N AN EPISODE THAT REIGNITES THE STAY-AT-HOME VS. WORKING MOM DEBATE,
A WACKY, COUPON-CLIPPING, PACK-RAT, STAY-AT-HOME MOTHER OF FOUR, WHOSE CHAOTIC AND CLUTTERED HOUSE IS DEVOTED TO HER CHILDREN, TRADES PLACES WITH A HIGH-POWERED, EXECUTIVE MOTHER WITH A HOUSEHOLD STAFF TO CARE FOR HER ONLY CHILD AND HER ELEGANT AND PRISTINE HOME, ON ABC'S "WIFE SWAP"
Each week, from across the country, two families with very different values are chosen to take part in "Wife Swap." In a two-week challenge, the wives from the families exchange husbands, children and lives (but not bedrooms) to discover what it's like to live a very different woman's life. It's a mind-blowing experiment that often changes their lives forever.
This week, in "Fontaine/Herman," a bargain-seeking, coupon-obsessed, pack-rat mother from Ohio who refuses to work so that she can dote on her four children, swaps lives with a high-powered, high-paid executive mother from Maryland who loves her career and disdains coupons, clutter, and kids who rule the house, on "Wife Swap," WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.
Donna Fontaine's life revolves around kids--and clutter. This 45 year old stay-at-home mom believes that her time with her four children-John (11), Michael (13), Jimmy, (15) and Nicole (17)-is like 'gold dripping away in an hourglass.' So Donna refuses to have a job outside the home, precious time she says would be stolen from her children. She spends her time doing projects with the kids and pursuing her obsession of buying cheap and in bulk. At Donna's direction, the Fontaine Family-including husband Jim, (44)-buys and eats whatever is on sale each week, which means that 20 lbs. of cheap chicken will cross their plates at every meal until it's gone. Donna believes that time spent washing dishes is time wasted, so the family eats all their meals on (cheap) paper plates. The Fontaine house and garage are jammed from floor to ceiling with Donna's numerous 'bargains.' In fact, one of the family's two bathrooms is unusable because it's completely filled with paper towels, paper plates, and other paper 'bargains.'
Donna travels to the elegant Maryland home of the Herman family, where 41 year old real estate developer Ellen takes pride in the minimalist aesthetic that she and husband Bill (45) and also in real estate have created for themselves and their 15 year old daughter Chloe. Ellen and Bill both work long hours at jobs they love, so Ellen employs a housekeeper to keep the place spotless and a 'house manager' to deal with domestic issues and taking care of Chloe after school. The 'house manager' jokingly refers to herself as Ellen's 'wife' and Chloe's second mom. Wise and wonderful Chloe, however, is desperate for more time and attention from her parents, and is hurt by what she perceives as being 'shut out' by the adults, especially her father.
In the first week of the swap, Ellen bristles at having to cater to the four kids who she believes have taken over the house, is appalled by the Fontaine's choking clutter, and is forced to embrace piles of cheap chicken as she grocery shops Donna-style. Meanwhile, Donna is appalled by how much time lonely Chloe spends without her parents, feels miserable and isolated without four kids to please and stockpiles of toilet paper, and can barely manage to cook full-priced food for a dinner not served on paper plates.
But in the second week of the swap, when the wives change the rules and turn the tables, Ellen upsets the Fontaine home when she de-clutters and 'de-kids' it, setting boundaries to separate the kids' lives from the adults and hauling away all the junk from the bathroom and the garage. And in the Herman home, Donna and Bill provide one of the more hilarious "Wife Swap" scenes yet when free-spending Bill is forced to go bargain grocery shopping with ditzy Donna, then turns the tables on her with his business acumen, crunching the numbers to show she wastes $1,000 a year on paper plates. But Bill's business brain is eclipsed by his rediscovered father's heart, when Donna acts as a catalyst for Chloe to tearfully confront her father about his aching absence in her life.