Fierce Mommy: jon and kate plus child labor violations?


a blogumn by stephanie myers

i have to admit something.  i’m probably one of a handful of people left in america who has not watched the show jon and kate plus 8.  that doesn’t mean that i haven’t seen or heard a great deal about this family.   there are people who are apparently rabid fans of this show in a fanatical way that makes me wonder what the draw is to watching a mom wrangle that many children.  it seems, in a way, like other family train-wrecks being broadcasted on the air today (nanny 911, bridezilla, wife swap, supernanny) – it is fascinating in its own sheer craziness.

having never seen the show outside of clips on cnn, commercials, etc, i dont know a lot about it.  from what i gather of the parents, they seem level-headed (or as level-headed as one can be when you have eight kids), loving, and kind….if a bit worn out.

on headline news yesterday, an item ran about the protest being raised by A Minor Consideration (a non-profit, tax-deductible foundation that advocates for child stars founded by child-star-turned-lawyer. paul petersen) against the show for its commercialization of the children’s day to day lives. (the video after the jump is not great quality but you do get to see the story)

for the past four years the family has been on television as tlc documents the day to day ups and downs of raising a set of twins and sextuplets.  as a mother i’m guessing you watch this show to…what? remind yourself that someone out there has it much, much, much tougher than you?  cause that’s what i was thinking as watched clips of the show via headline news.

A Minor Consideration contends that the children are being harmed in the long run by the constant presence of cameras.  peterson pointed out that people act differently in the presence of cameras and children raised in that kind of bubble will perhaps be subject to a fate similar to a child star. the organization also feels that child labor laws are being violated in the filiming of the show. the mamapop blog had this to say about the show and the possibility that the children are being pushed too hard:

“The most recent episode involved the family being photographed for a Good Housekeeping cover, and watching it made me uncomfortable.  I can’t imagine making my one three year old pose over the course of 2 days for a magazine cover, let alone my six 4 year olds and two 8 year olds.

I think what was most disturbing about the episode was honestly how truly unhappy the children were to be doing this.  This went beyond being filmed in your home going about your daily life.  This was modeling to sell magazine covers, and to sell your show, with no compensation for you.  The twins were not happy, the sextuplets were hungry and tired and being bribed with a playful puppy to behave.  I’m not exactly sure how they got such a good picture on the cover, but I suspect photo-shopping may have been involved.”

the parents and the network have both issued statements stating that everyone is concerned about  the kids well-being and that there is no cause for criticism or concern. they say that there are no child labor laws being broken and that there haven’t been any complaints against the show.  tlc also pointed out that doing the show means the family is well off enough to afford for kate to stay home with the kids and care for the brood, which is of course a valid point.  i can’t imagine how much diapers alone would cost, not to mention, clothing, feeding, and caring for so many young children.

searching online for info on how the family is compensated doesn’t bring up much.  one can imagine though that their family trips (disneyworld, the crayola factory, etc) are probably paid for by the network because it amounts to product placement.  there are whispers that kate’s tummy tuck was also a covered expense, but by tlc or as a quid pro quo for a plastic surgeon we do not know.  there is similar talk about the fact the family is considering a move to a bigger house (paid for by tlc) with enough room to house the live-in crew.

having never seen the show, i can’t tell you what the the kids names are, nor could i tell you which one is the most sensitive, the loudest, the bully.  i can’t fault parents for welcoming the offer tlc made and how it must have made them relieved to know they could afford to care for the children the way they wanted to.  as a mother i can sympathize, but as a mother i do pause to think about what it must be like to grow up, practically from birth, being watched.  what it must be like to have strangers know intimate details about your life.  what is it like growing up labeled as the ‘funny one’, the ‘sensitive one’;  what happens when people see you as a character in your own life?