Monday, February 2, 2009

Reality TV and the Business of having a bunch of Kids!



Update: Mom of Octuplets did her first interview on the Today Show. I got the weird feeling that I was watching Angie Jolie without the adoptions but the same expression on her face. I am Angel Jolie. Geez, God help me I am trying not to judge here.

I was watching the Today Show when I learned of the mother in California who had not a set of twins, not triplets, but eight babies. I was working out on my Gazelle and my first reaction was to touch my stomach to make sure there was nothing in my outdated uterus. I thought "God help her" and put the thought quickly out of my mind.

I must say I recoiled in horror when I learned later that the mom had six other kids. All under of the age of seven. I immediately thought damn The Gosselins and the Duggars. Jon and Kate Plus 8 and 17 kids and Counting are reality shows on TLC Channel that follow large families around documenting what it is like to raise a van load of kids. Reality TV has warped our vision of everything decent in America.

What ever happened to having a bunch of kids because you did not know having that two or three kids was okay? I come from a family of big families. My mother was number four from a litter of twelve, my dad was the youngest of eight, and I am the oldest of five. 4-8-5, box and straight. I lived in a small town where your family size determined how long you stayed for choir practice or if your team won a state championships. (So please don't think I am against anything about the number of kids or who can and cannot have kids). I was raised before the days of fertility clinics and donated sperm banks. I can hear my granddaddy saying, "why would you want people seeing you raising your kids, that is what you suppose to do?" The man who raised his children's children would not find it very exciting having cameras following him as he whipped our butts for various offenses throughout the day.

My concern is that we are seeing gigantic families being glamorized by reality tv and impressions have been drawn that the more kids you have the more money you make. This is not the real world. TLC Channel makes a fortune from The Gosselins and the Duggars and they in turn have become very wealthy sharing their families with the world. And I ain't mad at them.

But to the untrained eye or unschooled mind, many do not see the number of assistants that show up to produce an episode or the reported number of churches and volunteers that give to help serve these families. Nor do you see the PR agents contacting companies for product placements on the shows and every conceivable free item they can get. One mention of a brand on any given episode can be worth its weight in gold. Everyone wants to see these families lives and to see them succeed. Although we may question their ethics, it WAS cute at one time to wonder how do they managed with all those kids in this day and time.

The Duggars started off as a family who was living out their religious beliefs. But after several appearances on morning programs over the years, the idea to pitch this wholesome brood to the public at large led to a number of lucrative deals and a weekly TV show. They now have eighteen children and counting. Mrs. Duggar had her kids the old fashion way, "Oops, honey I am pregnant, again."

Kate and Jon Gosselin got in on the act with their kids and we saw a different type of parenting show. Kate had a little help from fertility drugs and she believed her miracle children should be helped out by everyone. This was the first time we actually heard someone say, "You owe me help, I got a bunch of kids that I planned to have." This show does not come off as wholesome and we can see where this couple is a younger more edgier reality-tv generation. Kate was the first "mother" from TLC that had a little of 'Real Housewives of OC' air about her. Drama and dysfunction seem to be okay in their household. While the Duggars may leave you baffled, they had a fan club following from day one. Kate and Jon Gosselin did not bring natural wholesomeness to the your local channel right away. For everything the Duggars represent; order, grounded, spirituality and perkiness, the Gosselins are just the opposite. Chaotic, self-centered, religious, and bitchiness. The two shows represent two generational mindset on raising kids in front of the cameras. Both are making pay dirt and both are selling us a delusional world. A world that may have influenced our California mom to step off the edge and take the plunge into the world of actually producing babies for a television deal and product endorsements for her and her children. Folks this has just gotten ugly.

A single mother living with her parents, the world is not going to be as gracious and as loving to her and her decision to raise fourteen kids. The hospital bill for one preemie along can run into the hundred of thousands. We see this was planned out without a plan other than "here are my babies, let's make a deal". This is where the gravy train got derailed. There will be takers(offers and deals galore) but it will not be without outrage. Where Kate Gosselin left off, this mom stepped in and said I will take this another mile or so.

She is responsible for her decision to have her kids, but my goodness, flip the switch and darken her skin a bit and the outcry would be louder. Single mom making bad decisions and living off the government would be the headlines in much larger print. Where is Anne Coulter on this issue by the way? Wouldn't she be a perfect guest speaker at the next OB-GYN fertility convention?

Back to reality television shows depicting motherhood as a paid adventure. In my mom getting-together-for-drinks-while-raising-teens club, all of us are screaming what the hell is going in America. The club member with four kids was nearly in tears trying get to our monthly meeting. Her kids practices were all scheduled at four different parks. No one had anything good to say about the mom in California. Are we mad and want to get an endorsement deal with paid assistants? Well, of course. But truth be told, no amount of money in the world could get me to try to raise more than my lot of three. Love my darlings dearly, but love my sanity even more.

Reality Television should be renamed to Altered Reality. It has desensitized us to the truth and leaves false expectations for those who have not learned that most of the shows are scripted. I do not know what will happen with the mom. I hate that she was not given serious counseling prior to making this decision. I hope the doctors who participated in this get hauled before the medical review board. I pray for the grandparents who seem to have been caught in the middle of watching a grown child make a decision that will affect all of them. Most of all, I pray for her children. I hope they get the support they need. They did not ask for any of this. In the meantime, I hope that reality shows depicting parenting as pay-to-play adventure get canceled before a young mom decide to bring 12 kids into the world for the mother of all deals.
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