Why ‘Labor of Love’ May Be the Most Important Reality TV Show Ever
It could inspire other couples to get real about what’s involved in bringing a baby into the world
When Fox debuted its new reality TV show, Labor of Love, many people were horrified. Fifteen men are competing to impregnate Kristy Katzmann, a 42-year-old divorcee. As host Kristin Davis says, they will “skip the dating and go straight to baby-making.”
Each week for eight weeks, the aspiring dads-to-be will be tasked with challenges to see just what kind of dad and partner they’ll be and afterward, Katzmann will know if she has found a man she’d like to have children with — and presumably marry (this part of the show is unclear) — or if she’ll use the eggs she’s frozen to become a mom on her own.
I’m no fan of reality TV shows, and finding love this way makes me queasy — producers look for people who will fit certain roles and create drama because that makes for good TV watching. But the show’s premise, taking time to discover if these would-be-dads would be up to task, is something all would-be-moms should seriously consider.
Take the men’s first task — a sperm test. The would-be-dads are all older — 36 to 46 years old — and older men can have fertility issues. Infertility can greatly impact a marriage and infertile couples may be three times more likely to divorce. They also can have bad sperm, and as research indicates, “birth defects are more often associated with paternal rather than maternal DNA damage.”
So, testing a man’s sperm is a good place to start.
Sperm aside, it takes a lot more for a man to be a good dad.
Katzmann said she was looking for someone “who wanted to be a hands-on dad and was excited about their life, had confidence, had integrity, was kind, and could be a giving partner.”
But how can a she or any woman know that a man will be a good father to her children and a good partner to her? That’s the much harder part and why all would-be moms should pay attention to whatever challenges are ahead for these men and see if they should be asking similar questions of their partners.
All too often, we don’t.
When researching for the chapter on parenting marriages for my book, I spoke to several people who turned to websites such as Modamily.com to find someone to have a child — not a romantic relationships — with in a co-parenting arrangement. Let’s just say that if you’re going to have a child with a relative stranger, you ask a lot of questions and do background checks. Some went to therapy together.
As I wrote for the Guardian:
Couples who come together to create these parenting partnerships are proving to be much more prepared for the responsibilities of raising a child than couples that do it the old-fashioned way — meet, fall in love, marry and have vague discussions about how many kids they want and when. They are modeling the true definition of planned parenthood.
There have been numerous articles written on how the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown is exacerbating the unequal division of labor and child care responsibilities. What the lockdown is showing us is just how many couples never have essential conversations about becoming parents.
Will Labor of Love inspire other couples to get real about what’s involved in bringing a baby into the world? I don’t know but if it does, it just might be the most important reality TV show ever.
Want to learn how to have a parenting prenup? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore (please do) or order it on Amazon. And we’re now on Audible.