Controversial TikTok star Veronica Merritt – famous for having 11 children and another baked bun – could barely contain her joy last November when she posted a video announcing her new identity: Grandma.
“We have some exciting news to share,” the 36-year-old told her 140,000 followers, revealing that her eldest, Victoria – who still lives at home – is due to give birth in June. It means Merritt’s 12and child, a boy due in April, will be two months older than his nephew or niece.
Not everyone is happy about impending births. Merritt, whose offspring range in age from 2 to 21, told the Post that internet critics are having a blast. One sulky commented: “You have to [sic] old to take out other goblins in the crotch. Another wrote: “This family is dystopian nightmare fuel and the cycle continues.”
The Syracuse resident – who shares funny videos and gives candid answers to fan questions about her hectic lifestyle using the @ThisMadMama handle, insists she doesn’t care.
“I don’t listen to haters,” she said. “Do they really think I’m going to be hurt by their opinions? I mean, come on!”
She rarely misses an opportunity to applaud haters on social media and said she loves trolls who attack her choices, such as accepting welfare checks, not working and homeschooling her youngest children.
Merritt started having children at age 14. There is Victoria, who is now 21; Andrew, 17 years old; Adam, 15; Mara, 14; Dash, 12; Darla, 11; Wonderful, 8; Martalia, 6 years old; Amelie, 5 years old; Dalila, 3 years old; and Donovan, 2.
“People piss me off when they say, ‘You need to put your kids in school and get a real job,'” Merritt said. taxpayers if I put all my children in school?
“I googled it and it’s about $25,000 for a kid to go to public school every year [from K-12.] It’s actually cheaper [for society] if I keep mine at home.
Merritt is all too aware of the cost of raising such a large family. Running the numbers, she spends an average of $2,500 a month on groceries at Walmart as well as fast food joints for a weekly treat. As for children’s clothes, she shells out around $4,000 a year on bargain sites and thrift stores.
She also codes the color of her offspring’s outfits – some wear green, others purple. some wear orange and so on – to reflect their personality.
“We don’t really do heirlooms because everyone has their own individual expression,” Merritt explained.
The mother had to dig deep last year for the $3,000 purchase of a used school bus to transport them all. At least the rise in gas prices hasn’t affected them much. “We don’t really drive anywhere and, if we do, it’s never very far,” Merritt said.
Plus, there are no mortgage payments on the 3,000 square foot home the family bought for just $20,000 in 2020. It was so cheap because it was a foreclosure and, like the said Merritt, “an abandoned repairman”. The residence has nine rooms, some of which still require repairs.
As for full-time employment, Merritt – who previously worked in a gift shop – said she would never be able to make enough money without government “bonuses”.
She is counting on a monthly child credit payment of $2,000 and $1,500 in food stamps, and money she received under the federal family stimulus plan. “I think so [the amount] was about $3,000 per child,” she said.
Merritt claimed that none of his baby dads pay child support, although one covers the family’s utility bills. She gets between $100 and $200 a month from TikTok — her earnings depend on the total number of views she gets — and in a good year brings in $15,000 as a freelance artist. Customers usually send him pictures of their families, and Merritt recreates the images as cartoons, charging $150 a pop.
But incomes are not stable. “I haven’t done a lot of art lately,” the mother said, citing health issues.
Merritt contracted COVID-19 last month and in September 2020 had one of his kidneys removed. She hopes the operation will put an end to the severe kidney problems she has suffered from since childhood.
When she was in her early twenties, her doctor advised her not to use hormonal contraceptives such as the pill in case it made her condition worse. “I actually wanted to be there at the time,” she told the Post. But she changed her mind after ‘realizing’ it was her ‘destiny’ to have many children.
“I’m not Catholic,” said Merritt, who uses no contraception. “But I’m pro-life.”
The mum, a self-proclaimed libertarian, no longer shares her views on abortion on social media. Some 2,000 Tiktok followers dropped her when she weighed in on the debate once last year. “There are some [conservative] opinions that are not tolerated [online]“, she argued.
Merritt is a firm believer in fate. And, as a “spiritual” person, “in touch with the universe”, she claims that the souls of her future babies “communicate” with her even before they are conceived.
“It sounds weird, but sometimes I feel like they’re whispering in my ear,” she said, adding that she would love at least five more children. “I’m not dating right now and I’m super picky. But I’d like to continue.”
She gave birth to Victoria in 1999, when he was a freshman in high school. “I’ve dated his dad once in a while,” Merritt told the Post. The couple conceived Andrew three years later and married a year later. They separated in 2005, a year after the wedding.
Merritt then met her second husband, Marty, the father of her nine other children. The former Navy man, whom she married in 2007, is also the father of the baby she is expecting, despite the couple splitting and now divorce negotiations.
“I wanted to divorce him as soon as I married him,” Merritt said. “He was immature, but I thought I wasn’t perfect either.”
She chose to take her children out of school eight years ago and homeschool them after, she said, one of her daughters was bullied.
“I take a relaxed approach because children can learn without having to sit for hours at their desks. [studying] textbooks,” Merritt said, adding that she uses YouTube and other sites to help her teach. School-age children range in age from 6 to 17, but as some are at the same grade level in some subjects, they can be taught together.
“My 8-year-old reads better than my 11-year-old,” she said. “But they’re all very smart.”
Studies are usually held in the living room or, weather permitting, on the porch.
“I can bake cookies with them in the kitchen and [the measuring] counts as a math class,” Merritt said. She can’t afford to hire babysitters, so her toddlers are often busy watching videos and TV while their older siblings are educated.
Merritt has a deep distrust of school officials, who she says have reported her to child protective services in the past. Once she heard rumors that the teachers thought some of the children might be malnourished.
“They weren’t fed enough at school, that’s all,” she insisted. “Every time my son complained of being hungry, the teachers would say that I wasn’t feeding him enough. It’s just that he used to eat a lot [at home].”
She called their assigned social worker – “who supported me since she knew the truth,” Merritt said – and no further action was taken.
Aside from school, she said the toughest job was trying to keep the house clean and tidy. The kids rarely help out, though 14-year-old Mara used to help out with the laundry in exchange for a monthly $10 voucher for the Roblox online game. She lost her motivation as she got older. these days, his sister, Martalya, 6, is being paid in sweets for her help.
“We have to do two loads of laundry a day,” Merritt said. “And more if someone has an accident [wets the bed].”
The challenges and rewards of the family’s unconventional lifestyle prompted a friend to suggest that strangers would be intrigued by their daily routine. It took a few years before Merritt fully embraced the powers of social media, and she launched her TikTok in November 2020.
“I have no idea why my videos are so popular,” said Merritt, who hopes her audience will grow once she has baby number 12 and Victoria brings her newborn baby home. . “But I always thought there was something about me that drew people in.”
She’s known it since high school: “I wasn’t [elected] “most likely to succeed” in senior superlatives, but I got “most individualistic” instead.
“I was the weirdest kid in school,” Merritt said, “but I was like, ‘Enough people knew my name to vote for me. “”