Hate them or love them, more than likely you know to whom people are referring when they mention “Jon & Kate.” Now famous for raising their
eight children in public view, Jon and Kate are trudging down Divorce Lane, a path traveled by many Americans.
Recently TLC announced the removal of Jon’s name from the title of their show. It will now air as “Kate plus Eight.” Allegedly Jon would still be on
the show but not as often, hence, the removal of his name from the title. Jon subsequently posted a sign on the family’s front gate banning any TLC
crew or staff from entering or filming his family. Jon, Kate, and TLC are now in talks to determine the future of the show. But a bigger question
looms. Has TLC missed a huge opportunity for a unique perspective here?
Many shows and programs focus on single moms or complete families. Often single moms are not demonized (Octo-mom doesn’t count here, folks, she’s an exception) but instead they are glorified as having succeeded against all odds. But what about dads? Where are they in media today?
There’s Lifetime’s Deadbeat Dads which villifies divorced fathers in a horrific ambush reality TV show setting. And who among us hasn’t enjoyed
watching Kevin Federline cope with life after Britney? Overall, divorced dads today are not shown in a very kind light even though most divorced
dads down here in the real world pay support and want to share parenting responsibilities with their estranged wives according to a study by Sanford
Braver of Arizona State University.
With all the hype and interest in reality shows today it’s time a media outlet took some responsibility in a mess they helped create. Jon & Kate signed on for the show possibly with some inkling of the stress it would cause. But even Whitney Houston stated during her interview with Oprah she had no idea what she was getting into when she signed on to do a reality show with her husband which portrayed their day to day lives.
TLC has a very unique opportunity sitting in front of them. The decision to keep Kate on instead of Jon is because their “audience” would prefer Kate. This is despite the changing landscape of the gender of stay-at-home parents. As a result of the current recession, many fathers are out of work and staying home with their kids. According to the Census Bureau, the numbers of stay-at-home dads have almost doubled since 2004 when only 98,000 men stayed home. Estimates today put the number of stay-at-home dads at 159,000. Gone are the days of good old 1950 when Ward Cleaver went off to work with briefcase in hand. June is now rushing off to work to leave Ward behind to wear the apron and take care of the little Beavers.
Studies have proven over and over again that divorce adversely affects men and boys more than women. If more men would speak up about their experience with divorce perhaps the landscape for recovery with men would be brighter. Emotional stability is paramount when any family is going through divorce. Top all of this off with the increased shift by men to be present and involved in their children’s lives and you have tapped into a large audience still lacking positive representation on the national media level.
It would be refreshing to see a major media outlet step up and take the challenge to represent the father’s side of the story without turning him into a villain. Is TLC edgy enough to step out of the box and challenge the stereotype? Or will they continue to perpetuate it?
Lauren Hale is a two time survivor of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and mother of three. Her blog, Unexpected Blessing, began just days after discovering she discovered herself unexpectedly pregnant with her third child. After recovering from her second episode, Lauren dove headlong into the fray and has left no stone unturned. If there is a way to provide support, she does it – from volunteer Coordinator for the state of Georgia with PSI to running her own local peer support group for families with PPD as well as moderating online message boards. Lauren has been strongly drawn to supporting men through the Postpartum Mood Disorder Experience as she passionately believes whole family support and education is an essential key to recovery.