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My Life is a Reality Show

By Andrea Rediske

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that in attempting to measure the position of a particle the position of the particle becomes uncertain – that making a measurement alters the particle being measured. A corollary to this is the Observer’s Paradox, which states that the observation of an event or experiment is influenced by the presence of the observer or investigator.

I’ve never been a fan of reality TV. When “Survivor” made its debut, I wasn’t all that interested seeing people mill around in their bathing suits, eat bugs, and take part in pointless competitions, only to stab each other in the back for the sole purpose of winning. I was bored by seeing people sit in front of the camera and pour out their innermost thoughts and feelings about the artificial situation they were placed in. I got dizzy as the cameras followed people around, watching them eat, sleep, dress, and interact with each other. I couldn’t imagine how these people lived with other people watching everything they did all day long. They had no privacy! Everything they did was right there on tape for the world to observe and judge.

I’ve studiously avoided getting involved in “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance?” and other shows where people make fools of themselves in front of the camera. The few times that I’ve run across reality shows, I feel unbelievably uncomfortable – I see each person’s struggle, I feel their stress, and I feel embarrassed for them when they are called before the judges and told that they are “out.” I watch in horror as the cameras follow the poor hapless loser back to their rooms where they pack up their stuff and head out the door into mediocrity. They don’t even get a quiet moment to cry over their pathetic performance!

So here comes the irony. Six months ago, we found it necessary to have a nurse in our home 12 hours a day to care for our son. Truly, this is a blessing for our family. E is too sick to go to the special-needs school that he attended, and having him at home along with my other two children (3 ½ years and 16 months old) is far too much work for me to handle alone. I can’t possibly take care of his multitude of medical and therapy needs while simultaneously chasing two very energetic little boys. It was a miracle that our nurse that cared for him on Sundays needed extra hours and was able to cover many of the shifts. We have since filled out “Team E” to 6 different nurses who are here every day of the week from 7 am to 7 pm. They are loving, caring women that we trust with the medical needs of our son, and are a real blessing in our lives…

Except now, I’m the one living in a reality show. There’s someone in my house for 12 hours a day, EVERY DAY. Someone who sees me as I first get up in the morning with weird hair and no bra. Someone who sees my kitchen in the morning, cluttered with dishes, my family room filled with toys, my living room coated with dust. Someone who sees my children running around wearing only a diaper, throwing food and temper tantrums. Someone who sees me on the occasional bad day, when I lose my temper and yell at said children. Someone who hears my phone conversations and has to wonder what “visiting teaching” or “enrichment activities” are. Someone who’s aware when I’m in my room trying to have a private cry because it’s a bad day and everything seems too overwhelming. Someone who is sitting in our living room on a Saturday afternoon, when the kids are sleeping and my husband and I are having, ahem, “alone time.” I feel just like one of those contestants on a reality show who has to explain to the cameras what they’re doing and where they’re going, and why, every minute of the day

I know these women aren’t judging me (although sometimes I feel like they are – which is a big part of the problem). They are professional home care nurses who have worked in the homes of many families in similar situations. They’ve seen far worse than my 16 month old son running around naked after a bath – they’ve seen grown men running around naked after a bath! They’ve seen messier houses, more dysfunctional families, and crazier mothers (I hope). But because they’re there, I always feel like there’s a guest in my home, and I have to behave a certain way. It’s the extra pressure I feel to get the kitchen cleaned up and fold those loads of laundry that are stacking up. It’s the feeling that I’m never really alone and that someone is always watching. People tend to behave differently when they know they are being observed, and that’s the way it is at my house every day. Someone is there. Someone is watching. I live in a reality TV show.

About Andrea Rediske

(Blog Team) is the proud mother of two living sons, aged 9 and 7, and Ethan, who passed away in early February 2014. She is currently working as a freelance science writer and blogger and will begin a PhD program in Science Education at the University of Central Florida in Fall 2014. When she's not juggling the laundry, her writing work, and the busy lives of her little boys, she likes to squeeze in a triathlon now and then. Also, her husband rocks.

12 thoughts on “My Life is a Reality Show”

  1. As a person who thrives on "alone time", that would be extremely difficult for me. It's stressing me out just thinking about it! There are some people who would adore the built-in company, but I'm not one of them.

