Who's your mommy?

By having two mothers switch households, the reality show 'Mom Swap' puts Israeli family dynamics under the microscope.

By JENNY HAZAN
November 24, 2005 08:48
mom swap 88 298

mom swap 88 298. (photo credit: )

 
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Who hasn't considered, at least for a moment, the prospect of exchanging a parent for a newer model? Well, now that the reality TV show Mom Swap has arrived in Israel, we can - at least vicariously. Based on the U.K. show Wife Swap, in which wives from two very different families switch households for two weeks to see how the "other half" lives, Mom Swap is the slightly tamer Israeli version. Executive produced by local reality television mogul Elad Kuperman, the show airs Wednesdays at 8:45 p.m. on Keshet TV (Channel 2). The Israeli version - which debuted on November 9 and which follows six swap stories throughout the course of the six-episode series - has shorter swap times than the original (eight days, as opposed to two weeks), but the idea is basically the same. During the first half of each swap, the moms move in with their new families and adopt their host families' lifestyles, agreeing to follow a manual written by the departed mom that sets out the rules of the household - how to parent, shop, do the house work, manage the budget and run the family's social life. In the second half of the swap, everything changes and the new mom takes charge. She introduces her own set of rules and gets to run the new household her way, which can prove to be a radical shock to both families. At the end of the show, the two families meet for the first time. In a highly charged exchange, both couples make a frank assessment of the other and talk about what they've learned from the experience. SINCE ITS U.K. premiere in 2003, the format has made it to 15 different countries around the world. What makes the Israeli version unique? According to producer Roy Oz, it's the Israelis themselves. "The difference is that we are Israelis - and that's a big difference," says Oz, who traveled to England to research the original show before custom designing the Israeli format. "We don't need to swap polar opposites in order to produce an entertaining and thought-provoking show," he says. "In Israel, you can take two next door neighbors and swap them. That's how different we are from each other." In one episode, producers exchanged a mom of Yemenite origin from Netanya with a Polish mom from Gan Yavne. The former hosted noisy parties every night until 3 a.m., while the latter ran a much tighter and quieter ship, wherein the children ate at certain mealtimes and retired at a predetermined bedtime. According to Oz, it was particularly interesting to see the Polish mom encourage two teenage brothers in her swap family to make peace after not speaking to each other for six months. In another swap, one mom from Kadesh, near Egypt, was almost completely responsible for running her household, whereas her swap mom, a woman from a town near Beit Shemesh, let her husband run the household. "That was a nice swap," says Oz. "Both couples realized what it really means to be equal between husband and wife." The objective, says Oz, is not to swap extreme opposites, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews and secular ones (although if the show continues into a second season, he hints that they may swap a Jewish mom with an Arab one from Jaffa). "The idea is to swap families with two different lifestyles so that they can learn from each other and gain perspective on their life," he says. "This is the success of the show." "I always tell people when they come to the show that they should think of it like their funeral - their chance to look at their life from the side, and take the opportunity to change things." Oz says families really do learn from each other. In the first episode, a stay-at-home mom from Ein Yaakov, where she lived with her children and less than affectionate husband of 20 years, was swapped with a mom from Moshav Avichai near Netanya who never cooked and whose kids were always hanging out at the local mall. After the show, the husband of the stay-at-home-mom started buying her flowers every day, and the take-out mom starting cooking dinner every night. The show is even helping members of the film crew gain perspective on their lives. "Being with these families has been an amazing experience for us," says Oz. "It makes one think of one's own family, and I think all of us have made changes to our lives because of the show. The show really puts the family dynamic under a microscope." The show has also helped participants realize how much they have in common with other Israeli families. "We all have something in common," says Oz. "Even if you are eating pork, you are doing Kiddush on Friday night. The things we share is what makes us Israeli, and Jewish." Perhaps this is one reason for the show's success. In any case, the show has been so successful so far that Oz says the search has already begun for daddies for their next reality show creation, Daddy Swap. "We are looking for new immigrant Anglos," he says. "We think it will be just as interesting to see how families will be affected by the swapping of the dads."

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