Friday, February 06, 2009

Octuplet Mom Reinforced Single Mother Stigma

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

In her NBC interview Octuplet mom Nadya Suleman was irked at getting pounded for being a single mother with fourteen kids. Or in her words, "it's not as controversial because they're couples so its more acceptable." She had good reason to be irked, but she should be irked at herself too for doing much to reinforce that stigma. For the past half century single mothers have been ritually dumped on by everyone from liberal sociologists to Christian fundamentalists and even self-promoting gabber Ann Coulter. They are the fall women for every real and perceived malady in society; poverty, crime, drug use, personal profligacy, welfare dependency, bad acting, and even worse performing students, and of course, family breakdown.

As for Coulter, she got hammered for beating up on single mothers in her new book while letting the guys who shove the women into single motherhood skip away scot free. This was more a hit against Coulter than a real defense of single mothers. The perception is just too deeply ingrained that single mothers create babies and problems for a momentary attack on Coulter to change that perception.

Suleman is naive, in denial, or blind to the power of the negative single mom image to think that her pleading for the bashers to knock it off will fall on anything but the tinnest of tin ears. If anything, having eight babies, on top of six, and then hinting that her over the top baby making is a good thing without a prospective father sighting anywhere, fuels public wrath over the folly of babies and single mothers even more. But leaving aside questions of moral right, ethical propriety or even Suleman’s legal responsibility, all have been hotly debated, the truth is that single mothers do not cause a terrible society, but do fare terribly in society.
And there are a lot of single mothers. At last count nearly 40 percent of children are born out of marriage. In the majority of those cases the mothers will stay that way. The figures for lower income black and Hispanic women almost all Suleman’s age or a decade or even decades younger than her are far greater than for unmarried white mothers. The number of single mothers are inching up after a decade long drop from the mid 1990s to 2005.

The demographic of who gets pregnant and is single is predictable They’re young, have multiple births, are non college educated, or even high school educated, and invariably poor. In their, Child Wellbeing Study, Princeton University researchers tracked 5,000 single mothers in who are charitably called Fragile Families. The women gave birth between 1998 and 2000 and all claimed that they wanted to get married.

The wish didn’t get any further than a wish. In a follow-up survey, most did not get married and a fair share of them had more babies by multiple partners. They had done little to improve themselves educationally or boosted their income. The Princteon findings are not unique. This reinforces the belief that single mothers are inherently doomed to wallow in poverty and want, and that their children are doomed to be congenital gang bangers, drive by shooters, and drug peddlers and jail and early cemetery fodder.

Many single mothers swear as Suleman has that they will be good, devoted and loving mothers and that they will be able to foot the bill for their children’s care and upbringing. That’s not a small point in the furor over single mothers. The prospect that Suleman who’s not only a single mother but an unemployed single mother who filed workers compensation claims, bankruptcy, and had a mountain of debt, might put the state (taxpayers) in hock for the medical care and treatment of the octuplets drew loud howls of protest.

This is not a totally unfair concern. Kaiser Hospital shelled out a reported cool million for delivery, treatment, and care costs for the octuplets. Few single mothers, and that certainly includes Suleman, have a prayer of paying this cost out of pocket. Suleman gave no indication that she had a clue that someone else will have to pay the staggering cost of their ongoing care.

This is not to pass moral judgment on Suleman’s act, legions have already done plenty of that. Suleman may well prove her scoffers, bashers, and revilers all wrong. She may find a way to pay the freight for all 14 children, provide them with a warm, stable and loving home, and even stroll down the aisle with a mate. This would transform her from the poster single mom for irresponsible induced baby making to a true American motherhood success story. She would hardly be the first single mother to become a productive, paragon of achievement. Anything is posssible.
Whatever happens, Suleman was right that single mother’s do unfairly get beat up on for creating societal’s ills. Unfortunately Suleman insured that the beating will continue.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Won (Middle Passage Press, January 2009).


Anonymous said...

Has it occurred to anyone that Nadya Suleman is mentally unstable? Then what happens to the fourteen children? What was her doctor thinking? The lives of the embryos were endangered when so many were implanted at once, and they still remain at risk for learning disabilities.

The rest of the information about single mothers is misleading. There is a correlation between desertion and poverty levels going back centuries - only today, you can't just run off to the west. So you don't get married in the first place.

Studies show that young women who can see a positive career ahead for them do not have babies early. So some of this is an indictment of our educational system and a failure to offer opportunities to young women.

Then the younger the unwed mother, the OLDER the father. Two different studies, one on each coast, came surprisingly to the same conclusion. That means we're not talking irresponsibility, or teenagers getting in trouble. We're talking about child abuse.

Finally, the best way to reduce unwaned pregnancies is to make birth control affordable and available. Mr. Obama?

Anonymous said...

With this woman having confessed of her having depression for her suppossed want of children, who is to say that she will not be even more depressed when she looks at the growing need of her family. I believe that this woman had children only for her need to create an instant income of welfare and movie deals that may come her way. This is a poor and pathetic reason for being a parent. I hope that there is not an under cover desire for any woman to give birth to children in a secret plan to breed insurrectionists for a holy war or intifada. I pray for the children who are the victims of obvious stupidity and selfish reasons of the parent.

SuzanneDeAZ said...

Single mom's do for the most part struggle more than married mothers. I was raised by a single mother of 3 and we did have our hard times. Mom did her best and we had most things physcially however not having a father has let some void in my life as well as my siblings. I made sure I was married before having any children. We ended up adopting one child who was born to a single mother who could not afford to raise her.

There is no way this single mother can raise those kids without having some type of outside assistance. However, since she has been able to con others to the point she can afford plastic surgery plus costly IFV treatments she may find a "way" to raise these kids abundantly.

Anonymous said...

I know many people who came from large families - but no one had 14 children under age 10. Family growth was progressive, not instantaneous. Ms. Suleman is obviously mentally ill - she already knew the risk of multiple births given she already has 3 children with special needs. it's almost certain that these 8 preemies will also need special care. Why would any responsible woman do such a thing? I think that Child Services should take her children and place them in a more responsible home. I don't think that she did it for welfare income. I think she did it because she has a distorted view of what children bring to a person's life. She seems like the type who likes "babies" and once they grow older, she tires of them and wants more "babies". I also feel sorry for the grandparents - they didn't sign up for this and have been forced participants in this woman's lunacy.

Multiple Monitor LCD Display said...

That Octuplet woman is crazy and selfish. 14 Kids, no husband and no job? Completely irresposible if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

I think she is living in a dream world, how is she going to raise 14 children on no income. This seems to me that she did this to get more payments through the welfare system. This story is an old scam multiplied by 8.

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