It’s actually really funny: I’m about to write a post about two reality-TV moms, Betty Hayes of TLC‘s Table for Twelve and Kate Gosselin of Jon and Kate Plus Eight (also on TLC), and I only just now realized that I share both their names.
(cue Twilight Zone music)
Anyway, yes, my first name is (as everyone knows because it’s right up there in the Author box) Katherine. And guess what my middle name is? You got it: Elizabeth. So there you have it. Funny, coincidental, irrelevant: but still, I think, worth mentioning.
But now to the real reason for the post. Last night I was watching TLC while folding laundry, because — let’s face it — it’s just about perfect laundry-folding TV fodder. Nothing too important visually, yet still unbelievably (and sometimes distressingly) captivating subject matter. So I watched TLCs new mega-family reality offering (and by mega-family I mean “why the hell did these people have so many children?”) Table for Twelve. Honestly, I don’t think I could handle watching something like the famous Duggar family (of 18 Kids and Counting fame) who consciously choose to just continually procreate. At least the Hayes and Gosselins kinda accidentally fell into these huge families after having pretty regular-sized families and then being surprised with sextuplets. (And yes, not that surprised as fertility-enhancing technology was involved.)
Anyway, so back to me and my laundry. I sat there folding, and heaved a great sigh of resignation as Table for Twelve came on. I didn’t think I would be able to hack it: all those crazy kids and some cloyingly sweet “we just love children so much” line from the parents. But I was so pleasantly surprised by Eric and especially Betty Hayes. These are just two really, really nice people. Who happened to have twins. And then a second set of twins. Followed by sextuplets.
I was amazed at the genuine affection they have for each other (in spite of all the craziness they have going on), as well as how loving, affectionate and — particularly — tolerant they were with their children. Betty only came close to losing her cool once, and that was in the middle of a multi-child meltdown at a bowling alley, and even then she restrained it to a clipped comment that she was pretty much done because all the children were so unhappy. The couple learned from the experience, discussed what they’d do differently next time and happily moved on. Even when Betty was musing on the piles and piles (and piles!) of laundry that had piled (!) up over the holidays, she didn’t let it get her too down. And Eric was right there pulling for her. When she called herself lazy for not doing it yet, he wouldn’t let her get away with it. He gently pointed out that if she hadn’t been able to do the laundry it was only because she was busy taking care of another of about ten other important tasks. “It’ll get done,” they both agreed in the end.
I only have a few shows that I religiously watch, but I will definitely add Table for Twelve to my list of things to catch when I can. I found it uplifting and inspiring, and vowed to try to be more like the happy, smiling, affectionate and tolerant Betty Hayes.
So then the famous Jon and Kate Plus Eight came on.
And I saw myself. And I didn’t much like it, either. Now, don’t get me wrong. Kate Gosselin doubtlessly has a major task on her hands raising eight children (twins plus sextuplets). But she’s just so…controlling. And mean. “Strict” is the word the crew used in the episode I caught, but controlling was definitely what it looked like to me. She spent the entire episode harping on her somewhat hapless husband and alternately ignoring or getting frantic about her children’s behaviour. Which is where the mirror comes in. I almost had to laugh a few times at her lines, “go away”, “I don’t care”, “I can’t mediate every fight” (she mediated nothing at all) and — most of all — “I need you to all stay on that side of the kitchen island! I feel like I’m being smothered here! Everyone is all over me!” I had just said the same thing that evening as both my kids (yes, can you believe it? I only have two and they keep me hopping!) were draped all over me and the other two adults in the home were peppering me with questions and nobody was attending to dinner preparations.