say too much to the extent they are not having a childhood - and most of the domestic responsibility falls on the girls. At least in the early programmes the boys did stuff with daddy while the girls did laundry, cooking etc. Have you ever seen one of those boys cook in any programme? And this is a parenting style we like? No thank you.

Phew. I guess I feel strongly about some people's parenting.

Barb said...

I have not watched any of it, but really appreciate your post. I love your pov on things. I just wish I were as articulate.

And I agree with Jen - you are so anti-medium family. ;-)

Delenn said...

Oh Thalia--you said it soo much better than I ever could have about the Duggers!!

passingwindows said...

You write about your thought processes so well, so clearly. I like what you say about the difference between having a baby and raising a child. I don't think many peope think about that. Despite all that I have invested in this IF journey, I haven't really thought about the raising of the child that much. Possibly because it hurts too much. I think I could be a good mother, but I have no way of knowing and no way of knowing if I will ever see one way or the other.

I didn't see the show but her view on adoption doesn't surprise me. it's the standard view of people who haven't thought deeply about adoption and the myriad of reasons for it. It makes me angry but how can I blame her, when I am a lazy thinker too? That's why I like to read you, because you are anything but a lazy thinker.

Rachel said...

I didn't watch the show, but I enjoyed reading this post. I am however a bit amazed by how much people like the Duggars (and I don't mean like to watch - we all enjoy watching train wrecks on TV). There are certainly many things to admire in terms of household management and a loving, affectionate family. But it must be so hard to live in a very strict regime and have your every mistake shown on national TV.

I feel especially bad for the daughter-in-law and oldest son. Given their beliefs and the fact that she is 18, it is likely that she will be pregnant or parenting small children for at least the next 20-30 years (last child at 42 would mean 27 years until she is done with diapers). So they ought to be having a wild time in their newlywed months - maybe kissing at the dinnertime, running around the house nude, little romantic things that they won't do with a baby around. And of course exploring what type of family/parents they want to be. It's one thing for the Duggars to invite the cameras in as mature adults, completely different to suggest the show follow a young couple who are just trying to figure things out.

Anjali said...

Great points Mel.

Being a parent means recognizing your limitations, even when they go against what you "want."

For a long time I wanted 4 children. But I've come to grips with the fact that this desire ignores my personal limitations, and that I would not be a good parent to four children.

Lavender Luz said...

I have never watched any of these shows, nor will I (despite the fact that my morbid curiosity is pretty strong). I avoid mentioning them (breaking my rule here)in person and online.

People vote with their feet, or eyeballs, as the case may be. If there is a ready audience for people who exceed their parenting capacity, there is an incentive for them to exceed that capacity. Some people will do some bad sh!+ to others for fame and fortune.

I will not be party to it. I will not vote for it.

(Perhaps I shouldn't be quite so judgmental, since blogging about one's kids is this on a smaller scale. MUCH smaller, financially.)

kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kate said...

I didn't watch the special because I have a firm "no rubbernecking" rule. At least that holds when I drive, though I'm perhaps not as stringent applying that to TV. What I mean is that I'm prone to enjoyment of schadenfreude, so I try to avoid it, lest I fall deeper down that hole, so I didn't watch the show.

But I do have opinions about Ms. Suleman. I think that the way in which she built her family (the eight at once part, at least) is not safe. I agree that a single person does not have the resources to raise that many children. I think that her decisions indicate a mental state that appears to be unstable at best and downright effin' crazy at worst.

BUT. But, they were her decisions to make. They may not have been the right decisions according to my mind, but they were HERS. In the same way that I find abortion to be questionable in some cases, I have to respect a person's right to build their family how and when they see fit. And even though I personally am deeply saddened when someone has an abortion for convenience sake (by this I mean, for example, a friend of mine who at 26, engaged to her boyfriend to whom she is now married, with both well-educated, both with good jobs, both with supportive families, decided to have an abortion because she, at that point, didn't want to be a mother), I have to respect that the decision isn't mine to make.

So yes. Cuckoo-nut-job lady found a cuckoo-nut-job doctor to transfer all those embryos, even though she already had a lot of kids. But, if that's her dream family, if I am going to evenly apply ethical rules, I have to say that she has the right to build it in whatever way she chooses.

