‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’: Is Kris Jenner a Bad Mother?

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

This guest post by Scarlett Harris is an edited version of a piece originally published on The Scarlett Woman and is part of our theme week on Bad Mothers.

She’s constantly on Khloe for her weight, Kim to prioritise her money-making appearances with family and love, and Kourtney to get married before she has another child. Not to mention that she neglects, according to them, Rob (who hasn’t been seen on the show in or public with the family for a while), Kendall and Kylie in favour of her older daughters. (Although with Kendall’s earning power as a supermodel and whatever it is that Kylie now does, Kris may have an increased interest in her younger offspring.)

But is Kris Jenner a bad mother because of this?

One could argue that she spent her early days of motherhood raising her six kids (not to mention step-parenting Bruce’s four other children from previous marriages), and is rewarded by earning 10% from their business endeavours as their momager.

But some of the things Kris says and does arguably aren’t in the best interests of the well being of her children. Or is that just how they/she choose/s to portray her/self on Keeping Up With The Kardashians?

In the first season of Khloe & Lamar, Kris berates Khloe for her size, saying it’s not cohesive with her other sisters’ frames, nor with QuickTrim, the diet supplement the Kardashian sisters promoted at the time. In other episodes of the KUWTK franchise, Kris was on Khloe’s back to have a baby during her marriage to Lamar.

Kris also doesn’t approve of Kourtney’s boyfriend and baby daddy Scott Disick, and in earlier seasons of the show, who could blame her? But even after Scott made a 180° turnaround in his behaviour after his children were born, Kris still struggles to accept him.

Kim, the head moneymaker of the Kardashian clan, can usually never put a foot wrong in her mother’s eyes, but every now and then Kris will get upset with her for being so uptight. So do her sisters, for that matter.

In a damning article published by The New York Times a couple of weeks ago, the dichotomy of Kris as mother and businesswoman is dissected:

“… in The New York Times review of the show’s first episode, Ginia Bellafante wrote: ‘As a parent, Ms. Kardashian’s mother, Kris Jenner, was concerned for her daughter, she explains. But as her manager, she thought, well, hot-diggity.’”

The article goes on to assert that the lack of public comment from the Kardashians/Jenners regarding Bruce’s transition isn’t about being respectful to the family patriarch’s privacy, but to milk Bruce’s coming out for all the world to see… on their E! special, of course.

I’d like to think I’m less cynical about Kris and her cohort of children’s success, but we also know that reality TV is far less rooted in actuality than it purports itself to be. Kris says:

“‘It doesn’t mean that we’re always looking for more or that we’re greedy… There’s a lot of people that have great ideas and dreams and whatnot, but unless you’re willing to work really, really hard, and work for what you want, it’s never going to happen. And that’s what’s so great about the girls. It’s all about their work ethic.’”

When their lives are out there for all the world to see, it’s easy to judge the Kardashians. If Kris is guilty of one thing, it’s working her children too hard and not allowing them to make mistakes. Kim’s sexual escapades were caught on film in a way that might mortify many people, but she and her mother took them to new famous-for-being-famous heights. Kendall and Kylie have had cameras in their faces since they were 12 and 10, respectively, and have been working on book, clothing and beauty lines for almost as long, so it’s no wonder Kylie behaves older than her 17 years. The controversy surrounding her lips and relationship with an older man who also happens to be a father are begrudgingly touched on this season, scarcely shedding light on the family dynamic that would allow and encourage a 17-year-old to do these things. It remains to be seen if such actions mean Kylie’s heading off the rails, but other young stars could stand to have such a strong work ethic instilled in them.

Say what you want about Kris and the Kardashians, but they’ve managed to carve out an entire genre of entertainment that Paris, Nicole and the Osbournes could only have dreamt about. Their money shouldn’t protect them from criticism, but I do think the Kardashians cop a lot more flak for capitalising on their existence in a world that we watched them influence than other, arguably worse, public figures. The Kardashians seem to be relatively happy, healthy and challenge the notion that your past defines you. Whatever the case, Kris and company are laughing all the way to the bank while we labour over thinkpieces about them.

Scarlett Harris is a Melbourne, Australia-based writer, broadcaster and blogger at The Scarlett Woman, where she muses about feminism, social issues and pop culture. You can follow her on Twitter here.