Thursday, March 25, 2010

On Kendra and Kimora

Likely, you will think less of me when I tell you I have the show "Kendra" set to record on my DVR, and while I did not have to admit that to you, I want to bring up my defense toward a greater purpose.

The greater purpose is this: there is an extraordinarily limited number of television programs that involve new motherhood, which is strange since new motherhood is pretty much the most common thing in the universe. The fact is if there is no new motherhood, there are no new viewers.

New mothers are left to identify with Kendra and Kimora. "Kendra" is a spin-off of "The Girls Next Door," an absurdly trashy, mindless program highlighting the women who live at the Playboy mansion. One of these girls, Kendra, married Hank Wilkinson of the Indianapolis Colts and she got her own show.

Full disclosure: at one point, I accused Kendra of retardation and I meant it. As an educator, certain red flags are raised with regard to Kendra's special kind of stupid. And don't even get me started on that laugh.

But then something happened. Kendra got pregnant and had a baby. The months leading up to her labor and delivery were documented on her reality show as was her actual labor and delivery (not the bloody reality of it, but the curtained, appropriate for reality television part of it). And then Kendra was a mommy and not the seemingly retarded girl bouncing around the Playboy mansion.

This is not to say that mommyhood made Kendra smart. She just seems less stupid. And more to the point, she's the star of a reality show about a mom with a very new baby who is dealing with all the things every mom with a new baby deals with: she has to come to terms with her considerably bigger body; she has to figure out how to be sexual with her husband again; she has to try to find common ground with her single, childless friends; she has to interview prospective babysitters; and she has to walk red carpets fearful of her boobs leaking. Okay, so most of us are not walking red carpets, but the rest of that stuff is absolutely riveting to someone in my position.

Anyone who knows me has heard me ineptly try to describe the impossible nature of taking care of a newborn. It is so hard, I feel like I am the first woman to ever have attempted it. Imagine the comfort of seeing someone like Kendra Wilkinson struggling, yet succeeding at the nearly impossible task of keeping a baby alive and well.

And here's the thing. Think for a second. Run through your cable stations. How many programs are out there showing what having a newborn in the house is really like? MTV's got that "16 and Pregnant" show, which is doing a great public service, to be sure, but I'm not 16. I have a husband and support and an education and all the trappings of a quality life that suggest I should be a good, well-balanced, and loving mother.

There are two shows: "Kendra" and now "Life in the Fab Lane" with Kimora Lee Simmons. Recently, Kimora could be seen from behind, telling a photographer they would have to wait to do her family photo because she was in the middle of pumping and all the stress surrounding her was affecting her "letdown." The scene did not come close to exposing her in the act of pumping breastmilk, but she referred to it and showed the camera a bottle after she had successfully pumped several ounces.

"Letdown," Kimora explained, is not when someone disappoints you. We're talking milk here.

Mothering a young baby is ridiculously consuming. Shockingly so. Jarringly so. That a whole other world goes on around you while you are: sleepless, investigating the best methods for freezing milk, reading up on healthy sleep patterns, folding laundry one-handed while nursing a baby in your other arm, challenging doctors who are not as supportive of nursing mothers as they should be, passively fighting with your spouse over whose turn it is to hold the baby (while feeling guilty about how badly you want to not be holding the baby), and trying, hoping, and praying you'll get a shower that day - this is one of the unique challenges of motherhood.

And then there's Kendra and Kimora bringing the inexplicable challenge of it to television. And not just to television, but to popular television. This is no poorly produced "A Baby Story." This is glossy, full-production value television of women who, despite their celebrity, at the end of the day, are just trying to be good moms.

Certainly once Kendra's son starts to grow and verbalize and Kendra starts explaining how mama used to pose for Playboy, she and I will part ways. We will no longer share that bond of the mama who is stunned to find herself in the position of motherhood. But until then, I look forward to another episode where Kendra tries to find the time to get to the gym and where she cries to her husband one more time about how she just doesn't feel like herself anymore. Go, Kendra. I can completely identify with you.

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