The Right Kind of Mother: Intersections of Race and Class and Choice

This post originally appeared at

I need only remember the coverage of Nadya Suleman last year (no, I will not call her that ridiculous and dehumanizing nickname) to begin a conversation about how we in society not only undervalue motherhood, but how the way we view it is connected to race and class.

When I compare it to the way the media portrays the Duggar family, as loving and wonderful, it fills me with contempt. Nadya Suleman was a torrent of horror for bringing eight lives into the world because she dared to be using public assistance at the time. Now she is to be laughed at for letting us see how she manages (and some of it is familiar for those of us who don’t have fourteen children!). She dared to have a funny name that didn’t roll of the tongue easily, and she had little else other than a plan as to how she was going to get by.

The month of May, with Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, reminds me that, especially in North America, motherhood is glorified culturally. We act as if it is the most sacred of callings that any woman can aspire to. But that calling becomes less beautiful should any woman enter into it under anything but the most perfect of predetermined conditions.

She will lose a few points for being unmarried. Should she speak with an “urban accent,” or possibly use English as a second language, she loses more points. More points are deducted the more pigment that is obvious in her skin or if her eyes have a funny shape. For every government form she has to fill out, knock off a few more. Suddenly, the sacred calling to become a mother is a horrible shame, and we find a woman stuck in that horrible rock/hard place cliché where she will be demonized for choosing abortion because she has no resources and labeled a leach for choosing to raise her child in the same conditions.

A truly pro-choice society would offer more support to mothers. To all mothers, regardless of class and privilege. We find more and more that women of color and lower class are more likely to lose their children because they are less likely to have resources and support to fall back on. Like Renee from Womanistmusings says repeatedly at her blog, “[i]f a woman decides to opt for adoption or abortion, because she feels that she will not receive the support needed to raise her child, how can we reasonably say that a choice has been made?”

The last time I checked, the word choice meant that you, me, and that person next to you all get to decide for ourselves what is right for our own situations. Irrespective of the color of your skin or the money in your pocket, the choice to use your lady bits to bring forth life or to nip it off before it starts is yours and yours alone, and includes all of the choices. Including the choice to be a parent.

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  • catseye71352

    The “damned if you do/damned if you don’t” crowd simply hate women. And that includes the females.

  • tactless

    Just because I want a theatre sized flat-screen doesn’t give me the right to walk into the local electronics store and walk out with one without paying!!  If people want to have children… all the power to them!  Let them sacrifice the trips to the nail salon, let them skip the designer coffee, let them wear off-brand clothing, etc. UNTIL their childcare needs are met FIRST.  Why should it be anyone else’s responsibility to pay for the needs of a child that is not their own? 


    I believe in donating my time and money to charities that offer people a way OUT and a hand UP… but I refuse to send my hard-earned money to an organization or a person who feels that they are completely entitled to my money because they chose motherhood as an occupation without considering that such occupation is VOLUNTARY with no guarantee of a paycheck!

  • ivebeenworkingontherailroadallthelivelongday


    Babies are sacred. We all know that, except for Nadya Suleman, who thinks that babies are a form of currency to be bought and sold. 

  • bucky

    The reaction to Nadya Suleman has NOTHING to do with her race, rather to the fact that she was unemployed for 10 years, 11 ROUNDS OF IVF ($110k to $160k) and having 14 children.  So I have to ask. How does an UNEMPLOYED mother on public assistance afford plastic surgery AND 11 rounds of IVF? (see the charges against Dr. Kamrava) While she was pregnant with HOM pregnancy, she bought NO diapers, NO cribs, NO clothing, NOTHING for her soon to arrive babies (See Dr. Phil’s show, HER words, NOT mine).


    People despise her because her actions, words and deeds.  Nothing more, nothing less. Race and sex have nothing to do with it. 

