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How I Survived a Bunch of Reality Show Moms

Photograph by Nicole Weingart/Bravo

Hunker down and brace yourselves, there's a new reality show in town and it's all about us. Well, to be exact, it's technically a docu-series that "follows six dynamic Los Angeles moms who meet through renowned parenting expert and psychotherapist Jill Spivack's highly-coveted, eight-week parenting course." (That's the official description, according to Bravo Media.) The title? "There Goes the Motherhood."

And there goes our imaginations. (Listen, I get the tease-to-watch-the-show thing with the best of them ... but c'mon, is this show taking reality TV too far? Tampering with moms and kids is quite possibly a big ball of you-know-what.)

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So, when I was unexpectedly invited to a fabulous dinner party by the beach to meet cast members Beth Bowen, Jen Bush, Meghan Conroy-Resich, Stefanie Fair, Leah Forester and Alisa Starler (and their fearless mommy-group leader, Jill), I had my reservations. How would I survive a bunch of reality show moms? I decided to make the trek across town for the free delicious food and wine. What could possibly happen? I'd sit there, watch and listen and eat a tasty dinner I didn't have to cook. Babysitter booked.

Turns out, I got more than my tummy filled.

I walked into the stunning space (impeccably designed by cast member and former Diane Von Furstenberg protege Leah Forester) and was greeted in a most ... normal way. Smiles, hellos, cheers, shaking hands. Very welcoming, very polite. Normal.

This was weird. Where was that intimidating vibe I was supposed to feel? You know, the one I prepared for in my head as I left my car with the valet outside?

All the women were dressed like ... me. (Except more stylish.) They seemed normal. They seemed like women I've hung out with regularly. They seemed like fun moms who enjoy their splashes of glamour between carting kids around and figuring life out. One of them in particular is even from my hometown.

Again, weird. Reality moms are not supposed to be normal, right? Hm. I waited for the catch. I drank my wine and cheers-ed with Alisa and Jen. We had a fun little convo about the pros and cons of dressing up versus dressing in yoga pants all day. Then we all sat down around the dramatic dinner table as Leah stood up and welcomed us to her Venice Supper Club.

To my surprise, our group was then informed by Jill Spivack that we'd be having a "mommy group" right then and there. "Go around the table, introduce yourselves and then feel free to share one of your parenting challenges." Oh no. I wasn't prepared for this kind of thing right now. I just wanted more wine and conversations about yoga pants. The last thing I wanted to talk about was my recent challenges involving work/life balance and how I've been so regrettably cranky with my kids.

We started going around the table and speaking our truths. I could relate directly with some of the women, I could not relate with others (only because our lives were different in terms of marriage, etc). Jen brought up her struggle of co-parenting with her ex. Stefanie talked about having trouble prioritizing her songwriting and music endeavors and getting distracted with taking care of four kids. Meghan, the expecting, soon-to-be mom of four kids tackled how stretched she felt with her kids' conflicting schedules and her fear of navigating life with a new baby while making sure her other kids thrive as well.

And then it was my turn. Jill Spivack and everyone listening ... to me.

Have I ever shared that I never did a mommy group? Never. So I went for it: "My issue lately has been that I suddenly find myself working full-time (many working hours at home), but I hesitate to amp up my childcare because I don't want my kids with a nanny or sitter full-time. I'm having trouble letting go of the idea that I am the best and only person to teach them their manners, how to behave, and on and on. But the stress is starting to wear on me and I feel manic all the time." A typical issue for many of us, I know, and the answer is simple (get more childcare!) but this is my truth lately so I shared it. What I didn't share was how my kids have been extra-cranky and argumentative as well, which makes life even more challenging lately. And then something magical happened.

From opposite head of the table came, "And the hardest thing is that your kids pick up on all that anxiety and it affects everything ... " I turned my head toward the voice. It came from Leah Forester. Not judgmental, not rude, not condescending in any way. Just right. The reality show mom was SO right. My anxiety was making me feel manic and inciting my kids to feel confused, which, in turn, most likely has something to do with them acting out lately.

Did I just get emotionally filled up from a bunch of reality show moms? ... Or was there something "extra" in that most perfect and decadent chocolate bar dessert I'd hung around for?

Thank God Leah said it, because I needed to hear it. Jill Spivack then elaborated on the conversation like only a true therapist can, and recalled how (when her kids were small) she opted to get an office outside of the home as her workload increased (thinking at the time her kids would miss her not being there), only to have her kids tell her how much they enjoyed her being home MORE. I wanted to weep and sing hallelujah.

Jill Spivack continued her tender wisdom, "The thing I am often most concerned with (in modern motherhood) is how women often tend to severely neglect their own needs when they become mothers. Our parenting culture has gone from parent-centered, historically, to extremely child-centered in the last 25 years or so, which is partially good because we understand children's needs and emotions, but has also created a 'guilt' amongst moms that, if they aren't 100 percent all of the time, their children will suffer somehow. So many mothers are coming from the perspective of having had jobs or careers where they had lots of control and when they have a baby, they often go into parenting the same way. The problem is, it leaves no room for the mother's needs."

And that was it. Yes, my needs have been all out whack and I've needed to hear it so that I can fix it. As I listened, a weight lifted off of me. Something magical clicked. I felt relieved. I felt supported. I felt relaxed. (No, it wasn't the wine. I barely had one glass.) I also felt shocked. Did I just get emotionally filled up from a bunch of reality show moms? Are reality show moms just like the rest of us? Or was there something "extra" in that most perfect and decadent chocolate bar dessert I'd hung around for?

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The bottom line? I needed to hear the happenings and offerings of this most unlikely mommy group I found myself in that night. As I learned firsthand, reality show moms can be just like the rest of us ... even if they are caught arguing about who said what to whom on TV. (But hey, that kind of entertainment also happens to help this mom unwind from long days too. #RHOBH #RHONY And now, #TGTM. Ain't no shame in tellin' the truth.)

Photographs by: Jill Simonian

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