Everyone agrees: we’re outraged at Nadya Suleman

  money down the drain

Our country may be fractured along political and economic lines, but we can all agree on one thing: we’re mad at Nadya Suleman, the mother of the newborn octuplets.

Ann Curry, who recently interviewed Suleman on the Today Show, referred to her as the “most vilified” mother in America. That’s a bit hyperbolic; most people will readily concede that they consider the actions of women who deliberately harm or kill their children to be far worse than what Suleman has done. However, Suleman has become a lightning rod for anger, resentment and disgust. There are a number of reasons why this has happened.

The first and most obvious is that Suleman expects, indeed feels entitled to, massive financial support for her children. Suleman has already bankrupted her enabling parents, and is making a good faith effort to bankrupt the rest of us. Such behavior would be unacceptable at any time, but in harsh economic times such as these, it adds insult to existing financial hardship.

Suleman is surprisingly childlike in her approach to money. She just assumes it will come from somewhere, as if by magic. Evidently, it always has. She seems to have no sense of what it will cost to raise her children, let alone any realization that she will never be able to support them, even if her fantasy of getting a master’s degree ever comes true.

One of the most difficult tasks of adulthood is to support oneself and one’s children, particularly if you are a single parent. An adult has to go to work whether she feels like it or not. An adult has to take and keep a job that she may despise because she and her children need the money. An adult has to put up with a bullying boss, annoying colleagues and boring tasks simply to continue putting food on the table for her children. Those are the basic rules of life for the millions of parents trying to survive in this economy. Nadya Suleman obviously thinks those rules don’t apply to her.

The resentment of Suleman’s indifference to the basic rules of adult life are increased exponentially by the fact that she clearly expects that the rest of us are going to support her family. The estimated $1.5-3 million cost to hospitalize the octuplets for 6 weeks or more? California will just have to suck it up and pay, or the hospital will just have to write it off. They money needed to buy food for 14 children? No problem; the taxpayers will just have to send more food stamps than they already do. Early intervention and educational support for any delays or disabilities her children might have? Nothing to worry about there either; there are mandates in place that will force the taxpayers to provide those services to her for free.

Second, Suleman has behaved in an extraordinary reckless way, ignoring the well being of her existing children, and the octuplets that she deliberately conceived. Children are separate, individual human beings and they deserve to be treated as such; Suleman clearly does not understand that.

Her stated reason for having so many children is both bizarre and narcissistic. She has been creating and accumulating children in an effort to make up for a childhood that she describes as lonely and dysfunctional.

People have children for many different reasons, good and bad, or no reason at all. But after having one child, most parents realize that the child is a person, separate from themselves, with his own needs that must be acknowledged and met. Suleman has failed to make this basic transition to responsible parenting. Her children are merely collectibles who exist to satisfy a psychological hunger that cannot be assuaged. Simply put, it’s all about her.

Third, and most importantly, Suleman exists in a fantasy world where actions and consequences are entirely disconnected.

Suleman hired publicists to improve her image, with the ultimate hope of profiting from her story. It is difficult to imagine that any public relations people, no matter how gifted, could extricate her from the hole that she has dug herself into. Neither Suleman or her family realized how their actions would be received by other people who live in the real world. While Suleman may have hired publicists, she is apparently ignoring their advice.

Eclipsing the foolish and bizarre statements she has already made, Suleman claimed that she has never been “on welfare.” When, as was inevitable, the press found that she has been receiving Food Stamps for the 6 children she already has, Suleman compounded her mistake, and revealed her penchant for fantasy, by asserting that Food Stamps are not welfare.

Suleman does not feel responsible for her choices, because she refuses to acknowledge the connection between her choices and the consequences: Yes, she has had 14 children, but that’s not her fault because she was lonely. Yes, she has no means to support those children, but that’s not her fault because she is going to get a master’s degree that will magically allow her to support them. It’s true that she receives Food Stamps, but that’s not a problem, because they are not “welfare” and she is entitled to them.

Nadya Suleman is not the most vilified mother in America, but she is sparking anger, resentment and disgust. That’s not because of her mothering, though. It is because of her narcissism, irresponsibility, and penchant for fantasy. As the financial hardship of these tough economic times impacts ever increasing numbers of families, as more and more parents give up their dreams and desires to provide whatever they can for their children, it is painful to listen to the prattle of an immature, selfish woman and it is almost unbearable to consider that we are paying for her folly.