April 5, 2012 at 8:42 AM ET
After vowing never to go on public assistance, octuplet mom Nadya Suleman is accepting food stamps because of dire financial straits.
"I still am working as hard as I possibly can to support them,’’ she told TODAY on Thursday about going on public assistance. “I made that call reluctantly.
"I feel ashamed, but who cares how I feel. It's 100 percent about my children."
Suleman told NBC News that for the past two months, she has received $2,000 a month in food assistance from a program in California that gives help to large families making less than $119,000 a year in order to sustain her family of 14 children. Suleman had six children before giving birth to octuplets in 2009 through in-vitro fertilization.
She cried as she made the phone call to sign up for food stamps, Suleman told TODAY Moms in an exclusive backstage interview. She hopes to be off the assistance soon.
"People are saying, 'Nadya, people are thinking you have been on (assistance),’’’ she told Matt Lauer. “'Who cares if you even do this? They thought you were on it already.' My priority is my children — their health, their well-being, their safety. I’m giving myself another 2 months to be on it."
Suleman recently posed topless for a British magazine, which netted her $8,000. According to the Department of Agriculture, it takes roughly $9,000 a month to support 14 children.
Backstage, Suleman said she's learned not to care what other people say about her, though she realizes many have an opinion. "I don't ever, ever Google myself," she said. "I'm the wrong person to harass, to use as a bad example. I should actually be perceived as an inspiration to women, for having gone what I've been through and being sane."
Suleman told TODAY she is creating an online venture called “Octomom TV’’ that will raise money through advertising and working for “Dial-A-Star,’’ which purports to allow people to talk to a “real celebrity.’’
She said she will not do pornography, even if the offer was “100 million dollars.’’
“I won’t touch other human flesh,’’ Suleman said. “The only flesh I’m touching is my own. I would never, never accept anything. I will not lose my grip of my deeply indoctrinated morals and values.
“Every choice we parents make is going to significantly affect our children for the rest of our lives. It’s going to haunt them forever. I have to be the ultimate positive role model.’’
Suleman told TODAY Moms she talks openly about her financial difficulties with her older children, calling it a teaching moment. In addition to the octuplets, who turned 3 in January, she has six older children ranging in age from 10 to 5. "I am a very overprotective parent, but we never stop learning."
And however desperate she gets financially, Suleman said her children will never enter show business. "I am anti-pageant, anti-child-acting," she said. What does she think of TV shows like "Toddlers & Tiaras"? "Don't even get me started on that. It makes me livid," she said. "That's child abuse to me."
She said her children are thriving, and the sibling relationship between the octuplets is amazing. "The bond that higher-order multiples have is mind-blowing. People should never ever feel any kind of sympathy (for the children), they should be envious."
Since the birth of the octuplets, Suleman has come under fire for adding so many to her already large family.
“I needed to prove to myself that I could,’’ she told Lauer. “In my mind I was doing well with the six. It’s three books in and of itself to get back to what my rationalization was, why I wanted one more after six. But nonetheless, they’re here. Who cares how I feel? Who cares about me? It’s 100 percent about my children.’’
Suleman’s financial difficulties also raise the possibility of the state potentially taking away her children for their own well-being.
“That will never happen, and I can guarantee you on that,’’ she said. “Hundreds of people, random people, call (social services) on a daily basis, and it’s sick and sad and to me. (It’s) unbelievably fascinating in regard to humanity, how many people are foaming at the mouth for my children to be taken away from me. The saddest part is 15 years from now when they’re 18 and legal and in college, people will still be foaming at their mouth for them to be taken.’’
Suleman also claims to have received “thousands and thousands’’ of death threats.
“It would take 14 books to even begin to tell you a few layers of the onion,’’ she said. “There’s multiple onions to my life. Not only do they not only know about one or two layers about what’s really going on in my life, but 95 percent of what’s been out from the beginning has been erroneous.’’
Suleman said that despite her struggles, she is happy -- when she's home with her kids, out of the public eye. "I am the biggest introvert you'll ever meet," she told TODAY Moms. "I am only happy in my house. I wish I was home in my big fuzzy slippers."
Still, she said, she's not giving up on a better future for herself and her children: "I have huge dreams, and I'm not letting them go."
TODAY Moms editor Rebecca Dube contributed to this report.