Thursday, September 16, 2010

MTVs Teen Mom - The Controversy of Reality

I'm fully aware that I'm wading into controversial waters this morning by choosing to share about MTV's Teen Mom, which has stirred up many water-cooler conversations around the US in the last year and especially in recent days.  The interview, above, was on The Today Show this morning and the current issue of People magazine also features an article about some of the teens portrayed in the show currently on news stands.

As an Adoption Professional and one who watches every episode of Teen Mom, I am not sure that I see what others find to be disturbing.  All four stories have very different circumstances and are experiencing a wide range of family support.  If this is considered to be "glamorous", that makes me laugh.  In my opinion, that couldn't be farther from the truth.  Before you begin pointing a finger and say that I'm looking down on these situations, I am certainly not.  I will fully admit that my life is far from perfect or glamorous and, if MTV wanted to film a television show in most of our houses we would have more than enough drama, hardship, conflicts and stories to keep an audience interested!

For what it's worth, I think that MTV has done a good job of keeping the show realistic.  We see good days and bad days, emotional days and happy days, moments when patience is thin and moments of parental pride.  It would be unrealistic to show Catelynn and Tyler crying all the time or super-happy every day, the reality is that there are ups and downs to the grieving process after placing a child with an adoptive family;  it would be unrealistic to show Ryan and Maci in a carefree state of life, not worried about the custody proceedings that they find themselves in the middle of; and it would be unrealistic to show Gary, Amber or Farrah always miserable...they have joyful moments with Leah and Sophia too.

These are not reality stars, they are young people who have agreed to participate in a show about teen pregnancy and expose their personal situations to the scrutiny of others who don't know the full stories.  More than anything, they need support and not criticism.

Teen Mom provides a reality check for lots of teens who think that either parenting or adoption is easy.  Both come with unique joys and challenges.  It is impossible for outsiders to look at another situation and judge whether they made the "right" or the "wrong" decision because it's just that - their decision.  My hope is that MTVs attempt at reality tv will help young men and women who are experiencing or will experience an unplanned pregnancy to consider some of the factors that should be considered before deciding what's right for them.

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