Controversial TikTok star Veronica Merritt — famous for having 11 kids and another bun in the oven — could barely contain her delight 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 oldest child, Victoria — who still lives at home — is set to deliver a baby in June. That means Merritt’s 12th child, a boy due in April, will be two months older than his nephew or niece.
Not everybody is happy about the imminent births. Merritt, whose offspring range from 2 to 21 years of age, told The Post that Internet critics are having a field day. One mudslinger commented, “U are to [sic] old to be popping out any more crotch goblins.” Another wrote: “This family is dystopian nightmare fuel and the cycle goes on.”
The Syracuse resident — who shares funny videos and gives frank answers to fans’ questions about her hectic lifestyle using the handle @ThisMadMama, insists she couldn’t care less.
“I don’t listen to the 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 clap back at detractors on social media and said she gets a kick from blasting trolls who attack her choices, such as accepting welfare checks, not working and homeschooling her younger children.
Merritt started having kids at age 14. There’s Victoria, now 21; Andrew, 17; Adam, 15; Mara, 14; Dash, 12; Darla, 11; Marvelous, 8; Martalya, 6; Amelia, 5; Delilah, 3; and Donovan, 2.
“People get on my nerves when they say, ‘You need to put your kids in school and get a real job,’” Merritt said. “I’m like, ‘You’re a dumb f–k! Do you know how much it would cost the taxpayers for me to put all my kids in school?’
“I Googled it and it’s about $25,000 for a child to go to public school every year [from K-12.] It’s actually cheaper [for society] if I keep mine home.”
Merritt is only too aware of the cost of raising such a large family. Crunching the numbers, she spends an average $2,500 a month on groceries at Walmart as well as fast-food joints for a weekly treat. As for the kids’ clothing, she forks over around $4,000 a year on bargain websites and at thrift stores.
She also color codes her brood’s outfits —some wear green, some wear purple. some wear orange and so on — to reflect their personalities.
“We don’t really do hand-me-downs because everyone has their own individual expression,” Merritt explained.
The mom had to dig deep last year for the $3,000 purchase of a used school bus to transport all of them. At least the rising price of gas hasn’t affected them much. “We don’t really drive anywhere and, if we do, it’s never very far,” Merritt said.
Besides, there are no mortgage payments on the 3,000-square-foot house the family bought for a mere $20,000 in 2020. It was so cheap because it was a foreclosure and, as Merritt put it, “an abandoned fixer-upper.” The residence has nine bedrooms, some of which still require repairs.
As for full-time employment, Merritt — who previously worked at a gift shop — said she’d never be able to make enough money without “bonuses” from the government.
She relies on a monthly child credit payment of $2,000 and $1,500 in food stamps, and the money she’s received as part of the federal family stimulus plan. “I think it [the amount] was about $3,000 per kid,” she said.
Merritt claimed that neither of her baby daddies pays 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. Clients typically send her photos of their families and Merritt re-creates the images as cartoons, charging $150 a pop.
But the income isn’t steady. “I haven’t been doing much art recently,” the mom said, citing health issues.
Merritt contracted COVID-19 last month and, in September 2020, had one of her kidneys removed. She’s hopeful that the surgery will halt the serious renal problems which she has suffered since childhood.
When she was in her early twenties, her doctor advised her not to use hormonal birth control such as the pill in case it made her condition worse. “I did actually want to be on it at the time,” she told The Post. But she changed her mind after she “realized” that it was her “destiny” to have a lot of children.
“I’m not Catholic,” said Merritt, who does not use any contraception. “But I’m pro-life.”
The mom, a self-described libertarian, no longer shares her views about abortion on social media. Some 2,000 Tiktok followers ditched her when she weighed in on the debate once last year. “There are certain [conservative] opinions that are not tolerated [online],” she maintained.
Merritt is a strong believer in fate. And, as a “spiritual” person,” who is “in touch with the universe,” she claims the souls of her future babies “communicate” with her even before they are conceived.
“It sounds strange, but it sometimes feels like they’re whispering in my ear,” she said, adding she’d like at least five more children. “I’m not dating right now and I’m super picky. But I’d love to keep on going.”
She gave birth to Victoria in 1999, while a freshman in high school. “I dated her father on and off,” Merritt told The Post. The couple conceived Andrew three years later and wed a year after that. They split in 2005, a year into the marriage.
Merritt then hooked up with her second husband, Marty, the dad of her other nine children. The former Navy man, whom she wed in 2007, is also the father of the baby she’s expecting, despite the couple being separated and now in divorce negotiations.
“I wanted to be divorced from him as soon as I married him,” Merritt said. “He was immature, but I figured I wasn’t perfect either.”
She opted to take her kids out of school eight years ago and teach them at home after, she said, one of her daughters was bullied.
“I take a relaxed approach since children can learn without having to sit for hours at their desks [studying] text books,” Merritt said, adding she uses YouTube and other sites to help her teach. The ages of the school-age kids range from 6 to 17, but since some are at the same grade level in certain subjects, they can be taught together.
“My 8-year-old actually reads better than my 11-year-old,” she said. “But they’re all very smart.”
Studies usually take place in the living room or, weather permitting, on the porch.
“I can bake cookies with them in the kitchen and [the measuring] counts as math class,” Merritt said. She can’t afford to hire babysitters so her toddlers are often kept occupied by watching videos and TV while their older siblings are educated.
Merritt has a deep suspicion of school authorities, who, she believes, reported her in the past to child protective services. Once, she heard rumors that teachers thought some of the kids may have been malnourished.
“They weren’t getting fed enough at school, that’s all,” she insisted. “Whenever my son complained about being hungry, the teachers would say that I wasn’t feeding him enough. It’s just that he was used to eating a lot [at home].”
She called their assigned social worker — “who backed me up since she knew the truth,” Merritt said — and no further action was taken.
Schooling aside, she said the most daunting task is trying to keep the house clean and tidy. The kids rarely help out, although Mara, 14, used to pitch in with the laundry in exchange for a monthly $10 voucher for the online game Roblox. She lost motivation as she got older, so. these days, her sister, Martalya, 6, is paid in candy for helping.
“We need to do two loads of laundry every 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 frigging clue 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 home. “But I’ve always thought something about me attracts people.”
She’s known it since high school: “I wasn’t [elected] ‘most likely to succeed’ in the senior superlatives, but I got ‘most individualistic’ instead.
“I was the weirdest kid in school,” Merritt said, “but I thought to myself, ‘Enough people knew my name to vote for me.’”
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