Celebrities or non-celebrities, reality TV stars can be polarizing figures. I have followed the Gosselin family for years, many years, since their original TV specials when the sextuplets were infants. My oldest daughter and I always enjoyed watching the antics of the children and marveled at the idea of what it would be like to have such a big family.
At the time, my oldest was an only child. The idea of multiple siblings fascinated and intrigued her. She laughed at those babies and loved their adorable faces. She related to the older twins. When the show was on TLC, she would ask “Was a new one on last night?” And usually, on my husband’s golf night, we would plan a snack and watch the latest episode.
Was I a big Kate Gosselin fan? Well, yes, and no. I loved the show. I loved the kids. Did I sometimes think Kate was a little…well…harsh? Or crabby? Of course. But reality TV is not really reality TV. We know it’s not totally scripted, maybe a little tweaked. We also know that the cameras only follow the “stars” on certain days, and that the editing monkeys can have a field day with just one off-kilter moment.
In many ways, I knew that I shared many traits of Kate. I like order. I like “themes” and planning and special family moments and creating memories and outings and capturing it all on film. I get crazy sometimes over dirt and messes. I’m frugal and I try to use coupons and shop wisely and get cranky when it doesn’t work out. And I’ve said things to my husband and daughter that I shouldn’t have said or reacted poorly in situations with them.
But I’m not on TV.
Kate Gosselin, that polarizing figure, attracts passionate arguments about why one loves or loathes her. It’s about as crazy as a stay-at-home mom vs. working mom argument. Message boards are devoted to discussing Kate and her family. Psycho haters stalk her on Twitter. Paparazzi love catching her in an awkward moment. Rumors are spread about her family and anyone within 10 feet of her.
My opinion of Kate has changed in many ways over the years, starting with her public divorce. Her divorce was truly painful to watch unfold, and I felt truly sorry for her as we watched her marriage fall apart on TV.
And then, not long after her divorce, I had twins. And this life event really changed my opinion of Kate. Having twins is hard, really hard, in my opinion, particularly when you already have an older child and your twins grow into active toddlers. Kate has come to my mind on many, many days in the last two-plus years of my life, and I can’t imagine having more than these two small beings and an older sister in my house. Kate had even more to bear than I, with twins first, then sextuplets, and then single motherhood.
I understand why she has help–my parents help me with my kids and I couldn’t imagine doing it without them. I understand why the family took up the opportunity to be on TV with its paycheck, because having kids, especially eight little ones, is expensive. I get why she sometimes griped over gum and markers and crumbs. I’m real enough to say I’ve had those moments too.
Again–I’m not on TV, with all the world to monitor my nasty moments.
There’s a certain grace one must learn when one is thrust into the spotlight. Sometimes one handles it well, but most people have a very big learning curve, and the latter, I believe, is normal. I am not a celebrity, but where I live a few strangers know me for my writing in local publications and my support of certain local politicians and important local issues. I’ve had some awkward moments, and I understand, in a small way, what judgment is. It’s not easy to handle those awkward moments or the judgment that follows.
I see Kate a little differently today. She can’t take back any of the past–none of us can. She survived a painful and public divorce. She’s got to provide for her children, but now she’s a celebrity. And so are her children. She needs to keep them safe, and feed and house them. I personally don’t believe it’s possible for her to suddenly take a regular job and put them in public school and move to a three-bedroom cape in the suburbs. Some may not agree, but clearly this mom is trying to keep her children’s lives “normal” when it’s really not normal and trying to keep their routine the same, despite their parents breaking up and losing major income and opportunity from a TV show all at the same time. I give her a tremendous amount of credit for trying to “keep on keeping on.” She’s a strong lady in that respect.
Recently, I saw Kate participate in a local road race near my home. She wasn’t just there as a celebrity, but really running, using muscles and sweat to make her way up a hill in the summer heat. It made me think that perhaps we all need to put ourselves in her shoes–or another’s shoes–before we call judgement on their lives. Few understand what it’s like to raise more than one baby at once. And few likely understand what it’s like to be Kate Gosselin. I think we can all learn to try and walk or run a mile in another’s shoes, whether it’s Kate or some other stranger, before we totally judge what they face in their private lives.