Last 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.