Earlier this year, Tom and Linda Potter got a better gander at the grass on the other side of the fence. Parents of three girls, the Potters responded to queries and expressed their willingness to participate in a reality TV show.
But be careful what you wish for. They were chosen, and their show, “Meet Mr. Mom,” will premiere Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. ET. The six-part series will air Tuesday nights on NBC.
“Watch what happens when a strange man suddenly shows up at your door to whisk your wife away for a week of fun, leaving you to fill her shoes and become Mr. Mom,” says press material for the show. “Each week two dads and their families will compete, mano a mano, while their wives get a well-deserved rest and enjoy a fantasy getaway.”
Dads cook, clean, give “the talk” and much more, all the while being judged in the areas of nutrition, housekeeping, time management and parenting. The moms, meanwhile, get to watch the madness unfold on closed-circuit television.
Each episode spotlights two families that go head-to-head for scholarship money. Families that took part in the show came from all over the country: Trenton, N.J., Sacramento, Calif., Hermosa Beach, Calif., San Diego, Calif., San Antonio, Texas, and Austin, Texas, where the Potters reside.
“Knowing the type of family we are, it wasn’t a big surprise,” said Linda of how friends reacted when informed of the family’s decision to participate in the show. “They expected it from us.”
Linda is a stay-at-home mother, while Tom is a sales director in the semiconductor industry. He travels frequently across North American and Europe. They have three girls—Jordan (14), Madison (9) and Ashton (6)—and two dogs.
Tom said the family discussed whether or not to participate in a reality show, and they eventually decided it would be a fun family experience.
They were thrown for a loop, however, when Linda was whisked away.
“I was feeling a little—just a little guilty being taken out of the home,” Linda told EthicsDaily.com on the phone from Austin.
But the twist didn’t deter them. Instead, it revealed their mettle, said Tom, forcing them to rethink their activities and capabilities.
“In essence, it was a single-parent household and the difficulties associated with that became very clear,” said Tom. He also saw the children make their own contributions to the family system.
“Jordan, for example, really stepped up and became a bit of a leader and became mini-mom and helped fill mom’s role when dad couldn’t do that,” he said.
And he had plenty to do. In addition to daily chores, he had to deal with a few curve balls—like the unexpected arrival of a goat and llama.
“There were quite a few unique twists,” said Tom, who lost 10 pounds during the family’s production week.
And Tom wasn’t the only one in for a surprise. Linda said she was affected too, for she felt as though she got a taste of Tom’s life on the road.
“So much happens so fast,” she said, recounting what it was like to come home from her week away and hear the rest of the family members share what they had done together. In fact, she said she’s still hearing about what went on while she was gone.
Linda said she now has a greater appreciation of what it’s like to be away on business, away from family happenings and in a place that’s often strange.
Though she received the royal treatment, “the silence from being in that suite was almost deafening,” she said.
In fact, that’s one of the things audiences should watch for: “how much Mom misses her family,” said Executive Producer Robert Riesenberg in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com.
But it goes both ways.
“Audiences should watch for the reactions from the kids and from Dad,” he said, “and how it’s evident that in such a short time, how much they miss Mom.”
“The kids in the family are living with the consequences of their life being turned upside down with Mom out of the house, so the kids’ reactions are a huge part of each show,” said Riesenberg, adding that “Meet Mr. Mom” is fit for the whole family.
The kids’ reactions, however, are part of what has the Potters just a little nervous. They haven’t seen the show yet, and they’re curious about which parts of the countless hours of footage will make the cut.
“I think what makes me nervous may come out of Ashton’s mouth,” said Linda of her 6-year-old daughter.
“We don’t know what she said during her interviews,” added Jordan, “and that’s kind of frightening.”
But along with the uncertainty comes the certainty of their family values. When the going got tough, Madison remembered the family’s motto: Don’t quit. That carried Tom and the girls through while Linda was away.
“We have a lot of confidence in each other as a family unit,” said Tom.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The show’s official Web site is here.