Octomom Puts Large Families on Defensive

Filed under: In The News

Meagan Francis is expecting her fifth child in just a month. Yes, her fifth child. And no, she's not crazy. Nor is she a religious fanatic, mentally ill, a polygamist or an IVF addict.

"I think for the most part we are pretty average people who happen to have more kids piling in and out of our car every time we stop it," says the 31-year-old Michigan woman. "We also don't fit a lot of the stereotypes. We aren't Mormon or Catholic, we don't homeschool and I don't wear long skirts."

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Francis tells ParentDish that reaction to octomom Nadya Suleman is both predictable and understandable -- as well as over the top. "I just think we could all stand to have a little compassion and maybe freak out just a little less," said Francis. "That doesn't mean we have to get behind the mom and her decisions, or stamp her with a big seal of approval. Just that maybe we could take a deep breath and realize that this is an extremely isolated circumstance that really has nothing to do with any of the rest of us."

Francis, author of "Table for Eight," a book about her experiences as mother to many, recently told the New York Times that not all big families are freak shows.

Suleman, Francis says, is nothing like her own large family, nor is she like the other big families who share their experiences on the website she founded, largerfamilies.com. The backlash against those who choose to have more than an "average" number of kids has always been there, she adds, but Suleman's outlandish behavior is putting them on the defensive.

Chris Jordan has seven children ranging in age from 4 to 14. She says the majority of big families are totally normal. Jordan does admit to feeling defensive at times, mostly in regard money. "So it's okay for me to have had seven kids because my husband and I can afford them."

"[People say] that it is those other people who shouldn't be having so many children," Jordan continues. "Unfortunately Nadya Suleman epitomizes those other people. No husband. No job. On welfare."

Francis and Jordan both agree that Suleman's socio-economic details help support the argument that all big families are a burden to the average taxpayer.

"The comments about big families being on welfare or costing "the taxpayers" money...is there really proof that bigger-than-average families are more likely to be on public assistance than smaller families?" Francis asks. "Even if it were statistically more likely, that doesn't make it okay or accurate to generalize about all or even most larger families. The big families I know personally work hard to live financially responsible lives and stay out of debt."

There are lots and lots of reasons people are biased against big families, Francis says, but she has neither the time nor the inclination to alter those perceptions.

"It's a silly argument to suggest that people with big families are all doing it to scratch some itch at the expense of their children. I think this one burns me the most simply because of the many sacrifices I've made and continue to make for the good of my family, as we all do," Francis says. "Sure, I have this number of kids because I wanted them, but that doesn't mean I am trading my kids' well-being to keep on a-breeding."

'Fess up, people: How many of you make assumptions about big families? Are you a Judgy McJudgerson? And how about those of you who think life is cheaper by the dozen? Why does a big family work for you?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.