When I was growing up, I wanted to have a lot of kids when I grew up. I loved reading books Like Cheaper by the Dozen and Yours, Mine and Ours, as well as fictional books with large families. When I met my husband-to-be, he only wanted to have two kids, and he paled just a little when I told him I wanted 5. We compromised at 3 and then, after the difficult pregnancy and childbirth that came along with our younger daughter, we compromised again at 2. At times I have thought wistfully of the large family of my dreams, but instead of nurturing lots of human babies to adulthood, I've adopted stray animals instead and nurtured them.
Still, part of me can sympathize with Nadya Suleiman's desire to have lots of children. I loved having children, loved being a mom, loved raising infants, toddlers,preschoolers and even teenagers. I wasn't real thrilled about toilet training and getting up for the 2 AM feedings, but it did come along with the territory.
I fully expected to suffer the pangs associated with the empty nest syndrome when my girls moved away from home. Our family had always been very close and it was hard to imagine life without them. However, my husband and I quickly discovered the joys of being on our own again and having time just for us. We enjoyed it for about two and a half years before a daughter boomeranged home. It may be several years before she is ready to move back out again.
In the meantime we are juggling bathrooms and parking spots, and determining where the boundaries are. After being out on her own for two and a half years, she doesn't want to have to account to us for her whereabouts. After being without kids in the house for two and a half years, we don't always want to account to her for ours.
There are other issues as well. For various reasons, she is unable to work right now, which means we are supporting her. Right now she's recovering from a severe illness, during which my husband and I both took lots of time off from our day jobs to take her to various doctor appointments and to tend to her needs at home. We both also spent a great deal of time on the phone talking with various doctors and medical providers about her condition, medical tests and treatment.
We had to do the same thing for another daughter a few years ago when she, too, had an acute illness that required a significant amount of our time in terms of medical visits, hospital stays and dealing with the insurance company.
We do all of this willingly because we love our daughters, and we want to help them as much as we can. Our parents have helped us many times when we have needed help. It's what parents do. Still I can't help but wonder about Nadya Suleiman and what she will do when her 14 children start boomeranging on her.
It may not seem like such a big deal now to have 14 young children, including octuplets. Suleiman has said she will have volunteers to help care for the babies. I wonder if these volunteers will still be around when the kids start getting involved in after school activities. Will she have volunteers to play chauffeur when 2 kids have soccer practice (at different fields) another has piano lessons and another three go for t-ball-- all at the same time? Will the volunteers be able to help her make the rounds of the various teachers during School Open House? It may not seem hard to hit all the teachers when the kids are in elementary school, but when they get into high school, unless all of the kids have the exact same teachers, she'll never be able to hit all the classrooms in one night.
What about when they get into band and orchestra and choir? Will the volunteers be available to attend the football games of Kids 1,2, and 3 so Nadya can go to Kids 4,5 & 6's violin concert on the same night, while Grandpa helps Kids 7,8 & 9 with their science project and Grandma drills Kids 10, 11 & 12 on their spelling lists. Oops-- I hope there's a volunteer somewhere who can take Kids 13 & 14 to Band Practice since all the other adults are tied up.
Will those volunteers till be around when the kids hit their teens? As any parent of an 11-15 year-old knows, 90% of Nadya's waking hours will be spent driving the kids to all their various activities. Will those volunteers still be there to help play chauffeur? Heck, they'll need one person just to direct the traffic of all those kids in and out of the 4 bathrooms in that house!
Does Nadya realize that even after she gets the kids to age 18, that doesn't mean she's home free? What if they don't all go away to college? What if they have trouble getting jobs? What if they leave home and then come back? If even a few of her kids boomerang, will that army of volunteers still be there to help out? What if her kids follow her example and expect her to help them raise THEIR children? What if some of her kids have the same mindset she does about having babies? Will those volunteers still be there when Nadya's children start having multiple births of their own?
As I look at what Nadya's parents are dealing with, I realize that having my own two children boomerang really isn't so bad at all. At least with adult children moving back home, I don't have to worry about the 2 AM feedings or toilet training. The worst thing that may happen is I have might have to park my car on the street because there's no room for my car in the driveway. At least i know that with three adults and two bathrooms, I have a pretty good chance of being able to get to the facilities when i need to.