• Mon, Apr 9 2012

Dear Reality TV Moms, Stop Pretending Your Fame-Whoring Is For Your Kid

Dance MomsLast week, I received an interesting email from a casting agent for a reality television program. At first, I thought that I must have opened some new form of spam mail by accident. I looked for the tell-tale random link or sales pitch. But all I found was a request to speak about some of the pieces I’ve written in the past.

For the sake of curiosity, I decided to see what the whole thing was about. I connected with a polite and enthusiastic young man who talked to me about a new program from a well-known cable station. I still had a hard time wondering why on earth anyone would find my life interesting. I listened to the pitch, wondering more about what made this person contact me than whether I would actually accept the offer.

Would I be on a reality television show? No. Under any premise at all, I don’t think that I would participate in such an experience. Actually, I’m sure that I wouldn’t.

Let me break down the moms that you find on a reality TV, and why I couldn’t be any of them.

Exploitation Moms: These ladies reside in the seventh circle of bad parenting. It’s the cast of Dance Moms and the cringe-inducing ladies on Toddlers & Tiaras. It even includes matriarchs like Kate Gosselin and Michelle Duggar. These women all use their families to try to build a brand. They use either their children’s abilities or the uterus’s impressive reproductive power to gain fame. It’s a type of motherhood that I can’t even fathom, and it’s focused on dollar signs instead of actual growth and development for the little ones involved. These children have their young lives taped and played as entertainment, whether they choose to or not. It’s even worse than pimping out your children for child acting gigs, because at least those little ones get to play a character. Reality children don’t even get a private life to share away from the camera crew. This is something that I could never do to my child.

“Look-At-Me” Moms: Hello Housewives from every major city in the country!  This reality mother wants the story to be about her, not her children. But she’s okay if they play a supporting role, as long as they make the star good. Baby Bryn makes for cute visuals as long as her time on screen helps reinforce the image that her mother, Bethenny Frankel, is aggressively trying to sell to the world. I have no problem with a woman making her own career in reality entertainment. I don’t have an issue with women having an identity outside of motherhood. I have a problem when these moms use their kids as supporting actors in their show. My own career isn’t in branding. Even as a writer, I have a hard time with all that self-promotion. And if moms should be able to have an identity outside of motherhood, kids should be able to have their own live outside of being mommy’s on-air sidekick. Putting them on television doesn’t allow for that.

Competitive Moms: You that classic reality competition segment where the parent of the group talks about how they’re doing everything for their kids. They want to be America’s Next Top Model or the next Survivor all for their children waiting at home. There’s normal a couple tears thrown in for good effect. That’s the time when I start hoping that they get sent home next. After all, if they miss their children that much, just think of how badly their kids miss them while they’re away. I know that these contestants always talk about building a better life for their little ones, but I feel like there are ways to do that without leaving your kids for months at a time. If you’re a successful chef with a good job, I don’t think your kids care if you win a couple hundred grand and some accolades. They would probably rather you tuck them in to bed in every night. Even if my fame and fortune would translate into a bigger house or a nicer car for my daughter, I don’t know that months away from her would be worth it.

Reality television is where people go to make a name for themselves. The children involved in this process don’t normally get to make a choice. They’re thrown in with their parents or forced to live without them so their parents can possibly win Project Runway. We keep seeing more and more parents on TV, allowing their families to be used to ratings. Next holiday season, instead of huge gifts to be unwrapped in front of an eager audience of camera crews, I wish all those children a little privacy. I hope all those families get time together, just to be with each other and away from the watchful eyes of the television audience.

No, I could never be on reality television. I couldn’t sacrifice my family for the chance to get my 15 minutes of fame.

(Photo: PopTower)

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  • bl

    This seems way too obvious, so someone please chime in if I’m missing something, but how is reality TV that much different from what you do? Unless you’re using fake names for yourself and your daughter, you’re kind of a supporting role type parent, no? You write about yourself a lot but also share plenty about your daughter. No matter how benign you think the stories are, she still can’t effectively consent to them. You’re capitalizing on the fact that you have a child for your career. It’s totally your right nut to want to be on TV, but the disdain seemed a little misplaced to me. PS Not that you’re looking to me for validation, but I didn’t mean this as a criticism on what you do; I usually enjoy reading your articles.

    • bl

      *not. To correct my typo above. When I start to read that sentence, the kid in me giggles.

    • NotThumper

      I was thinking the same thing.

    • Lindsay Cross

      @bl, I definitely understand what you’re saying. And I thought about this A LOT as I was writing this piece.

      You have every right to point out that it seems pretty hypocritical of a person who shares stories of her child online to criticize reality television moms who seem to do the same thing.

      As a writer, I’ve struggled with this idea about how much to share and what I need to keep to myself. In a perfect world, I would have writing work outside of my own personal experience, but I just haven’t gotten there yet. I have created a couple rules so that my daughter doesn’t get exploited in this whole process. I do write under a different name, so that people who know me as “Brenna’s Mommy” wouldn’t find me online unless I wanted them to. I also refuse to share pictures of my daughter on the internet. This is how I try to protect her from getting too mixed up in my writing career.

      I hope that explains a little. And I have to admit that I too giggled at the nut/not typo. Mostly because I’ve done things like that a lot:)

  • CW

    You bash Michelle Duggar as a “fame whore” but not MTV’s “Teen Moms”????? At least Michelle was in her 20′s and married when she started her family and she’s still married to the same man nearly 3 decades later.

    • Jess

      Yeah she’s old enough to know better.

  • The Mommy Psychologist

    I will say this. Whenever I feel bad about my parenting skills, I just flip on Toddlers and Tiaras or Dance Moms. I immediately feel better about myself.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.” http://www.themommypsychologist.com

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