  2. I've had hours–but thankfully not entire days–of that before as we have, at some point or another, taken in over half a dozen family members and even a family friend to live with us at times. You have my sympathies! I hope you have a good lock on your bathroom door–because sometimes that is the only escape.

  3. Wow. I lived through something similar for just a month and a half last year due to a child's medical needs and I thought I was going to go absolutely crazy. It affected my relationship with my kids, my relationship with my husband, my relationship with the people who came to "help." I felt like every time I sat down I had to justify taking a break and that all eyes were on me for not (entertaining the children 24 hours a day, organizing the basement, scrubbing the floors, sorting out the children's clothing drawers, painting the laundry room ceiling, wiping out the refrigerator, baking homemade bread, getting up early to cook my husband hot, cholesterol-laden breakfasts every morning and make him intricate bagged lunches to take to work, cleaning the toilets, shampooing the carpets, you name it). Boundaries were hard to negotiate since I had no prior experience in such a situation. I had to keep reminding myself that I was recovering from a long period in the hospital with a new, fragile baby and that since the visitors weren't going to respect my boundaries, I would have to do it regardless of their judgment and issues.

    Best wishes to you. It's not easy, but you're making a great sacrifice for your son, and sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven, although it often seems like the cost is as much if not more than we can bear.

  4. That sounds so stressful! I would be freaking out. I like what Researcher said about sacrifice bringing forth blessings. You will be strengthened. Best wishes . . .!

  5. Thank you all for your comments. Researcher, I'm SO GLAD to hear that someone else has gone through something similar. Setting boundaries is the hardest part — when we first had the nurses coming, I sat and chatted with them, they did my dishes, etc. and I was glad for the company and the help. Now, I'm having to backtrack and set some boundaries because I REALLY need some personal space. Their job is not doing the dishes or the laundry — it's taking care of my son. All the rest is MY job. It's tough.

  6. It is tough.

    Part of my issue was with my husband who felt that I should be living in constant gratitude for the help and that if I felt and expressed the gratitude enough, all the other issues would vanish.

    (I wish.)

  7. I really feel for you. After one of my babies was born we had someone at our house for 10 weeks because of an NICU stay, surgery for me and then surgery for the baby. It was hard having someone there all the time, it was needed and appreciated, but hard!
    I imagine it must be really hard for you. Hang in there. (And cry when you fell like it.)

  8. Andrea, thanks for this great writing.

    I have to say, I think you need to give yourself more credit. I see the reality-show comparison, I guess, but your situation is much more noble. More gritty, and maybe it feels less noble–there are no cameras in your face–but you're living a fishbowl life not to grasp for fifteen minutes of fame, but to take care of your family.

  9. Andrea, that would drive me completely insane. Kudos to your mental fortitude for lasting this long. I would feel like the house always needed to be clean, the kids well behaved, ME always well behaved. I'd be a wreck.

    Keep your chin up! And keep the prayers going.

  10. Thanks again everyone, for your comments,
    Researcher — my husband doesn't do that to me, but I do it to myself. I keep thinking that I should be grateful for this (and I am — we couldn't function without it), but I'm not grateful for the disruption that it brings to my life.
    Emily — I know from the outside it may seem noble and that I'm sacrificing for my child and that I'll be blessed in the end, but mostly, it just sucks. E's condition sucks, having a nurse in the house all day sucks, the eventual end to all of this will suck. I wish I could say that I'm spiritual and noble and grateful, but mostly I spend my days just trying to keep it all together. I think people look at those who have children with disabilities as special, brave, and strong, but really we're just muddling through trying to do what anyone would do for their child and trying to cope with it the best we can.
    Thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers.

  11. Andrea, I didn't mean to pedestalize you like that–I'm sorry. I think of hard times in my life, though, that were rotten and terrible when I was going through them, and I didn't feel noble… and then looking back I realize I was actually a lot better person than I felt at the time. Maybe it's like a non-soldier glorifying war… Which I don't mean to do. But can I at least say that I have a lot of respect for someone who is down in the trenches, sucky as they are?

  12. Emily,
    Please don't worry — I probably could have responded better myself. Some days my emotions get a little raw. And thank you. 🙂


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