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15 minutes of familial fame

Wren Wertin

Families with a dose of curiosity and the wherewithal to indulge it have the opportunity to participate in a 10-day parent exchange in ABC’s new reality show, “The Swap.” Still in production, the American version of the show is slated to air this fall. Producers are still combing the country for participants.

The idea for the show came from a conversation at a dinner party in England, said co-executive Producer Wendy Roth.

“One man asked, ‘Can you imagine what it would be like if we swapped moms?'” Roth said. “They originally did the show in Britain and it was an overwhelming success.”

It works like this: Moms in two families trade with one another for 10 days. It one-ups the idle children’s fantasy of being raised by the “wrong” parents. For the first five days, the moms both stick to the household’s pre-existing routine.

“There’s a house rules manual,” said Roth. “Families fill out a whole series of questions, and we put it into a manual. For instance, child care ” who takes care of the kids. Or how often the house is cleaned. The new mom who comes in reads the manual and has to abide by it.”

For the remaining five days, the moms are free to instigate changes based on their judgment of the situation. They have a rule-changing ceremony, where she tells the dad and the children exactly what’s changing.

“In terms of values, what you learn is basically that everyone loves their kids and wants the best for them,” said Roth. “But the idea of what that ‘best’ is is different from person to person.”

So far, they’ve taped seven shows. There’s no rhyme or reason to the pairings other than what will be most interesting ” it is made for television after all. One-child families might swap with five-children families. Conventional behavior in one family might be deemed completely unorthodox ” or outright unacceptable ” in another.

“Say there’s a swap between the button-down family with a more fun family,” said Roth. “The fun family might discover there’s something to be had with a little more of a button-down aspect in their lives, and vice versa.”

Some of the families have kept in touch with each other after the show.

“The Swap will document all the details: how couples share ” or don’t share ” housework and child-rearing responsibilities, how they spend their money, how they spend their leisure time,” says The Swap’s press material. “At the end of each show, the families get a chance to take a step back and look at their own family dynamics from a slight distance often gaining new and fascinating insights in the process.”

Though it’s set up to be a mom swap, the show’s producers are open to having dads participate, as long as they’re house husbands.

“It has to be the parent who’s mostly responsible for taking care of the house and kids,” said Roth.

And it has to be a family who wants to be on television ” though judging from the reality television craze, there’s no shortage of those.


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