Of course, even though as an atheist I couldn't be further from the Duggar religious ethic, I LOVE them, mostly because they have an idea of what is right and wrong and they stick to it. And they do so in a self-reliant way. They don't barge into public schools and insist that creationism be taught. They don't storm abortion clinics, demanding that children are God's gifts, etc., they aren't on public assistance of any kind, her kids are obviously well loved and well cared for and well behaved-- so what if they believe things that I think are absolute baloney?

In the same way that I have the right to educate my children (and aside to Thalia-- if we insist that the Duggars have to see both sides of the story, do we turn the tables and insist that all children of Democrats have to attend the Republican National Convention one year? Or that all children who go to a real science museum also have to go to the creationism exhibit? I hope not! Please tell me that I don't have to be fair and balanced in my education of future children! ;) ), the wacky Duggars have the right to educate their children.

I look at both scenarios as the old Fist-Swinging test for application of human rights- You have the right to swing your fist all day long, but your right to swing your fist ends where my cheek begins. In both cases of Ms. Suleman and the Duggars, they are off in left field swinging their fists, and I'm sitting in the stands, trying hard not to watch. They aren't even coming close to making contact with me, so who am I to tell them they can't???

Sunny said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. No, I couldn't do better with 14 children. I couldn't do better with 10 children, either.

Which is why I don't ever, and won't ever, have that many.

Lut C. said...

I can't get past the thought 'she has eight'?! At once?! Why can't I have one (ok, a second one)?

ART makes me really narrowminded, and I'm not sure it'll ever get any better again.

Phoebe said...

It pains me to hear how the Duggars are idealized for making a big family work. I am the youngest of 6, and my parents had 6 kids in 7 years, very similar to the Duggars, but thank god they stopped with me (my mom wanted 12). In fact, I think my parents should have stopped at #4. My parents had a saying, "the big kids take care of the little kids". Let me tell you that this "system" that the Duggars use too does not work. At age 2, my sisters were supposed to be watching me. I went down a flight of stairs in one of those toddler walker things. For years, my parents have always blamed my sisters for that. It took a therapist to point out to me in my mid-30s that a 9 year old should not be expected to babysit a 2 year old. Seriously, something is wrong with this viewpoint that the older children should be expected to take care of the younger children in a large family. It is my parents who were at fault. All it did was make my older siblings resentful and take out all their aggressions from the fact that they were not getting their emotional needs met by my parents.

On the outside, all my brothers and sisters are successful in life, but I see how we are all emotionally scarred from not having enough attention from our parents at a young age. I know I got it the worst, being the youngest and entering life with chaos and a mother who could not physically or emotionally be there for me all the time. My parents always provided for me physically, but they did not have the emotional capacity to raise six children. I hear this a lot from other people who were the youngest of a large family. I think it takes very emotionally mature parents with a lot of energy and money to raise a large family. I agree that Nadya is not emotionally mature enough to raise 14 children. I really feel sorry for all of Nadya's and the Duggars' children.

loribeth said...

Great post, Mel. I particularly liked your point about how people should "understand before they procreate what it means to parent." I've always felt that part of dh's & my problem was that we thought too much about what a huge responsibility it is to raise a child, & so we procrastinated on ttc for so long that by the time we got finally started and the problems began to emerge, it was getting to be too late to try alternate courses to correct them.

The flip side of the coin, of course (which I think we tend to notice even more when pregnancy & babies don't come so easily) is that far too many people seem to leap into parenthood (or have it thrust upon them) without giving much, if any thought whatsoever, to WHY they want to be parents & what kind of a parent they want to be. You have kids just because that's what comes next.

Some people, of course, decide they are not cut out for parenting at all (the childfree by choice), & they have my respect for making a thoughtful decision on that part of their life. Far better to realize that parenting is not for you before any children actually arrive on the scene. Unfortunately, I think the reverse situtation is far more common. :(

loribeth said...

(Not that anyone can ever really imagine what they are really getting into when it comes to parenthood, of course, lol. But I think it does help if you've at least given it some thought.)

Cece said...

