America seems to be caught up in a love/hate relationship with one of the country's most famous moms - Kate Gosselin. I was addressing two different women's groups this week, talking about the lessons learned from writing my book, "The Last Day of My Life," when the topic of Kate Gosselin came up in the question and answer sessions. I first met the mom of eight and reality TV star in the CNN green room, when we were each guests on "Larry King Live," and I have interviewed her for "Inside Edition" as well. I found her to be understandably guarded but quite gracious. The impressions of people who had never met her really surprised me. "I can't stand her and she can't dance!" said one woman angrily. Another quickly countered, "Leave her alone! She's a single mom doing her best to provide for her children." And there you have it. That seems to be the crux of the split in national sentiment toward this former nurse who is now a bestselling author, public speaker, television personality (her new show "Twist of Kate" debuts this summer on TLC) and contestant on "Dancing With the Stars."
As for her talent - Kate is the first to admit she is the worst dancer out there. It hardly seems fair that she should have to compete with Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger or Olympic Gold Medal skating champion Evan Lysacek. Both have extensive experience as performers and it shows on the dance floor. Kate is a just mom, albeit a famous mom. She doesn't sing or act (or dance) but she is famous, which satisfies the "star" requirement on "Dancing With the Stars." That fame and the adoration of millions of fans clearly work in her favor in keeping her alive in the dance competition. But fame has a darker side too. Kate has become the target of scorn and ridicule simply for her decision to take part in the show.
I have heard such outrage before. Much of the criticism about Kate mirrors the same things that many people used to say about my mother, except because she was not famous or on television, her group of detractors was much smaller. My mom was a single parent for much of my childhood. For a time, she worked two jobs to support us. She took advantage of her good looks and became a working fashion model for a sportswear manufacturer but she quickly channeled her ambition into becoming a sales person for that same company, and later, the sales manager. Even after she remarried, her drive to provide for her family kept her working long hours and often required that she travel across the country to meet with customers (buyers from various stores). Did she shirk her responsibility as a mom? Hardly. She jealously guarded her role, first as a mother and then,as a grandmother. All of us in her family know she would do anything to protect us and to provide for us.
After talking with Kate, I believe she feels the same way toward her children. She has eight kids and she is their main provider. Is she taking advantage of her notoriety in selling books, speaking around the country and starring in her own show? Of course she is. What's wrong with that? More importantly, is this any different from what any working mom wants to do - trying to balance their roles as mom and wage earner. Kate practices for "Dancing" in a makeshift studio built in her Pennsylvania home. She flies to and from Los Angeles for the weekly tapings and catches sleep on the red eye flight back home, where she spends as much time with her children as possible. Would she better off working double shifts as a nurse, providing less time with her family and less money to support them? Get real. I say, give Kate a break.