Suzy Kellett’s Story
Author of The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back From Setbacks (2006 Independent Publisher’s Best Self-Help book), and best seller The Survivor Personality: Why Some People Are Stronger, Smarter, and More Skillful at Handling Life’s Difficulties…and How You Can Be, Too.
August, 1975, will always be a month that Suzy Kellett remembers in vivid detail. It was the month she gave birth to quadruplets and her husband walked out. He left her in their Idaho home to cope with four infants by herself with no help and no income to pay the rent and other bills.
She telephoned her parents in Illinois. They volunteered to take them all into their home, so she packed up their few belongings and flew to Chicago — with nearby passengers on the flight helping to hold the infants.
Everyone felt sorry for her. People would have understood if this thirty-one-year-old mother had drifted into self-pity, complaining how unfair life had been to her. She would be fully justified feeling bitter about her husband and blaming him for her plight. But Suzy says "I never allowed myself to wonder how my life would be if I only had one. I knew that wouldn’t be productive. I had the fabulous four. I had to accept what was real."
Suzy says her father helped her with his humor. Her first weekend back home she retreated to her bedroom to try to handle her feelings about what had happened. Kellett says that her father cracked open her door and asked "Bourbon?" A while later he came back and asked "Vodka?" Later he asked "Scotch?" She says that "if dad was making jokes, then life couldn’t be so bad. Without his humor, I would have felt the pain too much."
Suzy says, "It also helped that I came from a big family with lots of children. I was used to chaos. I never looked at it as a negative. I took a positive approach, I got everything organized with feedings, naps, laundry, and so forth so I wasn’t dealing with random events all the time."
When I asked Suzy how she got started in the career she loves so much, being director of a state film office, she told a fascinating story. "I began to look for parents who had raised ‘high multiples’ to see what advice they could give me. I searched and searched, but couldn’t find any information. I located two other mothers raising triplets. They hadn’t found any useful advice either. We decided to start a national organization of parents of high multiples. We sent out press releases, contacted Gerbers and other baby products companies to ask for help, but very little happened."
"One day I called the bureau chief of People magazine in Chicago. I told her she should run a story about our organization. She said she was raising twins, so she could imagine how challenging four would be. We talked for a long time. When I told her I was looking for a job, she hired me to work for her sight unseen! After working for People magazine, I was offered a job with the Illinois Film Office. I didn’t know anything about working with film companies in the beginning, but I loved the work so much it has become my wonderful career!"
Suzy served as the Director of the Film Office for the State of Washington for eleven years. She had a career she loves because of the highly resilient way that she responded to being the single mother of quadruplets. Today her four children are college educated and, as she says, "beginning starter lives." Looking back on the entire experience, she says "there were tough times, but I’d do it again because the good far outweighed the bad. My humor really helped!"
You can read more about Suzy and why she was exceptionally resilient in "Secrets of Resilient Women" by Bonnie Miller Rubin in the January, 2000, issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Ask your local librarian.