Viewers should rethink opinions about Jon & Kate

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Being at home for the summer and without the rigor of constant schoolwork putting a damper on recreational activities, it seems almost inevitable that reality TV would crop into the summer holidays. Sure enough, Survivor is back with yet another new immunity challenge, the Bachelor and Bachelorette need to choose their summer sweethearts, and Jon and Kate have separated.

Woah, hold on there.

Okay, so reality TV might not be the most exciting thing in the world, but when you’re stuck without thought-provoking, 10-page essays or massive problem sets, watching someone else raise a bunch of cute kids starts to look pretty appealing. The series seemed to have a good purpose behind it: The parents allow their lives and their children’s early lives to be filmed in exchange for money. Which, when you consider that there’s eight kids to put through school, let alone college (Guess what the tuition for eight kids will be 10 or so years down the road? Try a cool two million bucks), doesn’t seem like such a horrible thing.

Granted, Jon and Kate want the best for their kids. They have a house that’s probably more than they can afford, but each kid gets more room than they would have had in their last house. Maybe Jon’s quitting his job wasn’t the best move in the long run, but he has more time to be with the kids and do tag-team parenting with Kate. For those that haven’t been keeping up as religiously with their reality TV, Jon and Kate have separated. Both Jon and Kate have their own places, and Jon has even found himself a snazzy little bachelor pad in New York City to entertain various female acquaintances. The new season features both parents working through their separation and getting to spend time with their kids, well, separately.

Now, from the evidence presented above, it doesn’t seem like Jon’s doing as well as a parent as one might hope he would. Kate’s also gotten her share of a media maelstrom for being bossy and an attention hog, but it seems like Jon’s gallivanting about town seems to go mostly unnoticed compared to Kate’s own egregious faults. Curious, I watched a few of the episodes over the summer just to see if what people were saying had any substance to them. Intriguingly enough, I found out that they did.

Kate took the eight kids out to an island getaway while Jon stayed at the house supervising a new cabinet installation. Kate and some of her relatives shepherded the bevy of children onto a boat, fended off reporters hungry for a photograph, and zipped the kids to and from the pool on golf carts.

Jon, on the other hand, got to decide where cabinets went in a house he doesn’t live in much, if at all. He directed workers who didn’t need much direction, nodding approvingly at professionals who would have been just as well off without him, and commented on their handicraft as though it were so innovative that it couldn’t have been pulled off without his input.

In other episodes, Kate took the kids to a snake and reptile zoo, housing creatures that she’s scared of herself but knew that her kids would find exciting. She even tried to hold a python for them to show that she could conquer her fears and succeeded in doing so. Jon, on the other hand, took the girls out to play bumper cars for an afternoon. It seemed like the activity was something that Jon was having more fun doing that his kids were. In contrast, Kate took the boys out to board a battleship that had been converted into a museum, something her boys loved but would obviously not be her first choice for entertainment.

So you decide. Are the better parents the ones who put their kids before them, even if it’s not what they would have wanted to do themselves? Or, are they the parents who, on leaving their children’s lives, devote their time to their own happiness? When you become a parent, you need to think about your kids’ happiness before your own, and if that means foregoing the NYC flat and sticking it out with the snakes, then so be it.