Last week, an opinion writer caused a bit of a stir by insisting that Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” fame, are frauds who lie about putting their family first. It’s a strange assertion made by someone who has never met the Gaineses, but he decided anyway that the wildly accomplished couple can’t put family first specifically because of their business success.
Chip and Joanna Gaines are a couple made famous not just because of their television show, but because of the admiration and inspiration they elicit for who they are and how they handle their lives.
For all the home-improvement shows on television, while the genre itself is fun to watch, what makes a show really work is the people featured in the program. Chip and Joanna broke out of the pack because of their attitude and, specifically, their commitment to family. Americans from all walks of life pursue an American dream that often involves running their own business, having a strong marriage and having the freedom to build a family.
The Gaineses have done this, but Daryl Austin, identified in his USA Today opinion piece as “a writer and small business owner from Orem, Utah,” has decided their commitment to family is a “talking point” and insists “Chip and Joanna Gaines did not get where they are by putting their family first.”
He mocked their interviews discussing the importance of their family and then continued to insist they’re frauds. He wrote: “Chip told Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s Today show that ‘the most important thing in the world’ for them is their relationship, ‘followed very quickly by these four beautiful kids.’ Joanna told People that ‘family is the most important thing in the world.’ Except it isn’t so. Not if actions really do speak louder than words …”
Mr. Austin listed their impressive business ventures and then oddly complained, “They don’t want to be seen simply as a couple that can do it all. They want to be seen as a couple that can do it all while at the same time making their family their top priority. This is just not possible and it does a disservice to the parents who really are putting their children first.”
Here’s what we do know: People are different. We have different backgrounds, educations, experiences and dreams. The American dream is not one specific thing — it’s the freedom to be able to pursue what best suits you, and it will be different for everyone.
When Mr. Austin’s critique hit, Chip Gaines responded on Twitter making it quite clear he was not going to let the attack on his family slide:
“I don’t know Daryl, & he clearly doesn’t know me. But for the record: If there is ever a need w/ my family (1st), I’ll shut this circus down so fast it will make your head spin. BUT Jo & I believe, w/ God anything is possible. Including having an amazing family AND career you love.”
Indeed. While it’s something many of us aspire to, it’s not easy to achieve. For the Gaineses, family and faith make all things possible.
Mr. Austin’s attack struck me as not just on them as a couple, but on Joanna in particular. She is emerging as the star of the family with the new HGTV show focusing on her design talent, and she has a new cookbook, among other ventures. She is a consummate businesswoman who has found the balance to achieve her dreams, which includes being a great mom.
She doesn’t do this on her own — she has a support system, including a devoted husband, parents and siblings, plus a staff. Now, with another baby on the way, she is living her American dream, and in the process, making so many things possible for her community and everyone around her.
The Gaines empire is led by a woman in partnership with her husband. Their experience, which they share with the American people, provides a unique and important perspective about the power of American entrepreneurship and how our life experiences prepare us for success both in business and on the home-front.
In his essay questioning the Gaines’ character, Mr. Austin eventually admitted to the choices he and his wife have made as they run their home-based business. He confessed, “My wife and I have owned our business for nearly eight years now. We have deliberately kept it small because we have never wanted it to have a monopoly on our time, and we run it from home so we can be present at all times for our three children. …”
That’s nice, as they were free to design a life and business plan that best suited them, and there are significant differences between his family and the Gaines family. One thing is for sure: Mr. Austin will never experience Chip or Joanna writing an article in a national newspaper impugning his character or commitment to his family because he and his wife have made choices different from theirs.