Just when we thought Nadya Suleman AKA “Octomom” had gone to her corner of the world to act a fool quietly, she landed herself back in the news. Now, she’s facing three felony counts of welfare fraud. Apparently, she got caught failing to report $30,000 in earnings from January to June of last year, says TMZ. It’s bad for her, but it may be even worse for regular women who rely on public assistance to support their families.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office count has charged Suleman with one count of aid by misrepresentation, and two counts of perjury by false application for aid. Where did the extra money come from? Mostly, her naughty video. Oh, dear. Because she conceived all of her children using IVF, she doesn’t get any child support payments.
Octomom’s story is more than juicy tabloid fodder; it’s damaging to a lot of ordinary women. Even though almost 3 million people are on welfare, it carries such a heavy stigma. And it’s not just neighbors talking behind your back or making fun of the kids at school. The very people that are supposed to be handing out assistance and helping you, judge you, too. Nadya Suleman is the welfare queen” stereotype that makes the people, mostly women, who rely on public assistance to take care of them families look bad in the eyes of lawmakers and laymen alike. She brings to light one incident of fraud and gives people a reason to say, “See, they’re all like that”, when in reality, most welfare fraud has more to do with bureaucratic errors than with people trying to trick the system.
By no means is Nadya Suleman the norm when it come to the women who use welfare. She doesn’t have a normal job where she can count on a check every two weeks, even though she’s trying to support 14 children by herself (her parents have had to pitch in; her father moved back to Iraq to work so he could send money home). Most people getting assistance are actually working jobs, and working to get off assistance. By and large, people use assistance temporarily. Under the most recent welfare laws, a person receiving assistance has to spend 20 to 30 hours weekly doing work-related activities like looking for a job or community service.
It’s hard enough being a single mother, even if you don’t have a class-worth to support. People make a host of assumptions when really all you want to do is take care of your family and go on about your business. I just hope the Octomom welfare fraud case doesn’t make that harder.