But then the focus turned to the mother of these 8 babies and as more details emerged, the news articles and blogosphere was raging, and not in a positive way. I watched the interviews with the mom and almost felt sorry for her. I think she was deluded enough to think that she'd be famous -- the next "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" only this time called "Super Single Mom of Fourteen." She didn't seem to "get" that people weren't going to hail her as a hero for having optional procedures to get pregnant when she was an unemployed single mother using food stamps, barely able to take care of the six children she already had.
I'm not inclined to defend Nadya. To be honest, I think she's a little crazy and probably looking for fame and fortune. I do feel sorry for her and I worry about how she will be able to care for her fourteen children.
What has bothered me is that the spotlight that has shined on Nadya has brought out comments and criticisms directed at all large families. I read one article that said it would cost “millions and millions” to raise that many children. Another article claimed that there just isn’t enough time in the day to nurture that many kids.
I’m not a fan of Nadya, but it’s not just because she ended up with fourteen children. I don’t think she was being wise to go back for even “just” a seventh when she wasn’t able to care for the first six and when she couldn’t provide her children with a father. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that children do best when they have both a mother and a father who love and care for them.
Sure, there are single mothers (and sometimes fathers) who do a great job, but usually they become single after they have their children, not before. They don't deliberately make a choice to have more children when they can't care for the ones they already have.
But while I don’t think it’s possible for Nadya to provide physically, financially, and emotionally for her 14 children, I do think that a mother and a father who are dedicated to their family can certainly take care of 10, 12, 14, or even more. I don’t think it takes “millions and millions” to do so, and I DO think there are plenty of hours in the day to meet all of their needs. Easy? No, but definitely possible.
I take my responsibility as a mother seriously. It's hard work, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to do all that is required to rear children in love and to teach them good principles. My faith teaches me that:
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)
That's a huge undertaking! It takes a mom and a dad who are devoted and dedicated to their family to make it work. I've said it before, but I know very few large families who simply "pop out the kids" without serious thought and consideration for how they can care for and nurture them.
And that's why I'm a little frustrated that the criticism of Nadya has expanded to criticism of large families in general. I don't defend Nadya, but I will defend the many moms I know who have large families and raise them well.
One of the main criticisms I've seen leveled at large families is that it is wasteful of the Earth's resources to have so many children. Many of the comments after this article, for example, rage about how the average American baby uses up 40 times the resources of a baby in a third-world country and so therefore, it's irresponsible to have lots of them. I could argue a lot about carbon footprints, and whether global warming is caused by men or environmental factors, or even about whether global warming is the calamity that so many believe it is, but I'll leave those discussions to more scientific minds than mine. What I will say is that in most industrial countries, the birthrate is at or below replacement levels, and family size in general is shrinking so fast that the very few mothers with lots of children are hardly the energy-hogs we're made out to be. In fact, according to the 2006 census, just .5 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had more than seven children. 4 percent had 5 or more and 28 percent of women had three or more.
I think many critics look through a very Western perspective when they criticize large families, especially in terms of “you can’t do enough for your kids if you have more than two or three.” In my opinion, parenting is about nurturing, about helping children read adulthood ready to contribute to society and people around them, not about how many “things” you can give your children.
We are fairly well-off, but we do without a lot of things because we prize other values, such as shared experiences on vacations and having a comfortable home, above things such as cable television, gaming systems, and expensive karate classes (and no, my kids don't do soccer, at least not for now). We read together as a family daily. We go swimming and wander the woods in the summer. We teach our children to be kind. We watch funny movies together. Time together as a family is valued and cherished.
If we looked at how families live and struggle throughout the whole world, we’d be a lot more able to put large families in context. We have so many resources and opportunities in this country for education and charitable acts. My children are taught to share and give and will likely grow up, earn good livings themselves, pay for an older generation’s social security, and contribute their time, money and efforts on behalf of those with less throughout the world.
We in this country have been abundantly blessed, and I believe because of that, we have a responsibility to help the rest of the world. I’m raising seven children to believe that whole-heartedly. What are the critics of large families doing to help the world’s very real problems?