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Dear Octomom, I Choose You

Dear Octomom, I Choose You
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
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OCTOMOM, I LOVE YOU. I choose you. I contemplate you. It’s you I think about when times are tight here in the First World where we can have babies on top of babies and they don’t starve or suffer, at least not like the other worlds here on Earth. And you do it all without network television money, book offers, or best-selling cookbooks. Octomom, you’ve kept it real.

But not you, Kate Gosselin. And not you, Michelle Duggar. You two I also honor in my quiet moments of desperation, wondering how will we find money for these kids or how will we pay for college or the next auto repair bill. And you do it all with more than three kids, which is my beautiful lot in life. And hell, the Duggars are still counting when my wife and I have decided that we’re done.

No, I’m trying to traverse and take the murky high road here, and by “choosing” Octomom Nadya Suleman, I’m talking about a cultural choice – a thoughtful choice – a writerly, existentially desperate choice for the common man regarding brute, daily living in these odd modern times where we live and suffer without cameras and the kind paychecks from television companies that actually cover the monthly grocery bill and rent.

Like all humans wonder when comparing their own lot in life to others who have it better or worse than they do, I want to know what Octomom – that is, Catorce Mom – is doing right this minute. Because if I’m having a hard time with three kids, she has fourteen. Fourteen. If I’m taking care of one sick child while my wife tends to the other two, I know Octomom is taking care of one sick child with thirteen in the lurch. And that’s Octomom without cameras, nannies, care workers, welfare, food stamps, or a husband.

And she’s not rich and famous – not even a Twitter account or mildly bestselling book. Sure, she has notoriety, but for all the wrong reasons. She can’t afford an extra nanny. She can’t afford a lifestyle the way TLC gives Kate and the Duggars. She’s the wrong “type” for television, a bit odd, been accused of welfare fraud, paid for a house by doing a solo porno, and she’s done it all without producers scripting each week of her life until they had a narrative just right that they could pitch to the advertisers. You have to respect that. What would you do if the Gosselin or Duggar package wasn’t offered to you and you had fourteen kids to feed, clothe, and keep alive, especially if more than one of your fourteen children had special needs, and you were always one week away from foreclosure?

If my three children weren’t the perfect cherubim and seraphim that they are, and if their needs were more than they are, and our living space was too small for what we needed, I would be out there looking for job number three and four and five. I would do anything for my kids – including losing myself into a script doctored by twenty-somethings hired by the network – any network. Especially if I was dealing with eight screaming babies all in need of mama and dada all at once. I can’t imagine.

And yet Octomom has been doing it this way since the beginning.

I don’t want to deify Nadya Suleman – oh no. I’m sure she would be a shell of a person if her life revolved around her t.v. show – just like anyone else.

But, as reality t.v. and human nature dictates, the Gosselins and Duggars milk every theme surrounding the “life of eight” and “life of nineteen” tropes, full of white-bread, Christianese language and motifs, all for roughly $75,000 an episode. And they should – Hollywood Bless. I would do the same. $75K? That’s enough for peanut butter and jellies and plastic surgeries all around. Still, the gods of television haven’t rewarded Octomom with anything remotely close to this kind of spread. Sure – Howard Stern, Suze Orman, Oprah, Jimmy Kimmel, and Dr. Phil have had their day with her, but to no financial end. After the last taping is done, she’s back to the house with the kids, preparing lunches for tomorrow without tweets or cameras.

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Any one of us would take that sweet Gosselin or Duggar money. If I had fourteen kids, I’d take the money Apu-style in that Simpsons episode where he puts his eight children to work on the Krusty the Clown Show. I’d Partridge Family it, or try. Jackson 5 or The Osmonds – I’d make that happen. Fourteen kids? Shit. There aren’t enough minimum or living wage or salaried jobs for one person to work to make that happen. And Nadya Suleman has a Master’s degree! The only viable and financial answer would be a t.v. show or big corporate-sponsored blog or book series. Or the porno, which afforded her a new house and kept her from more food stamps.

At this point there should be Octomom lunchboxes and sets of DVDs for seasons 1-8 of her show, complete with books and magazines that ghostwriters helped her pen. There should be action figures of her kids, wall calendars, t-shirts, and special products, all with her name on it. There should be marathons of her show every early morning and holiday on MTV or NatGeo or the History Channel, and yet none of that exists. Bravo.

Octomom is just a desperate parent and sort of, kind of, one of us. And between them and us, I choose us. And, for the record, I also have a Master’s and no t.v. show.

Now let’s get this straight: I’m not just talking about Nadya Suleman. I’m talking about “Octomom” as an icon, a cultural touchstone, and a unique niche motif. Since 2009 the title “Octomom” has become synonymous with joke, parody, and throw-away pffft. But this is a human raising fourteen humans, eight of them (at one time) being helpless babies. On any level that should move you, without the plinkity-plink of the t.v. show soundtrack or the fly-in camera roll of the opening shot of some McMansion on a hill with a bunker of children behind shiny doors getting homeschooled.

This is about the single moms in Trenton, NJ and Boston, MA and South Chicago, trying to stretch a dollar from last month’s rent towards the kids’ lunches. This is about the Octomoms in India, China, Russia, and African countries, the moms and dads of multiple children, trying to afford rent and sandwiches, and wondering if they did the right thing by having this many children or any at all.

This is about the mother sending her kids to school because those kids will be fed two hot meals, and the same mothers getting a cart full of food at the local pantry; this is about the empty spots where men used to be in those mothers’ lives, and of course about the men who are helping raise their kids. It’s about the mother walking five miles one way to get clean water in another country, her days harder and more strenuous than mine. It’s about the families that will ride on the top of a train or break through fences from one country to another just to provide a better life for their children.

That’s who I think of – the camera-free mother trying to make it in the world who doesn’t have producers “writing” her and her children’s daily life, complete with brand loyalty for every bed sheet, juice box, and event coordination.

So just remember – there’s a mother out there with fourteen kids. And she doesn’t have a t.v. show. And while you have to figure out how to pick up two or three kids this afternoon, she’s figuring that out for a soccer team plus three subs, and eight of them are the exact same age.

And Ms. Suleman – if you need another ghostwriter, I’m your man. So choose me too.