The idea is not new: bring opposites together, put the camera on it and you have nice television. In Sleeping with the enemy, Your wife, my wife of Puberruil one family member is exchanged for another for a few days. Peasant woman against urban chick, queer father against a strict believer, a fit mom against a mother. The viewer at home can gloat about the culture shock that both parties experience. The EO came in with a slightly more edifying variant on Monday evening How is that at your house? One educator comes one day to observe with the other’s family and vice versa, with the idea that the two might learn something from each other. The viewer’s comments are already in the program, changing sets of educators watch the exchange from the couch or the kitchen table and say what they think.
Last night it was chaos versus structure. Sharon Bouterse (husband, two children) does not like rules and structure at home, she is more of go with the flow. (Viewer’s comment: Which flow?) The house is a mess and there is wax up to the ceiling, bad luck, she is going to build a hut with the children with the dirty sheets. Janine Boerendans (four children, man who is a helicopter pilot in Africa every four weeks) has worked out the daily rhythm in a block schedule. Without planning, she says, the day is “without hope”. (Viewer’s comment: All life is hopeless).
Schema mother values the flow mother’s self-reliance. Children can decide for themselves where they sleep and choose their own outfit. Conversely, all understanding for the mother who manages four children on her own for four weeks, one of whom also has Down syndrome. But the mouths of the watching educators fall open when they see how the evening meal is regularly organized. Each child eats his plate with headphones on behind his own i-Pad. But one father dares to say that he fully understood the ‘eat time is screen time’ concept.
Working as a hobby for women
What made my jaw drop was the applause from the home viewers when they saw the go-with-the-flow father JP come home from “a whole day’s work” and then cook too. Yes really. Ready-made meals, yes, because “the greengrocer always cooks”. There’s nothing wrong with that, everyone should know for themselves. But then. He “picks up the evening ritual.” Bathing children, reading to them, taking them to their chosen bed. Mother Sharon, says the voice over, then has some time for herself. Well no. She is preparing lessons – she is a teacher at the MBO. Or she’s studying. The other mother, Janine, thinks it’s a shame that she doesn’t have any me-time has more. And she doesn’t mean lying in the bath with a book, but a job. “Work is an important part of my life,” says teacher mother Sharon. “I just have that need and it makes me a nicer mother.” Working as a leisure activity. That way you can look at it.
From real life to a series about real life. In Thirties (BNNVARA) Parents worry, they argue, they cheat, they marry and divorce again. The art imitates reality, but here the portrayed reality sometimes seems more realistic than the real one. The first episode of the third season started Monday night. I had to get in there for a while, with all the different pairs of parents and the children that go with it. Once you know who is who, you start to empathize with them. Divorced father Pierre is bivouacking with his son Luuk in a garden house. His new girlfriend just left him too. Son Luuk misses her and moreover he is cold in that cabin. Father takes him on the sofa bed and says that “sometimes things don’t go the way you would like.” maybe imagine Thirties more the misery of metropolitan educators, but it seemed pretty natural to me.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of August 10, 2022