Producing … With Children

The juggling act of a reality TV producer and mom of two

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  • Written by
    Lori Gordon

As I groggily rub off the day-old, caked-on mascara from my bloodshot eyes, I gaze out the window of my taxi on the 405. After a long day of traveling from the Dominican Republic, I‘m exhausted. Returning from a luxurious vacation? Not, exactly. 

You know when you’re flipping through channels, and you stumble across a reality show where a group of unruly people are screaming at each other during a dinner party? And then suddenly an insane woman throws a drink in someone’s face? I am the one standing behind the cameras, sweating that the next few minutes go exactly as planned. 

Because while some people assume that things just “happen” on reality TV, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. More often than not, when the cameras are rolling, nothing is happening. That’s where I come in.  

Whether it’s sparking a romantic kiss or instigating a fight, I’ll emerge when the moment is right and manipulate cast members to make sure “something” happens. As I watch the vodka tonic dripping down the woman’s silk dress, I can’t help but relish in this small victory. But now I need to talk the woman off the ledge, before she quits the show.

Pulling her off to a private corner, I’ll pat her face dry with a towel and whisper, “I’m on your side.” Eventually, she’ll rejoin the cast. But not before I’ve given her a key piece of information about her “attacker,” which she’ll then blurt out at the perfect moment (“Pass me the tuna tartar. Oh, by the way, your boyfriend had sex with his ex last night!”)

My taxi exits the 405 and turns onto Ventura Boulevard. My pocket vibrates with a text message: “How far are you? Losing my mind!” It’s my husband—home alone with the kids. 

Before my suitcase hits the floor, I’m bombarded with a series of frenzied demands. Roman, 3, is yelling about his favorite Elmo doll, which looks to be covered in a mystery substance. Leo, 1, squealing like a high-pitched pterodactyl, is desperate for something to eat. 

And then there’s my husband, who looks like he’s joined the cast of Duck Dynasty with his beard longer than ever, begging me to help him find his car keys. On overdrive, my brain makes the switch: OFF instigator button/ON problem-solver.

In an instant, I snatch Elmo from Roman’s clutch and shove him into the washing machine. As he sobs uncontrollably, watching his beloved Elmo swirling (“He’s drowning!”), I hear a distant “Found them!” as my husband escapes out the front door.    

Suddenly something hits me in the face. As retribution for Elmo, Roman has tossed his dirty diaper at me and is running rampant throughout the house. Leo follows suit, dragging his own diaper behind him, leaving a clear path of brown smear on the floor.

I plop down on the couch and think about the juxtaposition of my realities: where I was just 48 hours ago … and where I am now. As my bare-butt boys chase each other around the house, I ponder the irony: I get paid to create and diffuse chaos between grown adults, yet in my own home I can’t manage the smallest humans that I know.  

From the other room, I hear Roman calling for me. Realizing I can’t get thrown off this island, I throw my hair into a ponytail and dash to join them in their game.