Octomom: The Mother of Irresponsibility?

February 23rd, 2009 by Kathy McManus

Nadya Suleman sparks debate: Is there such a thing as too many children?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

America’s latest responsibility riddle is defined by simple math and compounded by complex issues:

1 single mother 8 newborn octuplets

14 total offspring

15 minutes of fame

From miracle mom to mother of all outrage, Nadya Suleman’s spectacular fall from public grace continues in an avalanche of revelations: disability, inability, food stamps, no job, no spouse, and no viable plan for raising 14 children under the age of eight.

The responsibility dragnet snared her fertility specialist—at a clinic now under government scrutiny—and settled squarely on Ms. Suleman, who declared in a TV interview that she is a responsible parent, even though California taxpayers have been asked to pay the million dollar-plus hospital bill for her eight preemies.

“I personally do not believe I'm irresponsible,” Ms. Suleman said. “Everything I do revolves around my children.” Saying she was a single parent by choice, she questioned a perceived double standard between her unconventional lifestyle and that of couples who experience multiple births. “Why are they exempt from being called irresponsible?” she asked.

Selfish. Unstable. Irresponsible. The opinions continue to pour in by the thousands on talk shows and blogs, in headlines and on the street: Put her in therapy. Change the laws. Take her kids away. In a season of Wall Street bailouts, a Sesame Street bailout for the 14 kids of America’s mega-mom has not only angered many people, but, as one journalist put it, “exposes how publicly divided and personally judgmental we are” about the reproductive decisions of others and the question of how many children is too many.

“The ‘right’ number seems to lie somewhere between China and Nadya Suleman,” wrote another journalist. “But on what do we base that belief? The ability to pay for the children? The limits on the attention they will receive? How many is too many, and who gets to decide?”

Tell us what you think: Is there such a thing as too many children? Other families receive welfare, food stamps, and disability payments for their children; should Nadya Suleman be held to a different standard? Should Ms. Suleman’s reproduction—usually a private matter of personal responsibility--be the subject of such public debate?