TODAY | November 14, 2011
ANN CURRY, co-host: Back now at 8:10. And last week the Duggar family , which star in the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting," came here to reveal that, you guessed it, a 20th baby is on the way. And as NBC 's Mara Schiavocampo will tell us now, the reaction was fast and furious. Mara , good morning.
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO reporting: Ann , it certainly was. When Michelle Duggar announced that she's pregnant again, viewer response shot through the roof leading to more hits on the TODAY'S MOMS page than we've ever seen for a single story. People not just reading about the news but leaving so many comments, they almost crashed the site.
CURRY: Good morning, everybody.
DUGGAR Family: Good morning.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: It all started with this.
Ms. MICHELLE DUGGAR: We are expecting our 20th child.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar of TLC 's "19 Kids and Counting" announcing on the TODAY show last week that she's pregnant again with baby number 20 .
Ms. DUGGAR: We are due in April, and just thrilled.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: The news made headlines, instantly becoming a hot topic.
Unidentified Woman #1: I think it's a little outrageous to be honest.
Unidentified Woman #2: I think that's great, I really do. I think that children are a blessing.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Viewers flooded the today.com website, not just to read the story but to discuss it.
Ms. REBECCA DUBE (Senior Editor, Today Moms Blog, today.com): It was the biggest story we've ever had on TODAY MOMS . We got more than three million hits and 15,000 people commented. The commenting was so fast and furious that at one point we had to shut down the comments so it wouldn't crash the system.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: One viewer wrote "I hope for her kids' sake she goes through an early menopause." While negative responses outweighed the positive, defenders spoke out just as strongly, one writing, "The Duggars have done better with their 19 than most people do with their one or two."
Ms. DUBE: People really take this story personally. They look at the Duggars and they look at their own families and compare them and that really arouses some very strong passions, especially in moms.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: A big concern for many, Michelle 's health. She's 45 and suffered from pre-eclampsia during her last pregnancy and in 2009 baby Josie was delivered prematurely. The Duggars say Josie is now a thriving toddler and their doctor has given them the green light for another pregnancy.
Ms. DUGGAR: We always have the motto around our house there's always room for one more .
SCHIAVOCAMPO: One family's big announcement getting an equally big reaction. Now, commenters on today.com have also been suggesting baby names . Lead contender right now, Julie , of course starting with a " J " just like all the other 19 Duggar children. Ann :
CURRY: All right, Mara Schiavocampo , thank you. Hal Runkel is a family therapist and the author of "ScreamFree Parenting" and Harriette Cole is a TODAY contributor and president of Harriette Cole Media . Good morning to both of you.
Ms. HARRIETTE COLE (Today Contributor): Good morning.
Mr. HAL RUNKEL: Good morning.
CURRY: OK, how about you first, Harriette . Why has this story touched such a nerve?
Ms. COLE: Well, first we start with the numbers. The sheer volume of children makes it an extreme, you know, it's an extremity.
CURRY: It's unusual.
Ms. COLE: But the other thing is, this is a loving family and you look and see for many people who have one child or two or even three and have a lot of difficulty managing, and you see this family having loving children that seem to be very well behaved . How do they do it ? I think that's a big question and that's part of the curiosity.
Mr. RUNKEL: Mm-hmm.
CURRY: Maybe some incredulity.
Ms. COLE: Yeah.
CURRY: But maybe even, do you think, some jealousy? Because these kids are well fed, well dressed, well behaved , they're close to their parents and apparently the parents can afford to raise them.
Ms. COLE: Well, I definitely think jealousy, envy. I mean, you look and you see that she gets to spend time with her kids, she's home schooling her kids, so a lot of mothers who are out in the workforce are not spending that much time with their kids and she seems to have it all together.
CURRY: Well, this one daughter, 17-year-old Jinger Duggar said that a lot times people think we don't have enough time alone with our parents but our parents take time to spend with each one of us individually. How -- is there any research that indicates whether it is possible to actually...
Mr. RUNKEL: Yeah.
CURRY: ...be enough of a parent to -- when there are so many siblings?
Mr. RUNKEL: Right. Well, one of the myths about parenting now is that we have to devote our lives around our kids, right? And so we only have one or two and so we're supposed to, you know, post every Facebook photo of every note they play on their piano recital, right? And obviously they can't do that, right?
Mr. RUNKEL: And actually that's actually good for kids because we can't orbit our lives around kids without giving them the impression that the whole world revolves around them.
Mr. RUNKEL: And then they act self-centered and narcissistic and we help create that. But they can't do that.
Mr. RUNKEL: And so actually larger families a lot of times the research shows that they produce kind of healthier kids because kids need to do more things for themselves. They need to wake themselves up in the morning, get themselves dressed, right?
CURRY: When you say healthier then, you're talking about more resilient.
Mr. RUNKEL: Exactly.
CURRY: More independent, self-sufficient. Mr. RUNKEL And self-sufficient, exactly.
Mr. RUNKEL: Which is kind of the goal.
CURRY: But there -- but there are negatives, too.
Mr. RUNKEL: Sure.
CURRY: I mean I know most people I know who are in families where there are lots and lots of kids will say that the older kids kind of help raise the younger kids. I've heard this over and over again.
Ms. COLE: But isn't that normal, though? I mean, I think with -- it used to be that many families...
CURRY: But older kids are just kids.
Mr. RUNKEL: Mm.
Ms. COLE: Well, and so they have to -- they shouldn't be the parent.
Mr. RUNKEL: Right.
Ms. COLE: But in large families where we used to have tons of large families especially in the South , right?
Mr. RUNKEL: Right.
Ms. COLE: It was traditional to have maybe not 20 but 10, 11, 12, the older kids would help out.
Mr. RUNKEL: Sure.
Ms. COLE: And you had a good point about that.
Mr. RUNKEL: Well, one of the things I coach parents on, is look, don't expect your oldest kids to take care of the kids as if they're a parent.
Mr. RUNKEL: But so if you expect them to babysit them pay them like you would a baby-sitter.
Ms. COLE: Whoa.
CURRY: Hey, hey, hey, now, throwing down the gauntlet there.
Mr. RUNKEL: Right? Should we?
Ms. COLE: I think it's a great idea. I bet the parents with all those kids may not think so.
Mr. RUNKEL: Sure. But you know one of the things I love about the Duggars is though is, at least seems from this point, they put their marriage before their kids.
CURRY: Mm. And you can see that when you interview them.
Ms. COLE: Yeah, they love each other. The kids are doing well. It's an amazing story.