  • bucky

    It’s obvious to me you haven’t bothered to read the FACTS on Nadya Suleman. Unless, of course, you are one of the paid bloggers, paid to support this woman.  I have a problem with a woman on welfare and no job getting 11 rounds of IVF (worth $110k to $165k). How *does* an unemployed woman on welfare afford that expensive of a proceedure?  Answer me that, please?

  • firstamendment

    So, what “race” is Nadya Suleman supposed to be? She is half Arab and half Russian.  And all sociopath.

    I am stunned to see that anyone would ever under any circumstances bring up race in this sort of issue. What this woman did was systematic child abuse over a period of ten years.

    She spent the past year putting around$100,000 of her kids only future assets in her closet. Then had enough cosmetic surgery that none of that will even fit her since it was two sizes two small to start with.

    She had eleven embryos implanted in herself when the standard of care for a woman her age is two. That is so perilous to the fetuses that the guy doing the implantation made her sign a waiver not making him responsible for the physical outcome of these kids.

    She already had impaired kids after several previous in vitros and statistically that makes it extremely likely that several of the eight will have impairment. This doesn’t show up until around the third year.

    She already has one of the eight with a harelip that she hasn’t yet bothered to fix at 17 months although this is a problem generally fixed, even in the third world, by the time kids are 9 months old.

    I just  can’t get over pulling the race card over Nadya Suleman.  Seriously?Really gives you an edge on your credibility, doesn’t it.

  • equalist

    Comparing her to the Duggars is unfair because unlike the Duggars who continue having children as part of their faith, space them out enough that the older ones are old enough to be independant, and help with the younger ones, Suleman has fourteen children all at such a young age that even the oldest have to have proper supervision.  In a daycare setting, it is understood that a single person cannot properly care for so many so close in age.  Yes if this had been a natural event, it would be viewed differently, but this is not a natural event.  This is a woman who already had six children, actively trying to have as many more as possible all at once, without even the means to care for the ones she already had.  This isn’t a case of a pro life mother choosing to carry an accidental pregnancy to term, or a couple planning out a large family, this is a case of a woman purposely giving birth to more children than she can physically or financially support without regard to the kind of lives those children are going to have.

  • colleen

    Comparing her to the Duggars is unfair because unlike the Duggars who continue having children as part of their faith, space them out enough that the older ones are old enough to be independant, and help with the younger ones

    The Duggars have been married 26 years. For 22 of those years they have, as they put it, “decided to allow God to determine the number of children they would have”. In consequence they have 19 children (two sets of twins) and Mrs Duggar has been pregnant for the majority of 22 years.

    This isn’t what most people think of as spacing out one’s children although I will grant you that, by avoiding IVF they have done a better job of that than Ms Suleman.

    The older kids care for AND home school the younger ones. I have as much difficulty with this as I have with the insular and exploitive upbringing of children in FLDS compounds. But, then, for many reasons, I’ve never been a fan of the quantity reproductive lifestyle.

  • equalist

    I’m not defending these particular aspects of the Duggar method of raising their children, but they do have a better plan in action than Suleman.  I was raised in a large family with not much spacing between children (two aunts that became pregnant at the same time repeatedly, and all of us kids stayed primarily with one of them) and honestly, a large family has a different dynamic than a smaller one, and the kids do have more responsibility thrust on them to look after the younger siblings, but when done in moderation, this doesn’t have to be detrimental to the children involved.  However, in the case of Suleman, who has most of her children all at the same age, and the older ones far too young to be assisting in their care, the children in this situation are denied a lot of what it is to be a child.  It’s one thing for a very young child to run to it’s mother for support and care and have to wait a moment while an older child moves out of the way a bit, or for an older child to have to take a backseat to a younger child’s needs for a few moments.  It’s quite another for a very young child to run to his or her mother and have to wait his or her turn out of several children of the same age with the same needs when all of the children involved are too young to understand why mommy can’t hold them and care for them or why mommy’s lap isn’t large enough to hold three or four young children needing care at the same time.  Granted, as the children get older, they will adjust, it’s what children are programmed to do, but how much will they lose really before they get to that age that will affect them for the rest of their lives?