Phil Luciano: 'Octo-mom' needs dose of reality
Everyone has an opinion about "The Octo-mom," Nadya Suleman.
Some think she's crazy. Others think she's selfish.
But, perhaps most important to her children, she is unrealistic. Incredibly unrealistic.
She has no job, no income, no husband. She lives in her mom's house, and it's about to go into foreclosure.
How will she take care of six previous kids and eight new ones? She says she will love them.
OK, that's a start. But love doesn't pay the bills or otherwise provide the kind of special care demanded by huge families.
That thought came to mind as I recently zipped through Pontiac. I thought of a woman who would have keen insight as to the hardships of raising a massive brood of kids.
Mary O. Monical - the initials spell out M.O.M. - raised 17 children. I wrote about her years ago, when the youngest were teens; now her children range in age from 34 to 53. Monical is now 77, yet still spry and sharp.
Mind you, the spry woman is reluctant to cast any stones at Suleman. The devout Roman Catholic is a quiet, humble lady who busies herself with church activities. She also is an anti-abortion advocate, so in that regard she is glad Suleman opted to give the kids a chance.
But just a glimpse at Monical's unique method of rearing children shows that Suleman faces incredible challenges.
"When you have that many people in a family, day-to-day (responsibility) is a big problem," Monical says.
For example, Mary Monical and her husband, George, had to buy two modest, adjacent homes, just to give all the kids a place to lay their heads. The youths would switch bedrooms and homes periodically, so all the children could get to know one another better.
Mealtimes weren't sit-down affairs. At breakfast, they would grab a plate and inch toward the stove, where each would grab a pancake. They then would head to the back of the line if they wanted seconds, munching during the wait. Round and round they'd go, until each was full.
Each Monical child was born singularly: no multiple births. That made for a lengthy total time of being a mother, but Monical says that would be easier than having eight new mouths to feed at once - plus those other six. The demands can seem almost infinite.
"Each one of us has 24 hours a day. That's all," Monical says. "That's how we're all equal."
And Suleman's situation is harder than was Monical's.
For one, Monical had a husband, who died in 1990 when the last two kids were in high school. But for 36 years she and her husband were there for one another. And that's the biggest part of parenting, she says: Spouses holding each other up.
"It takes a lot of care for (just) one child. That's why you need two parents," she says. " ... When you're young and you're working together and you love each other, you can survive."
George Monical worked while Mary Monical took care of the kids. They also leaned on a substantial network of family and friends who helped with baby-sitting - something Suleman doesn't seem to have.
"I don't think we would've made it without all the help," Mary Monical says.
George pulled a decent wage as an accountant, and the family lived frugally. Beans were often the centerpiece of the main meal. Still, the couple had to take out loans that took years to repay.
Mary Monical thinks Suleman will face an even harsher financial crunch. For example, unlike Monical, Suleman can't use hand-me-downs as the eight kids age.
"Those (Suleman) kids are going to have a lot of needs at the same time," Monical says.
Son Greg Monical, 46, who lives down the street from his mother, says he and his siblings helped with chores to keep the oversized household humming. More importantly, he says, the kids helped in child-rearing: as each one aged, the younger ones would follow their examples.
"When you have eight at once (like Suleman), you can't do that," Greg Monical says.
Plus, as he and his mother point out, outsiders sometimes would make snide comments about the size of the Monical clan. Those words can hurt. And, with all of the spotlight on Suleman, her kids might face a lot more derision and scrutiny as they grow up.
"People are critical of big families," Mary Monical says.
In the end, the Monical children ended up well. Most graduated from the University of Illinois, and all still stay in contact with their mother.
Mary Monical wishes Suleman the best. Her best advice about the children?
"Love them," Monical says. "Each one is so unique as God's creation. God created each one of us."
Phil Luciano can be reached email@example.com or (309) 686-3155.