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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Poor Parenting in America

    For the past few weeks, the infamous mother of the California octoplets Nadya Suleman has been the subject of intense media scrutiny. The mother of 14 has been accused of everything from being an irresponsible parent and being celebrity obsessed, to taking a toll on taxpayers’ dollars by birthing so many children. This media scandal, however, is more telling of the self-righteousness of much of our society than it is of a woman, who whether responsible or not, is only noteworthy for being something of a first in medicinal fertility. So then why is everyone in the nation adamant on condemning her parental decisions?

    Suleman’s widely-watched interview with Ann Curry on “The Today Show” was perhaps the most insulting bit of media coverage on the octuplet controversy. Curry shamelessly interrogated Suleman, questioning her knowledge of in vitro fertilization and its risks, implying that because Suleman is on food stamps she must have been an idiot. Suleman, like many, confirmed that the probability of even one of her children surviving was, at best, 50 percent. She claimed that she was expecting at most, twins.

    Curry continued to accuse Suleman of being selfish in considering her own desires for more children without regard for the wishes of her other children, the oldest who is seven years old. Curry patronized Suleman for jeopardizing the lives of all those children, without regard for the fact that all eight children did survive — a medical miracle. Even more appalling was Curry’s audacity to suggest that Suleman had conceived so many children as a money-making ploy.

    There are many possible underpinnings for the utter indecency Suleman has had to face. Perhaps her story would have been depicted in a positive light had she been married. Had eight children survived in a single pregnancy, to be born to a mother and father, maybe this medical miracle would have been a tear-jerker story for Curry to capitalize on. Socioeconomic well-being obviously had an impact on how “responsible” this move was considered as well.

    Suleman has widely been accused of bringing so many children into the world, all to put them on food stamps. What is baffling though, is that Suleman’s 14 children are being projected as a toll on tax dollars, but the billions of dollars we are investing in bailing out greedy financiers, whose poor decisions have impacted Americans more than a family on welfare ever could, is perceived to be a necessary measure. We can forgive people that have left many of our parents unemployed, our children unable to afford a college education at private institutions, but Nadya Suleman is the most irresponsible, unintelligent woman, being crucified in our media?

    It seems to me like there’s some gender and class bias going on here. Suleman, a single mother whose only desire is to raise children, with or without the means, is being vilified by the same people who hardly batted an eyelash when the Bush administration gave billions of dollars worth of no-bid contracts to Haliburton. But single mothers and food stamps are the real dangers our media is warning us of.

    Suleman is not the most responsible parent and she obviously doesn’t have the means to support all her children. Although Suleman’s own mother’s negative comments about her daughter confirms this, they should be taken as the comments of a disapproving mother, making a judgment about her child. I can think of countless parents that have disapproved of most decisions their children make. In our culture, it is a defining feature of the parent-child relationship — your parent tells you no and you go ahead and do what you want anyway. Even when you’re a 30-something-year-old woman. In fact, bringing parents into an “issue” regarding a grown woman is insulting, and again begs the question, are we treating Suleman as a child who is being given lessons on right and wrong from every Tom, Dick and Harry sitting on their high horses, because she is a single mother?

    The treatment of Suleman that past few weeks has been a reflection not only of our media and societies general indecency towards a regular woman, but also a measure of how we put ourselves on such high moral grounds when we judge others. People in upper middle class families with their two and a half kids, college funds, and golden retrievers are equally capable to severely damaging their kids, and failing to fulfill their emotional needs which are equally, if not more important, than their financial needs. The next time we point our fingers at Suleman, it would be responsible of us, to critically assess our own failures as parents, whether we have two or twenty children.

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