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Why My Family Won't Do Reality TV

Photograph by Getty Images

I'm no stranger to being on television. I reported the local news at six and eleven before I stayed home to raise my kids. There's a sort of adrenaline that comes from being in front of the camera—unless, of course we're talking about reality TV. In the past few months, I've been approached by several producers who are creating new reality shows. It's tempting. After all—careers, book deals, and cross promotions have come about from reality program stints. HapaMama stir-fry sauces or shape wear, anyone?

I admit I was a fan of reality programs back when they started. Back before TiVo or DVRs—or kids, for that matter—my roommates and I used to rush home from work, heat up our dinners, and plop down on the couch to watch MTV’s "Real World." But reality shows have gotten quite a bit more complicated since those early days. It's not enough just to follow people around with cameras 24/7 and wait for interesting stuff to happen; you need to have an angle. In my family's case, it was parenting and/or culture clashes. And I'm sure an Asian mom would make great fodder—especially if she acted like a stereotypical Tiger Mother. Tearing up homemade birthday cards? Forcing your children to practice piano while on vacation? We wouldn't be able to stop watching.

That's what makes reality shows great—they're not happening to you.

The closest we've ever come to having an Asian-American family on a reality show was when half-Korean Jon was still married to frumpy Kate. I loved that family at the beginning. My kids could have blended right in with their brood of tawny toddlers. When Kate got her tummy tuck, I fantasized that my post-baby pooch would just disappear, too. Then things went downhill. The arguing, the rumors of affairs. The crazy short hair, then the glamorous long hair. The divorce.

But that's what makes reality shows great—they're not happening to you. It's fun to watch Honey Boo Boo, but do you want your kid to be her? And that's where I draw the line. I know it sounds a little hypocritical. In my career as a TV news reporter, I ran the risk of embarrassing myself every evening. And there's this whole blogging thing. I write anecdotes about my children all the time. Clearly, I have no personal boundaries, right?

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That's where mommy blogging is not the same as being on a reality TV show. I still control what I put out there when I blog. And if there's any doubt about whether my kids want those stories out there, I can ask them if it's okay. Having worked in the television industry, I know that the only way to protect myself and my family is to not be in front of the cameras. When a camera is around, assume it's rolling. If you're mic'ed up, it's hot.

So no, going on reality TV is not for my family. How about you? I know of producers looking for cast members . . .

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