At first glance, Wife Swap appears to be nothing more than a histrionic spectacle, not unlike the rest of reality television. But as you watch these families struggle and, slowly but surely, transform, it is clear that this hilarious show has more to offer than just drama, intrigue and family feuding.
As a member of the unholy cult of attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling weirdoes, it is nice to know that my family isn't the only strange one out there. In fact, considering that I don't live in a Haunted House or regularly communicate with aliens, I might just be pretty normal after all. So if you've ever felt lost inside your own family's bizarre microcosm, Wife Swap is here to remind you that you are not alone. Heck, you could be living on a diet of only raw turtle meat and embarrassing your children by dressing as a superhero everywhere you go.
Most parents think they have it all figured out, especially the folks on Wife Swap. They are always extremely convicted about their own parenting techniques and eager to force them on others. Even if that includes midnight moon howling and caring for plastic reborn babies.
Of course, when the new moms switch the family rules, the ensuing drama is always fascinating to watch as Reborn Baby Mom makes Emotionally Stunted Dad nurture a plastic doll, and Pampered Mother Goddess is forced to do housework for the first time in her adult life. But the interesting thing is that no matter how strange these parents seem at first, they are all doing something right. It's a nice surprise when you see that Voodoo Mama is actually able to teach Junior the School Bully a lesson about love, or Uptight Dad finally learns how to relax and have some fun after living with Anti-Housework Mom for a week.
At the same time, everyone on this show also gets a big slice of humble pie. Sure, karaoke and howling at the moon are great for family bonding, but there might just be other activities that have merit, too. No matter how awesome or how screwed up you are, at the end of two weeks with someone else's mom at the head of your household, everyone learns something valuable and new.
Maybe Wife Swap is overdone with its unrealistic predicament of being forced to live with another family's wife and mother, but the ensuing hilarity and drama offer us all a chance to laugh, not only at them, but at ourselves. When we watch Voodoo Mama have a total breakdown because Conservative Dad ripped up her spell book or when Deadbeat Dad loses it because Strict Mom burns his ACDC T-shirts and makes him get a job, we can't help but think, "What ridiculous things am I attached to in my own life?" And with that, a silly show like Wife Swap offers us all a very real chance to be introspective and grow.
As Willian Ross Wallace wrote in his still brilliant poem first published in 1865, "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." Wife Swap reminds us that no matter how different we all are, mothers are extremely valuable and absolutely powerful. Let's all remember to use our power wisely.
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