Friday, February 06, 2009
So, it was only a matter of time before the cameras started rolling. Nadya Suleman, the now infamous mother of brand new octuplets, did her first television interview with Ann Curry after being released from the hospital.
It has taken me several days to be able to discuss this woman and her current situation rationally. To be honest, I have a pretty visceral reaction to huge families no matter how the children are conceived. I truly feel that at a certain point (let's say double digits) there are more children than there is time in the day to meet their emotional needs. Childhood is precious and finite. As an only child, I grew up having a large community of adults loving me unconditionally and meeting whatever needs (not wants) I had in pretty short-order. As I quickly approach motherhood myself, I cannot express in words what a blessing it is to feel completely and totally validated as a child. I was never told to take a backseat and I never felt ignored, even for a moment.
Did I feel misunderstood at times? Of course. Did I get everything I ever asked for? No. However, even if I felt like my parents and I were on different planets, I always knew that in that moment they were willing to drop everything and at least listen to me. In a family of 10 - 12 - or God save us - 14, that is simply not a reality. The logistical reality is that raising that many children takes up almost more hours than there are in a day.
Now, most of you know that I am a huge fan of Jon and Kate + 8, which might seem a bit hypocritical. However, the crucial difference to me is that Jon and Kate did not choose their current situation. They had twins and decided to try one more time. Now, they knew that there was a small chance of multiples and they accepted that risk. What I appreciate the most about them is when they got struck by lightning and fell in that tiny percentile, they were VERY honest about how devastating it was. They accept that in some ways their children, particularly the twins, will suffer as a result and they face it honestly. Most importantly, they STOPPED. They don't act like more kids is always better and they realize their own limitations.
Which leads us back to Ms. Suleman. This was her SEVENTH fertility treatment. The fact that she already had six children and decided to take that risk and put all of their fates in the balance seems completely irresponsible to me. In the best of circumstances, one has to know that each treatment increases the chances that this time you will get struck by lightning.
Of course, her specific circumstances are what make Ms. Suleman infamous as opposed to in pre-production for her own TLC show. She claims in the interview that people are reacting so strongly because of discrimination against single mothers. First, I am not completely convinced that the public's reaction wouldn't be just as strong against a couple who had six children and continued to get infertility treatment, because I know mine would be. But the fact that this woman is single, unemployed, and living with her parents and chose to have another round of treatment is the height of irresponsibility. I think a single mother of one child would tell you those circumstances make raising a child incredibly difficult, much less raising fourteen. She also claims in the interview that after she finishes her degree (which I'm not sure she'll have time to do with fourteen kids) she'll be able to provide for them all. But again, she seems to have a warped since of reality. She is pursuing a masters in psychotherapy. In order to become a psychotherapist, who do make good money, she'll need to get her PhD and then take a LOT of clients in order to provide financially for fourteen kids on her own. Not to mention, making enough money to be the sole provider for fourteen kids will leave almost no time to be their primary caregiver.
However, while I feel like a lot of the public outrage is on her lack of resources, I personally would be just as outraged if she was married to Bill Gates. If you want to see how consistent I am, I suggest being in a room with me when a commercial for 17 Kids and Counting comes on. I honestly don't care if you can perfectly provide for all their physical needs. The truth is if you really loved children that much, you would improve the lives of the ones you already have. I think the reason I have such a passionate reaction to Ms. Suleman and others like her who claim that their desire for large families is based on a love of children or some sort of selfless instinct is because I don't believe them. I think the real truth is that they are making these decisions for incredibly selfish reasons and to meet their own personal emotional needs. Unfortunately, long after we've forgotten about Ms. Suleman and the cameras have stopped rolling on others like her, the children are left living with the repercussions of those decisions.
Update: It just keeps getting worse.