I also didn't watch the show - but mostly because I totally forgot. I would have if it was on when I was flipping channels.

I'm currently pregnant with twins d I have a 8 month old. So I'm going to have 3 under the age of one. When I first found out that I was preganant (before I knew it was twins) I was totally beside myself. First -I was in disbelief - because it took us 4 years (and IVF) to get pregnant with our first. But second - did I even have enough energy to handle two that young? I cried when I found out it was twins.

As I've had time to adjust to the whole idea of what my family is going to be - sure - it wasn't what I 'planned' but thankfully, we have the finanacial resources to handle it, and I feel the emotional ones too. But coming from a family where I was an only child, I feel like I now will have a 'large' family. In my hormonal state - I freak out a bit over this. But I also know that it's going to be it's own kind of wonderful and that we are blessed.

The biggest thing that pisses me off? When people find out I'm pregnant with twins - they say - what are you going to do!?!? And I'm like - I'll parent them? But I also plan to get my tubes tied after the twins arrive. Do I love the fact fact that I went form sub-fertile to fertile in less than a year, hell yeah! Would I love to just keep popping out babies? Yes! I love being pregnant and I love babies (and children). Will I? No. I want to be able to be there for my 3 children, love them, parent them, BE there for them as much as I can. And I think I'm pushing it with 3.

Wow - long rambling comment. But I guess I think about this a lot. I happen to feel really bad for kids in large families.. but that is just my opinion. I can't belive that those 8 childern aren't going to (besides being raised in a somewhat f'ed environment to start with) have major health issue to go along with the mental stuff. How healthy can they be? Seriously?!

From Here To Maternity said...

I must admit, I don't know her and I don't like Ms. Suleman. I dislike her not becuase she chose to parent alone, or because she chose to have more than one child, but because as you put it, she had no concept of ther own limitations, nor did she think it out, and therein lies the rub. She reduced a decision that single women like myself make after much soul searching, researching and trying to figure out if we could afford even one child, to a late night talk-show joke. She and her doctor made ART look like some side show performance. She did not consider the health and welfare of the eight children she carried, nor the ones she already had brought into the world, and for that I want to give her a swift kick in the ass. When Lu is pitching a fit, or when we are enjoying some cuddle time I think of how it would be difficult to manage more than one child by myself, let alone fourteen. Ms. Suleman didn't care or she didn't think about the concequences of her actions, and either which way, the result is the same, chidlren that will not get the care they need. I guess I am biased when it comes to how I feel about this woman because I grew up in a home with two selfish parents, that became a home with one selfish parent who seldom thought things through. I will end my rant now.

Eve said...

Didn't watch it, thank goodness. I absolutely believe that Ms. Suleman was waaaaay off-base to create a family for which she had no ability to provide for finicially, physically, and emotionally. It just makes me sad for so many parents that provide all these things and still find themselves childless.

And, as someone who just went through an IVF cycle, I can't tell you HOW MANY TIMES I got the flippant reply, "just don't be like Octomom".

Really? Did you REALLY just say that to me???

Lucy said...

I didn't see it, but I love this post for how well stated everything is. Thank you for all these excellent points!

JuliaS said...

Word Mel, just word!

Good comments too. I sheepishly admit to watching part of the special - painful as it was. So many little human beings who are clearly not having their needs met in any sort of sufficient or timely fashion and a mother who cackles like a hyena throughout the whole soundtrack of crying/screaming children. I cannot see how she gave any thought to anything beyond birth and actual raising of the children other than their potential as little media opportunities.

And who treats their mother like that and laughs like a loon about it 2 decades later? I hope she finds it as funny when her kids lock her in a trunk . . .

Geohde said...

The show isn't available where I live. But 14 children?

There is no way I would attempt or risk it. But as you say, Mel, Nadya's decision making abilities are in question.

Also, so many embryos should never ever be transferred at once. Simple.

Kind of.


IF Optimist, then... said...

Wow Mel. I always love your posts that discuss raising a family with love and respect for all members. I didn't watch the fox show. As a documentarian I am mildly interested to see how they decided to spin the story. Thank you for such a thoughtful post. You have given me much to consider (hopefully) some day.