I watched the season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus Eight with a lot of sadness. The nasty remarks on camera, cold shoulder at public events and inability to pull together in the face of the kids’ 5th birthday were all very upsetting. I get that they’re angry with each other and that they are having some serious marital problems that they may not be able to get past. But I don’t get why they are doing it on TV.
My mother and my biological father split when I was just a few month’s old. When I was about four, she told him that he was no longer allowed to visit. What I didn’t know – and wouldn’t have understood at the time – is that he was constantly cancelling our time together, showing up late and breaking promises. I didn’t know, because she didn’t explain why he was no longer allowed to visit. I was angry with her for years over this, until I was old enough to see things more clearly. At some point, I came to my own conclusion that a father who truly wanted to be in my life wouldn’t have disappeared when my mom (in anger, no doubt) told him to. But the important thing is this: she never said a bad word about him. No matter how many times I told her I was angry at her, she just accepted my ill will until I was old enough to make up my own mind about things. I have a complete and utter respect for her in that regard. So many parents would have tried to turn their children against the other parent in order to keep a good relationship for his or herself.
As I watched Kate continue to badmouth her husband (which she did plenty of when they were still “happy” together) in front of her kids, I felt horrified. I felt sad for children who are going to feel like they need to choose, when they have absolutely no responsibility in their parents’ failing marriage. That is simply NOT putting your family first.
And then we watched as Jon was conspicuously absent in the preparation for the kids’ 5th birthday party. We have only been told (by Kate) that he needed a weekend to himself. While that makes sense from an emotional point of view, it is also NOT putting your family first.
Traveling constantly for work may be the necessary part of a glamorous or appealing career, but your kids are going to miss you. Although they may not admit it, most kids would far prefer to have their parents present in their lives than have a bigger house or even fabulous trips. Kate, I get why your career is so important to you, but traveling constantly and ignoring your husband’s unhappiness at being home by himself is NOT putting your family first.
Jon, very few people would blame you for being miserable. We’ve seen you deal with insult after insult and we know that you’re now home with 8 kids without the support of your partner. We can see that you don’t have a career of your own. On the other hand, placing yourself in questionable situations when you’re in the public eye is NOT putting your family first.
Worst of all, capturing the lowest moments of your marriage and your family life on film for the entire world to see (including your kids and all of their friends), is most certainly NOT putting your family first. No amount of money can make up for the negative effect this will have your kids’ emotional well-being.
As a parent, I know that we can’t always put our kids’ needs first. We get sick or unhappy, we have dreams and goals, and there are times when we do need to put ourselves first. It is slightly easier when you have a supportive partner who can pick up the slack for you, but it’s always a challenge. But, Jon & Kate, neither of you has earned the right to be self-righteous with the other. Neither of you can say that everything you do is with your family’s best interests at heart. And I think it’s pretty clear that until you can both admit that you have needs above and beyond those as dutiful parents, your marriage and your relationship as a family unit are doomed. Get it together, people, and stop trying to play the martyr. For once, it’s time to actually put your kids and your family first. And, for the record, do it in private already.