And TLC and HGTV and all those other house-wifey networks.
But why are we (and therefore, the big t.v. executives funding these shows) so obsessed with televising the meltdown of the parent-child dynamic? Why in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood do we give shows like 16 and Pregnant or (dear Neptune) Here comes Honey-Boo-Boo more than a disparaging glance?
Perhaps it’s because these relationship trainwrecks hit a little too close to home.
Unfortunately, one of the most pervasive trends I’ve noticed in today’s parenting is the lack of consistent authority. Before everyone jumps down my throat- no, I don’t have children of my own. Though I fully admit that there are some things I will never understand about kids until I become a mommy, I think it’s pretty entitled to assume that only those who’ve taken legal responsibility for a child have the right to speak on it. As the eldest of four children, the past go-to babysitter of four young neighborhood toddlers, and a present part-time nanny to two adorable twin girls, I know a little something about raising children. I’ve treated bloody noses, weathered tantrums, and yes, even cleaned up the (not-so-occassional) accidental poo. And as more and more of my own friends start to reproduce (when did THAT happen?!), I’ve been there to see the entire parenting process with fresh, grown-up eyes. So it’s fair to say that I’ve been around the baby block.
And in my years dealing with little one’s upbringings, I’ve seen the typical helicopter parenting of my youth morph into this weird half ‘fuck-it’, half ‘fuck-YOU’ hybrid. I’m referring to the legions of oblivious nazi-breeders whose whole lives seem to revolve around their child, and yet when it comes to discipline, they haven’t got a clue. They’re the ones I always seem to to be seated next to when my boyfriend and I scrape together the money for a nice night out, the ones with the designer diaper bags and insufferable attitudes, the “my child can do no wrong,” parents. They’re the ones who swear that their five year old “CAN’T be punished for screaming his head off in the fancy, over-priced restaurant ruining your fancy, over-priced dinner, and SO WHAT if you can only afford to go out once a month as a special treat, I deserve to be here and so does my adorable offspring, though he’s bored to tears in this clearly adult environment. He’s just expressing himself, and anyways YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND because you’re not a parent, so fuck you and your child-free life.” These kinds of people are what we call many four-lettered words, but here we’ll refer to them simply as Selfish Parents.
Yes, hypothetical clueless caretakers. You deserve this internet side-eye. Because while I don’t understand what it’s truly like to have kids, I have a pretty damn good idea at this point. And guess what? I remember what it was like when WE were kids, and our parents made us sit and behave in public, not throw our spaghetti across the room. Being a good parent is not impossible, it just requires actually paying attention to your children and how they are affecting the rest of the world around them, not ignoring your child while he makes a nuisance of himself and an ass out of you.
But are Selfish Parents themselves to blame, or are they an unwelcome by-product of our Teen Mom media? After all, most of these girls are the poster-children for shitty guardian behavior, and do they get penalized for it? Hell no, they get payed, and rather handsomely at that. Jenelle, yes, that’s right, JENELLE, possibly the worst example of a mother PERIOD, reportedly earns over 75,000 dollars per year for being on the show, according to starcasm. In order to keep the cash payouts down, MTV also gives the girls off-the-grid perks like valuable gift cards.
But the outrage doesn’t stop there. Not only are these young women cashing out on their surprise pregnancies, they are thriving on them. Maci Bookout bought a house AND A BOOB JOB with her piece of the pie. Farrah’s also sporting some new silicone accessories. I’d say those are definitely some obvious perks that most real teen moms don’t have access to.
This kind of payout may seem innocuous enough based on the series’ high number of views, but it’s not just the money that twists my panties. What gets to me the most is girls like Amber Portwood, who seem to revel in the glamor of their downward spirals. As a t.v. personality, I absolutely hate her. She’s a rude, angry bitch who constantly puts her young daughter in tough situations because of her temper and drug addiction. She went to rehab for anger management. She has no job and nothing feasibly positive to offer the world.
And what’s her reward?
Stevebeans from teenmomjunkies.com states that Amber “was forced to reveal her salary in court, and she’s pulling in $140,000 per six-month season; between the speaking tours and Teen Mom salary, she’ll probably see upwards of half a million.”
That’s far beyond what I expect to make per year AS A LAWYER. You know, money earned from years of schooling, hard work, and lucky breaks, not by sitting pretty on easy street. I’m not saying that young moms don’t deserve to make some good cash; hell my friend got pregnant at 18 and is set to be earning a nurse’s salary soon. But that’s after putting in the time to get her nursing degree and scrimping on the basics in order to pay for it. She is home most nights taking care of her adorable little girl, not vying for a modeling job and popping pills. It irks me that honest people like her will probably never see the kind of money that these celebrity moms make and spend frivolously- not exactly the best kind of role-models for the rest of the fame-hungry, horny high school girls.
While many people maintain that a. all reality stars should get paid for their work, and b. it’s none of our business what these t.v. stars make or do with their money, I’d like to point out a couple of glaring counterarguments. Yeah, okay, I would be pretty pissed if I put my life on display for the public and didn’t get paid. It is definitely fitting that these girls get compensated for their baby drama; I’m sure MTV makes a huge killing off of the episodes and the moms all deserve their cut. Babies aren’t cheap. But the question is, when do these real-life “struggling teen mom” stories become more like scripted reality t.v. bull shit? Are these girls really forced to wait for their MTV salaries until after the season? Because if they can’t touch their fun money while the show’s being aired, it’s pretty obvious that MTV pays for all of their new cars, hefty apartments, and fake-ass hair extensions. Instead of living within their means, these moms are clearly flaunting their expensive tastes and exploiting their children. And now that the show is starting to get called out for their shameful exaggeration of the girls’ “poor” economic statuses, they’re over-compensating with painfully staged restaurant fights and phone conversations. When it becomes more about the ratings than about their babies’ well-being, I have to conclude that most of these teen moms aren’t fit to be parents at all.
I think the majority of viewers understand the “un-reality” of reality t.v. Teen Mom and other shows like it portray a lifestyle that is both unattainably materialistic and sadly self-destructive, and there is no doubt that the bulk of society’s Selfish Parents have no excuse for their bad behavior. I guess as a twenty-something woman rapidly approaching her “acceptable” child-bearing years, the reason I get so worked up about this MTV original is the thought of regular struggling young mothers getting sidelined by irresponsible, immature girls. Stevebeans sums up the insanity of our new parenting culture best when he says:
“You and I both know when it comes time to balance budgets, most single and/or teen mothers would give their right arm to have the same budget as Maci does.”