When Dan and Pam Pisner became the somewhat panicked but proud parents of quintuplets almost 21 months ago, they decided to meet the unexpected with the untraditional: Dan would stay home to take care of the five. Pam would be the breadwinner.
Today, Pam is still holding down her job as a secretary at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But Dan, proud househusband that he was, has given up the comfort of home for the peace and quiet of a computer business.
"My brain was turning to the consistency of what I was feeding the kids," joked Pisner, a salesman for Kramer Systems International in Silver Spring. "I now have a real, very real feeling for the woman staying at home."
The Olney couple got national attention when they became the parents of Devin Matthew, Michael Evan, Ian Scott, Elliot Richard and Shira Lee -- four sons and a daughter -- in June 1983. Then unemployed because of cutbacks at the management consulting firm in Rockville where he had worked, Pisner said he wanted to stay home and raise the babies. "It's an experience few fathers have," he said then.
It is not one the 31-year-old father wants to repeat any time soon -- at least not with a wiggling, wetting, crying, drooling brood of five.
"One of them has more energy than both of us put together. And five has five times that," Pisner said last week, resting in the kitchen of their Olney Oaks home after he and Pam tucked the babies into bed.
The Pisners now have two baby sitters -- one live-in and one who works during the day, five days a week -- who take care of the children while the parents work. On weekends, friends and family help. Logistically and, most important, financially the couple does not see any other way to handle their instant, large family.
"Although we don't think about it daily, we do think about what will be happening two years from now, 10 years from now, 18 years from now. And it's not just the big things like college we worry about -- it's things like groceries," Dan Pisner said.
Both parents say they want to plan for the future by finding some kind of "tasteful endorsement" that the babies could make. Over the past two years, Pisner has appeared on the Phil Donahue show, the Johnny Carson show and "20/20" to discuss the babies. Those shows are done only to help ensure financial stability for the family, he said.
"We want to try to make their lives as normal as possible," Pam Pisner said. "At the same time," Dan Pisner added, "we know we both could be highly paid professionals and there wouldn't be enough money . . . . " If an endorsement or advertisement "could be done tastefully, we wouldn't be opposed. Because it could help the kids so much."