I’ve been watching Jon and Kate Plus Eight since it started, and I really used to love the show. Last season, though, I thought I’d give it up. I used to watch it because I loved seeing how the family managed everyday life — how they managed to get everyone to the dinner table, how they toilet trained three kids at once, how they got the laundry done. There was always, always someone crying, and watching the show at the end of the day always made me feel a lot better about my day.
Kate used to say that she didn’t see anything inspiring about her family, but I did — I found it inspiring that despite the chaos and mayhem, Jon and Kate didn’t just give up. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel and let the kids run wild, but still they were in there giving out time-outs and trying to provide playdates and serving up balanced meals. If they had the strength to continue to just be parents, day after day, then I could, too.
Last season, though, the show became much more about freebies. Now that the show is a hit, Jon and Kate have enough money and sponsorships to pay for help with the kids and to take the kids to all sorts of exotic locations. Instead of having episodes about how they managed to get to preschool and back, the shows were about their recent trip to California, or the free visits they had backstage with the Harlem Globetrotters, or the awesome free washer and dryer they got. All of their friends and family seemed to have disappeared, replaced with paid staff. I was happy to see they were doing well and everything, but the show didn’t have the same relatability, the same daily-life inspiration, so I lost interest.
And then of course, BIG SCANDAL and all that, so I watched the season premiere this week. I have to admit I thought that all the magazine covers and tabloid coverage was a big publicity stunt. However, it was very clear on the show that Jon and Kate are estranged, at best, and it was just such a sad, sad, train wreck to watch.
Unlike most of the internet, I’ve always been sympathetic to Kate. She absolutely could be nicer to her husband, but I really relate to her struggles as a stay-at-home mom. If someone came to my door and offered me a book deal, I would absolutely jump at the chance. If going on a book tour was part of that contract, I would still say yes, and I would expect Sir Monkeypants to support me. It would be such a big deal for me, I could not pass it up. I know Kate travels a lot now, and that’s a problem. But I understand her need to have something for herself.
And while we’re on the topic of Kate, I don’t have a problem with her weight loss, her improved wardrobe, or her time in a tanning booth, either. I’m sure in the first two years that the show was on TV, she got dozens of emails from crazy internet people calling her a Fat Cow and telling her she had ugly hair and that her clothes were fugly. It gets hard to constantly rise above that sort of stuff — eventually, you’re on TV, you’re being photographed all the time, you want to look better. I get that too.
But of course, I have a lot of sympathy for Jon, too. I’m sure Kate looks back on the first three years of the sextuplet’s lives, when she was home alone with them all day, and points to that as a parallel to what Jon is doing now. But it is absolutely not the same thing — when your spouse is there in the morning and will be coming home at the end of the day, it just makes a huge difference to the workload and to the connectivity of your family.
My parents’ marriage fell apart for many reasons, but the biggest was that my father had a job that required almost constant travel — in the last two years of their marriage, he was gone for about 25 days out of every month. It got easier for us to function without him than with him — his presense disrupted the morning bathroom schedule and the breakfast routine, for example — and once your family prefers to have you away than home, it’s a big problem. I can see Jon, so many days handling everything alone, and thinking that his partner is already gone — so why not make it official?
Ugh, it’s just all bad.
It’s become painful to watch the show, painful to read about it and see it. I hope for the best for their family, but I fear the worst. The reality show seemed relatively harmless and kind of fun at the beginning, but now I see the kind of life-long effect it will have on the kids. I didn’t get it before — the kind of exposure they were going to be facing — but now I do. There will probably be photographers camped outside their school and house for years to come. When Cara and Mady start university, photographers will be there to catch them at every frat party, every Spring Break trip, every skipped class. When the sextuplets start high school, there will probably be a four-page spread in People magazine. And that’s all assuming that they stop the reality show NOW. If they actually keep it going…I can’t imagine the attention and exposure.
I’d try to help out by inviting the adorable kiddies over for a playdate, but I don’t want the paparazzi at my house. So I guess the Gosselins will just have to figure it all out for themselves — in front of millions.