This show was about appearances. It was about how they are perceived and how the media portray them.
Mum to fourteen children lives on the small island of Guernsey. Jo separated from her husband John of 20 years, and the father of all her children, two years ago and is now finding life on her own a struggle, living on benefits (which previously they never had to rely on). It is clear that she leans heavily on 15 year old daughter Georgia to help (such as putting together all the packed lunches, bathing them, putting them to bed). She gets no privacy and peace, saying that she classes her sister as her child. There’s people at school and on facebook talking about her – and there’s not one nice comment. Kids saying she shouldn’t be at the school. The Watson family are all used to living life in the spotlight , for years the ever expanding family has been the subject of considerable media attention. At first the coverage was positive celebrating big family life. Then her husband went to prison for benefit fraud – but it wasn’t for expensive holidays – no it was in order to support their large family. She keeps a little box of keepsakes of the baby boy Augustina who died at just a day old from an infection. She tries to get on dating sites to have her 15th child but one point blank refused to have her – saying it was because she was on benefits with so many children.
Jo is finding press coverage has become increasingly negative. The latest story focuses on the pregnancy of her 16 year old daughter Mariah – the third of her teenage children to fall pregnant, and the father has left her.The youngster, who is due to have a boy, said: ‘I’m not nervous. I’ve been around babies my whole life so I know what to expect and that I can handle it. Mrs Watson’s oldest daughter Natasha, 22, got pregnant with her son Branford, now six, when she was 16. Her second eldest daughter Shanice, 19, also got pregnant at 16 with her 22-month-old son Marley. Jo says she encourages her children to use protection and of course no-0ne wants their 15 year old to be pregnant – being 18 when she had her first. The kids miss their dad and enjoy him being there whilst their sister is in labour. Jo receives a phone call from the media whilst her daughter is in labour but is not responding this time.
Lee Hamlin and Emma Payne
This Couple in Yorkshire are living off Lee’s wage as a carer (14,000 a year), apparently only supplemented by child benefit, they refuse to take handouts but cut their cloth accordingly. There is no mention of whether they claim Child Tax credits or not (as they would be entitled on that wage). They scrimp and save – buying a half a pig at a time in order to save costs. All the family are seen as eating the same foods – Lee says they couldn’t afford it if they all wanted different things. They say they don’t mind going out without luxuries – because the children are their luxuries. There is no indication whether the children have luxuries themselves? Such as the latest games consoles, holidays, etc? Or questioning whether this is a good thing or not? They are seen to go to the fair – and even there Lee tries to get a bargain on a bulk buy.
Emma (36) is fed up with the prejudice. People assuming she’s on benefits and in a council house. She already had Mitchell, 19, Mason, 17, Jordan, 16, Shannon, 15 when she met Lee. And he has treated them as his own. They have since had 6 children of their own – the youngest being 3 years old. Despite being hardworking and proud, they have noticed an increasing amount of prejudice aimed at big families with people assuming they must rely on handouts to survive. The fact that they are unmarried only seems to fuel the prejudice. Annoyed by negative comments – especially the playground taunts aimed at his kids about their unmarried status – Lee has decided it is time to pop the question. This programme follows Lee as he surprises a stunned Emma with her dream wedding – pork pie cake and all. Lee proposes for he says it’s important for the whole family – them and the kids.
Lee takes Emma out for a meal – he says it’s been 4 years since they went out for a meal. It’s not clear who is looking after the children. He doesn’t actually propose he just tells her they ARE getting married! Then says “so will you marry me or what?” *edited to say after tweeting him he says it was more romantic than that* Then drags the kids out of bed to tell them. They hope the finger pointing will stop. It seems to be a lot about worrying what people think. As is clear from the children’s comments as regards strangers giving them dirty looks (I admit even a family of just 6 this is hard!) Giving her 3 weeks until they get married and trying to cut costs – hence the pork pie wedding cake. They say it doesn’t matter how much the wedding costs, and the children want to go without to pay for it. It is sad when one of the lads says that his dad keeps promising him new trainers but he will go without so they can get married. Surely a child’s trainers should come first?
Roy and Emma Hann
Living in Scotland they have 12 children. Roy is a Senior Nurse Practitioner (earning 43,000 a year) and works 12 hour shifts in A & E to support his large family. Roy works at night to save money on the childcare during the day as he can help out. However, that leaves Emma to get all twelve kids to bed and to sleep on time , a process that some nights can take hours. It’s not easy paying for the weekly shop, the monthly gas and electric, the mortgage and all the other bills but the Hanns would rather forgo holidays, new clothes and expensive meals to enjoy their big brood.
Children say that they don’t get much sleep as there’s always someone screaming or crying, that they get negative comments on the street.Emma doesn’t believe big families are bad for the environment and tax payer; That the family looks after each other and you’ll never have the perfect house etc.
Although I feel this family were shown positively (further to highlight how “bad” it is to be on benefits/unmarried/divorced with a large family as a contrast to the other families) I don’t think enough was shown. We were not told that they have been married for 21 years. We did see that they were all gathered together singing (beautifully), we were told that they were Mormons – but not that they weekly go to church. They were both from big families, that they know what it is like and they loved it, and have made the decision to have as many children as they like. It then transpires that Emma was pregnant at 17 and a half and was made to have the baby adopted. We are not told that Emma has breastfed all her babies. That Roy doesn’t stop when he comes home from work and then proceeds to cook dinner from scratch (as it’s cheaper and healthier), which is delivered weekly. That they have a specially built table big enough for everyone to fit round. Nor that the oldest child, Rachel, is studying Behavioural Sciences at Abertay University.