ABC’s reality show “Celebrity Wife Swap” gives insight into what would happen if famous families switched spouses for a week. Despite its provocative title, the show does not involve any extramarital romance and the content is generally mild. It prompts participants to evaluate how they can improve their own marriages and families.
Recently, former “Baywatch” actress Kelly Packard, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, swapped places with actress Tichina Arnold, who is known for her work in “Big Momma’s House” and the ’90s sitcom “Martin.”
Packard, a convert to the church, and her husband Darrin have been married for 17 years and currently live in Newhall, California. The Packards have four children — Aubrey, 9; Dallin, 8; Halle, 4; and Delaney, 16 months — and 13 pets, which are all kept around the house.
The Packards’ religion was addressed early in the episode.
"We're Mormon," Kelly Packard said. The family was briefly shown having a family prayer.
"We do not allow any alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco in the house,” she said. “We have rules. With our kids, we limit the amount of time of television they watch and what they wear. I want them to grow up as kids. I don't want them to be exposed to anything before they have to be."
Those rules would come off as a bit peculiar to Arnold, who has spent the majority of her life in showbiz and is accustomed to a New York City lifestyle. Her reactions to the Packards’ way of living ranged from surprise (“Four kids and no coffee? This is going to be a very interesting week”) to frustration (“Please tell me this is not apple cider ”).
During a segment of the show where the wives get to set their own rules for their new families, Arnold became troubled upon learning that the young Packard girls are not allowed to pick out their own clothes and do not know how to apply makeup. Arnold gave the oldest girl, Aubrey, a makeover and granted her permission to choose her own outfits for the rest of the week — a rule that didn’t sit well with her father.
"As her dad, I think it's really important for me to try to protect the fact that she is a little girl,” Darrin Packard said.
Meanwhile, Kelly Packard’s wardrobe was called into question as she prepared to chauffeur the Arnolds’ 9-year-old daughter, Alijah, around for a busy day of auditions, casting calls and dance lessons. Astounded, the 9-year-old asked, “Is this what you're going to wear today? You look like an apple bloom." Packard was sent back to change into a different outfit.
Alijah’s big personality clashed with Packard as they worked their way through an exhausting schedule of obligations. The Arnolds described their daughter as “9-going-on-35,” but Packard encouraged Alijah to begin participating in more age-appropriate activities. An 8:30 bedtime, for instance, was instituted for the week, much to the daughter's dismay.
Family time was another major area of focus for the Packards. With Darrin Packard being occupied a majority of the time with his job as an ER trauma doctor and a part-time rec league basketball coach, the Packards are not typically able to have much “fun time” as a family.
“Marriage is tough,” he said, expressing concern about his time management skills. “You get used to going about your day-by-day activities. You forget about each other."
Arnold encouraged the Packards to spend one night a week doing a family activity away from the house. She also encouraged Darrin and Kelly to spend more time together on dates for “mommy and daddy time,” where they could be alone without having to worry about their kids.
“(Kelly) needs the chance to be your girlfriend,” Arnold said.
As Kelly Packard spent time with the Arnold family, one thing that greatly concerned her was the fact that the Arnolds do not eat dinner together. A new rule was instituted that required each member of the Arnold family help prepare dinner and sit at the dining room table together for the meal.
"It was good to have my dad cooking with us,” Alijah said. “I'm excited to get to sit down as a family.”
At the end of the week, the two couples met to discuss what they had learned during the swap.
The Arnolds resolved to spend more family time together and the Packards agreed to loosen the reins on their children and to spend more time together as a couple.
"Date nights are important,” Kelly Packard said. “I don't voice those things as much as I should. I've learned that kids need room to breathe. I don't think that's ever been pointed out to me in such a way and I know it's just self-fear. That's all it is."
"Even though there was some tension there, there also were some moments of awakening,” Darrin Packard said.
"Well, I didn't choke you!” Arnold joked. “In the end, it all worked out."9 comments on this story
A recap at the end of the episode reported that Darrin Packard has stopped coaching basketball in order to spend more time with his kids and lighten the burden on his wife. The Packards are now going out for family activities more often and Kelly Packard has started to be a little less strict with some of her rules. However, makeup is still off limits for her girls until they’re in high school.
“Celebrity Wife Swap” airs Tuesday nights on ABC.