Friday, July 17, 2009

In Defense of Jon and Kate. Sort of.

I have been watching Jon and Kate Gosselin since their first special. Their sextuplets are a year older than Lumpyhead, and each one of those children reminded me of some characteristic of my baby. I am often completely overwhelmed by parenting, and every episode made me think "Well, hell, if they can get through the day, so can I."

I gathered some tips from their outings – eat breakfast in the car, keep a potty in the van, dress your children in bright colors so they're easier to spot – that I use today. I found solace in their candor and practicality.

And the aspect that makes reality TV great: when things went wrong for them, I felt superior and smug. Yes, my child is wearing laundry right now instead of clothing, but at least my husband and I communicate well and treat each other with respect. Yes, I feed my children non-organic, hastily-slapped-together meals and fast food; but I have genuine, long-standing friends and a close-knit extended family.

Then I started to become annoyed. The traditional gender roles Jon and Kate assigned to their children troubled me. The blatant product placement bugged me. The out-and-out begging for free stuff disgusted me. I began to dislike them.

Then came the out-of-control popularity. Internet sites attacking parenting techniques, communication styles, hairdos and clothing choices. Credible reports of seriously flawed character and horrible behavior. I stopped watching.

A book. Television appearances. Fabulous trips. Another book. I stopped caring.

Then the marital troubles popped up in the tabloids, and I suddenly cared again. I was one of the zillions of viewers who tuned in for the season premier. I clapped my hands with glee and horror and sneered and muttered at the TV and felt dirty afterward.

I came to this conclusion: If they knew from the beginning their marriage would be a casualty, I think they would still do the show.

Would you?

Fortune. Fame beyond your wildest dreams. Your children will be set for life. All you have to give up is the love of your spouse.

Think about it differently. What if you were a deeply materialistic person who was struggling to make ends meet? Would you agree to the complete loss of privacy and to the constant scrutiny and criticism?

I'm sure the Gosselins have dealt with criticism and scrutiny since the sextuplets were born. They relied on help from church and community members – as one must – from the start. Haven't we all witnessed the well-meaning lady who comes over to "help," but instead holds the sleeping baby and coos "as long as you're up, dear, can you get me a cup of coffee?" That kind of help wears out its welcome fast, and when you suggest to that helper she is not needed the next time, feelings are hurt and you're called an ungrateful bitch and eventually you just have to shrug your shoulders and do what's best for your family, no matter what that old bag from church calls you. I bet that happens a lot when you have six babies.

So let's assume the Gosselins had little privacy and were subject to constant criticism before the TV show.

How much money would it take to make you give up your spouse?

What if you had the sneaking suspicion that your spouse was an incompetent dolt anyway? Sure, you've got a soft spot for him because you've been through a lot together, but if you could land enough cash to hire a nanny, chauffeur, porter, and a security guard (ahem) to handle his duties; plus a maid and a chef and more nannies – would you make the trade?

What if you had a sneaking suspicion that your spouse was a physically abusive nag who ordered you around and killed all your fun? Now how much?

And if you think money is what makes the world go 'round, what gives you value and what your children need more than anything; then ruining your marriage is probably not a very big deal.


teachmama said...

Dang, girl!! You really raise a ton of good questions here--from one back and forth J & K fan to another, I would LOVE to chat at length with you about these two birds, their impetus for making the choices they did and where it ultimately took them.

One day. . .I am--still--curious and interested in their story. How can you not be?

Alison said...

This is the very best defense they could ask for. You nailed it.

Anonymous said...

True, true.

But since when did we watch reality TV for the morality?

canabian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Great perspective on it.

It all comes around to the age old question: Does money buy you happiness?