I remember John and Kate Gosselin from their first documentary on the Discovery Channel. This was before they agreed to be the focus of a reality show — a decision that resulted in the recent unfortunate news that’s dominating the entertainment headlines. They seemed like a nice couple doing an amazing job despite a challenging lifestyle.
Before “John & Kate Plus Eight” Kate worked a couple shifts a week as nurse. John, in my opinion, did a great job handling the kids on his own given that he also held down a full time job. They were crammed in a small house, their financial future was uncertain and both parents were overtired and over-stressed.
Then came the outpouring of help from caring people and eventually the reality series. No one can blame John & Kate for taking the offer to do the show — it made practical and financial sense at the time. But somewhere down the road, they fell victim to their own success.
I watched the show regularly during its first season — I was interested in their story as I know a lot of families with twins and high order multiples. I found it amazing how well organized this family was — the house was clean, the kids were on schedule and Kate did her darndest to ensure that the family ate healthy (often organic) foods. But even back then, it was clear to the viewer that the couple was plagued by the same vices that affected other reality TV couples — even though the couple themselves may not have realized it.
Kate was portrayed as being too assertive and harsh on her husband. John was portrayed as a guy that simply gave up because no matter what he did, he couldn’t please his wife. I stopped watching the show after this first season as I lost interest in the “show” part of it but did occasionally pick up an article here and there about this remarkable family. I hoped John and Kate had a chance due to their strong religious beliefs and commitment to each other and their family. But then they became household names — millions of people watched them from week to week.
The stress of a newborn is often enough to challenge the commitment of the two parents to each other. In some cases, one or both of the parents get jealous of the attention the baby receives from their partner. When you factor in twins or triplets, things begin to get overwhelming and financial pressure kicks in. With a singleton baby, the cost of day care is reasonable enough that both parents can return to work and still live a lifestyle similar to what they’re been used to. When you factor in twins or more, the cost of daycare can easily offset one parent’s earnings. Even if one parent had planned all along to stay home, bringing more than one baby home from the hospital at time is still a challenge.
Each additional baby adds a degree of complexity to the situation. Most multiples are born early which can come with its own set of challenges. With twins, you can use a “man to man defense” to feed and comfort the babies but you’ll often need double the equipment. With triplets, you’re outnumbered and someone is always pulling double duty. Plus, most vehicles outside of minivans and large SUVs are unable to safely fit three car seats (forget it if you already have other children). When you get to quads, it’s possible that you could run out of living space given the room needed for four cribs, high chairs, etc…. Plus, the cost of food, diapers, formula and clothing can approach a small fortune.
So even without the fame from a popular TV show, John and Kate had a number of challenges ahead of them. In part two of this, I’ll talk about the effects of fame and how it can be like winning the lottery — at first it seems likes a good thing but if you’re not careful, it can be the worst thing to happen to you.