Everyone knows that raising a child is one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences in life. However, raising children in the public eye while starring on a reality television show presents even greater challenges. Social media affords our audience the opportunity to express their judgment and criticism about all of our actions, including my parenting choices.
Reality television is extremely controversial on its own. At times, it's filled with drama, disagreements, politics and injustices. The situations we experience can mirror real life, but when compressed into hour segments, the drama is intensified.
As a parent, I ensure that although Nia and I are in a work environment, that we maintain focus on our mother and daughter relationship. My emphasis is on raising my daughter to be a person of good character. Despite work demands, as a parent, I have expectations for my daughter. School, work, “fun” time and rest are all a necessary part of our schedule. We have casual girl chats and mother-daughter talks. Part of what a mother teaches her child, which I base on a lifetime of experience interacting with various people across all walks of life, is how to interact appropriately in a variety of social settings. My goal is to keep our relationship grounded and “real” despite the reality television context. Of course, we have many opportunities for engaging conversations on how to resolve conflicts and remain a person of good character. Honesty, trustworthiness and kindness are attributes that I value and try to instill in my children.
Interestingly, I had not anticipated the impact that being on a reality show would have on my parenting, and parenting in a fishbowl environment can be difficult. People may share their opinions or comment on my parenting approach. My focus is always on being Nia’s mother and staying committed to our family values.
In terms of my parenting, consistency is key. It was important to me for Nia to know that I am the same mom on screen as I am off screen. Also, it was important for me to set an example to ensure that Nia sees how to handle adversity and conflict with dignity and grace. I have shared with Nia that reality television should not define who you are. A personal goal is to continue to grow as a person, but not to change my fundamental character and moral fiber, which is tested on a daily basis. At times, there may be tension between personal values and reality television entertainment. Striking the right balance and flexibility is key. Reminding Nia that there are “real world problems” is critical in maintaining a healthy balance and perspective on life. I don’t want to minimize the trials and travails that affect her on the show, because those are real and sometimes very difficult; however, it is important to see the balance. Providing that context is essential, so Nia keeps her perspective and does not become jaded. She is able to put life in perspective—even with a camera on her.
Having integrity, a voice and a sense of self-worth are critical in keeping a healthy perspective especially in the world of reality television. I try to cultivate Nia’s growth by encouraging her to be an independent thinker who can speak up for what she believes is right. On occasion, I have had to rein in my initial instinct and desire to come to Nia’s “rescue” and stand back and let Nia use her voice and compass in fighting her own battles. I know if Nia needs me, she will let me know because she knows that I am always there for her.
My parenting skills continue to evolve strongly influenced by my childrens’ needs. I want to be an example for my children. Being a role model does not mean I am perfect, and I do not expect perfection from my children. I want Nia to appreciate and acknowledge her imperfections, while continuously striving to enhance herself and to grow. Knowing your worth is key and instilling this sense of worth has been paramount especially while on the show. It is imperative to love yourself and recognize that you have a purpose in life that no one else can diminish. That knowledge grounded in our faith and supported with prayer gives her the strength to approach life with confidence and determination, despite the scrutiny that comes with being on reality television.
I also rely on my faith to keep me focused on the task of parenting and staying true to the parenting philosophy to which my husband and I subscribe. As an educator, I appreciate the discussion that is sparked as a result of the choices people see me make on a weekly basis My parenting continues to be a work in progress taking place in the public forum of reality television.