You don’t have to know me very well to know that I’m obsessed with reality television shows, specifically reality dating shows. However, I have to draw a moral line at some point.
Some of my favorites are the shows of The Bachelor franchise and Netflix’s Love Is Blind. I even like some of the trashier dating shows like Are You the One, Love Island, and Too Hot To Handle. The only show that has crossed the line for me is Temptation Island because I hate how much infidelity has been normalized in our culture. And now Fox’s new reality show, Labor of Love, has also crossed the line.
What Is Labor of Love?
Hosted by Sex and the City’s Kristin Davis, the show follows Kristy, a 41-year-old divorcee looking for the father of her future child and the 15 men vying for the chance to impregnate her. Davis describes the premise of the show as “skip the dating and go straight to baby-making.”
It’s kind of like The Bachelorette, but instead of vying for her heart, they’re vying for her eggs. There are a few things in the trailer I want to break down. Kristy mentions that she feels like she has “sort of aged herself out of the dating pool” with her age and what she wants in a relationship, but her statement is contradicted only a few seconds later by showing the 15 men competing on the show — they’re all in her age group (Even though they’re not exactly winners; one guy got blackout drunk the first night). This shows that there are men of a suitable age who want what she wants, so what’s stopping Kristy from making an eHarmony or Match account?
A lot of the dates on the show also look like dates from The Bachelorette, like attending a sporting event or an amusement park. Some dates also seem to test if the men are ready for fatherhood, like fighting off a (fake) bear in the middle of the woods, taking care of baby dolls, and going through labor simulation. Another date shows some of the men interacting with children and getting their faces painted.
These are good tests to pass if a man wants to be a father, but it’s not really a worthwhile method to find a committed partner. After all, it’s a reality show, and some of these guys could be playing a character just to get Instagram followers when the show is over. Lastly, the trailer ends with upbeat music with lyrics like “she’s leading the way,” which implies that this show is meant to be empowering to women.
Have We Given Up on Children in Marriage?
The tagline of the show is “Love is optional, labor is mandatory.” Kristy says she wants it all “in a perfect world,” but the idea that love isn’t “mandatory” when trying to find the father of your child is troubling. This leads me to wonder if we’ve really given up on the idea that children and marriage should go hand in hand.
It’s no secret that marriage rates are declining, and one of the many factors is that many Gen Xers and Millennials are children of divorce. Many don’t want to put their children through the same thing and decide to opt-out of marriage for cohabitation. Psychologist Jennifer B. Rhodes writes, “This lack of formal commitment, in my opinion, is a way to cope with anxiety and uncertainty about making the ‘right’ decision.”
Instead of abandoning marriage, we should take greater care in choosing our spouses, so our future children won’t have to suffer the pain of having parents who get divorced.
Instead of abandoning marriage, we should take greater care in choosing our spouses, so our future children won’t have to suffer the pain of having parents who get divorced. Having a child is not a joke. If we truly want the best for our future children, we need to be careful and selective in finding a spouse, not choosing a guy on a TV show whom you may or may not love.
What Makes This Show Different from Other Shows?
You may be asking, “What makes this so different from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette?” And the answer is that there is so much more at stake here. The former shows usually end in a relationship or engagement at most, and they don’t have the best success rate. The Bachelor has had 24 seasons, and only one season has ended with the lead (Sean Lowe) marrying the woman he gave his final rose to and starting a family with her. Two other leads (Jason Mesnick and Arie Luyendyk) have married the woman who was originally the runner-up and started a family.
Out of the 15 seasons of The Bachelorette, only three of the leads (Trista Sutter, Ashley Hebert, and Desiree Hartsock) have married and started families with the men they gave their final rose to, one was recently married (Rachel Lindsay) and hasn’t started a family yet, and two are still engaged (JoJo Fletcher and Becca Kufrin) and are set to marry soon.
What makes this show so different from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette? There is so much more at stake here because a child is involved.
The worst-case-scenario for the endings on these shows is heartbreak. Although heartbreak sucks, children aren’t involved in the equation. With Labor of Love, however, a child is involved because the premise of the show is to end with a pregnancy. This completely changes what can happen after the show, and it can be argued that the show is setting up this child for pain, loss, and even failure, as supported by the statistics behind fatherless homes.
Statistics behind Fatherless Homes
Don’t get me wrong — there are plenty of amazing single moms and dads out there killing it at raising their children. However, that doesn’t stop the statistics behind children in fatherless homes from being any less devastating.
Some of these statistics include:
“85% of youth who are currently in prison grew up in a fatherless home.” (Texas Department of Corrections)
“Children from fatherless homes are twice as likely to drop out of school before graduating than children who have a father in their lives.” (National Public Radio)
“Girls who live in a fatherless home have a 100% higher risk of suffering from obesity than girls who have their father present. Teen girls from fatherless homes are also four times more likely to become mothers before the age of 20.” (National Public Radio)
“In 2011, 44% of children in homes headed by a single mother were living in poverty. Just 12% of children in married-couple families were living in poverty.” (U.S. Census Bureau)
“Children who live in a single-parent home are more than two times more likely to commit suicide than children in a two-parent home.” (The Lancet)
If the show ends with Kristy not being in a lasting relationship with the father of her child, the child will likely face more hardship in his or her life. For the sake of the child, I hope Kristy finds love on the show and is a good mother to her child, and I hope the child has a wonderful and committed father.
Labor of Love isn’t your average reality dating show. It takes a lot for a show to cross the line in my eyes, and this show does it by devaluing the importance of finding a good partner as the father of your future child.