College newspapers participate in HBO roundtable for reality dating show ‘My Mom, Your Dad’

The kids surrounded around the TV watching their parents. Courtesy of HBO Max.

The kids surrounded around the TV watching their parents. Courtesy of HBO Max.

By Karissa Schaefer, Emerson Los Angeles Bureau Chief

While college students are already trying to navigate the complexities of their romantic life, HBO Max takes it a step further with their new reality dating show My Mom, Your Dad, making these students set up their single parent in hopes of finding new love. 

The eight-part episodic series—hosted by Insecure actress Yvonne Orji—places single parents in a house, dubbed the “Second Chance Retreat,” while their college-aged kids watch from down the street, influencing any magic that happens between pairs. Sure, the concept on paper might sound creepy, but it sure makes for entertaining TV. 

A big feature of the show is meddle time, a segment in which the kids secretly pick how their parent’s second chance date plays out. But there’s a catch: each one who chooses to proceed has to give something up or do something unusual. These caveats are pretty harmless and goofy, especially when Myles “MJ” Johnson—who’s probably the funniest on the show—gets five pairs of shoes taken away from his 20-some collection. 

“The only thing that we had an argument about was when they peer pressured me to give up my shoes,” MJ jokingly said. 

For MJ, this is still a sore spot, as he mentioned a few times in the college newspaper roundtable interview on Feb. 10. A handful of journalism students were chosen from various nationwide colleges to discuss their experiences, their relationships with their parents, and the relatability they have with other college-aged kids of divorced and single parents. 

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Screenshot of roundtable zoom interview. Photo: Karissa Schaefer.

The cast members who participated were Breana Sturgis, Karen’s daughter; Alexandra Devoe, Scott’s daughter; Philip “PJ” Patrick Jr, Philip’s son; Destiny Orr, Kiki’s daughter; Whitney Strunk, Trish’s daughter; Brooks Brown, Joel’s son; Carlie Kauffman, Grant’s daughter; and MJ, DeNeia’s son. Absent from the panel were Troy’s son, Noah Petrick, Phill’s son, Miles Chevalier, and Stephanie’s son, Brennen Varone. 

Among the questions, the kids were asked how their experience as matchmakers influenced their relationship with their parents. In particular, Patrick and Sturgis credited the show for bringing them closer to their parents. Patrick, who never really discussed personal topics like dating with his dad, now views him in a cooler, casual way.

“He’s somebody who has his own stuff to deal with and issues, so I see him in a different light now,” Patrick said. “That was one of the coolest parts of the experience, seeing him like an actual person instead of just some authority figure.” 

Agreeing with Patrick, Sturgis sees her mom as more of an equal, someone with just as many flaws as her. This made it easier for the two to connect on an even deeper level, and allowed Sturgis to let people in and open up more. 

It definitely humanized our parents and made me take my mom off that perfect parent pedestal,” Sturgis said. “It opened up more conversations between us that we didn’t even know we needed to have.” 

As a college graduate, Orr made a noteworthy mention of how our early 20s are an important stage for growth and reflecting, specifically when truly seeing our parents for who they are. 

“You’re recognizing things and seeing more, so this experience expedited that process,” Orr said. “The ultimate thing is you get to have this new, unique experience with your parents that you wouldn’t have otherwise, so that’s something special.” 

Some of the student journalists present could connect to having divorced and single parents, with their questions tailoring towards the subject and making the 45-minute conversation a safe space to listen to others who have gone through similar situations. 

“We had a lot of the same experiences with parents being split and going back and forth between house to house,” Patrick said. “That’s part of the reason we got close so fast. Despite being from everywhere in the country, there was stuff we could relate to.”

The parents weren’t the only ones who forged new relationships. All the kids recalled instant closeness on the first night in their house. What viewers see are only a few selected snippets from weeks of filming and being in the house 24/7 together. Multiple people referred to the group as a family without conflict, one with no dull moments and a good dynamic. 

“We got really close really fast for a random group of people who absolutely walked in and just met each other right then and there,” Sturgis said. “Because we were all really close, there weren’t any major arguments with meddling and stuff.”

Considering the sociable young age group, it wasn’t surprising to Devoe that everyone got along so well. The constant close quarters with each other factored into the decision-making for meddles, prioritizing peace amongst the group. 

“We put our friendships first, we didn’t want to step on everyone’s toes,” Devoe said. “We of course had our parents’ best interest at heart, but I would say, for the most part, we were worried about the people we were right next to.” 

Carlie Kauffman and Whitney Strunk. Courtesy HBO Max.

The opportunity was one of a lifetime for Strunk and her mom, both eager to jump on a plane to the best thing that’s happened in their lives. The special memories with this group shared behind the scenes will always stick with Strunk, the immediate comfortability waving away any nervousness. 

“[The cast is] the sweetest people I’ve met, and I would not take any of it back because everything happens for a reason,” Strunk said. “We were all supposed to be at that house exactly at the time we were, so that was the most amazing thing ever.” 

Young adults are always trying to balance their busy lives, between jobs and social interactions. Many college students are already preoccupied with finding their own partner—let alone finding one for their parent—so a question arose of competition between parent and child, insinuating a “race” to see who would get a chance at a relationship first. 

No matter what’s going on with the kids’ personal and romantic lives—like Kauffman using the show as an icebreaker on dates—they are all supportive of their parents’ freedom in their journey to find love. Orr, who is currently engaged, wants the same happiness for her mom. 

“I want [my mom] to have what I have,” Orr said. “We’re off doing our own thing in our own lives, so we want to make sure they have that person with them.”

MJ’s relationship with his mom reflects one of friendship more than parenting, staying consistent even after the show. Despite his own romantic situation, there’s no competition with his mom, who he called his “homegirl.” 

“For me, I’m at a point where I just got out of a toxic relationship,” MJ said. “I’m just trying to help my mom find someone, maybe with Scott who knows. It’s just trying to make your loved one happy.” 

Other interesting aspects of the show are Stunk and Devoe’s quick liners that could’ve been easy to miss and Strunk stated that they don’t find it necessary to put an age limit on searching for romance. 

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s never too late to find love,” Strunk said. 

Devoe reminded everyone the concept of finding love is chaotic, not mattering if someone is 20 or 50. 

“No one knows what they’re doing no matter what stage they’re at,” Devoe said. 

After being asked to describe their overall My Mom, Your Dad experience in three words, the young adults included memorable, funny, unique, loving, emotional, weird, and according to Brown, “Lit, crazy, movie.” There was an emphasis on using the word cringey to talk about the abnormality of watching their parents’ actions—from cuddling, dancing, truth or dare, and even seeing them dressed up in superhero costumes for a night. 

At the end of the day, Orr told the journalists something to take away, a lesson of self-confidence before anything—or anyone—else. 

“Take it as an opportunity to love yourself,” Orr said. “Buy yourself some chocolates, buy yourself some flowers, take yourself to the spa, do what makes you happy. Ultimately, it starts with you. You need to be full and whole and loved on first before you can go find that person.”

Sturgis honed in on this point, further emphasizing one should be content with themselves before moving on to another person. 

“Making sure we’re happy within ourselves is what’s most important because you can’t be with someone if you’re not comfortable with yourself,” Sturgis said.