The Sister Wives premiere on TLC opened Kody Brown and his four wives up to a mix of voyeuristic interest and blatant disgust.
So how are the real life sister wives of the Brown family taking their new-found fame? They've set some ground rules, and Janelle, aka Wife Number 2 (at the far left in the photo above), explained to The Stir why sex is off the table, what it's like fearing the law, and why you won't be calling it a real life Big Love much longer.
How does it feel knowing people in America are looking at a life that's totally normal to you with a voyeuristic approach?
We knew that was a byproduct of what we were doing. We really wanted people to see there was more to the story, as far as our life, than the current stereotype. We were willing -- and we discussed this as a family -- to kind of open our home so we can show people. I have this amazing family, and I'm really glad to show them so people can see we're happy, and our children are well-adjusted.
There was a trade-off to having someone come in our home, but we're hoping that it helps dispel some of those stereotypes that are currently in the media.
You are being compared to the show Big Love, kind of like the real life Big Love. Do you like that comparison, not like that comparison?
I actually haven't ever seen the show. Laughs. It's about a polygamist family, that's maybe the only thing. It's a soap opera; it's completely acted. What you'll see with our family, we made a very conscious decision to be very real on the show.
You'll see us being real, and the emotions are real. So as far as the reality versus something that's acted, I don't know how much similarity there will really be.
I have watched Big Love, and you're right, it's acting.
Yeah, I saw that guy on Twister! But I haven't seen the show.
But one of the big themes of that show is that it's scary to talk about their lifestyle because they're afraid they'll get in some sort of legal trouble. Is that something you had to deal with or is that blown up for Hollywood?
There was a risk. We had to accept several risks before we decided to go public. We are law-abiding citizens; we just have a faith. We're not lawbreakers. We just have a faith that prescribes a family that's a little bit different.
I'm not even allowed to drive when we go places because I don't speak -- we're really boring! But, you know, we had to assess those risks. And that was one of them.
We decided as a family that our chance to show the world there's more going on here than is currently known was worth it for the sake of our children to be more free, to have more choices. Those benefits far outweigh the risks.
One of the things that's most fascinating about your story in particular is you were raised Mormon but you weren't familiar at all with polygamy before you met Kody?
No! Isn't that crazy? I really didn't know they existed. I think I was like in my 20s before I realized. I mean, I lived in the area my whole life, but I wasn't even aware there was such a thing as polygamists growing up.
Was it something your parents didn't talk about because your childhood Mormon faith was trying to move away from it? Or was there a shame to it?
No, it just wasn't discussed. The Mormon church gave up polygamy 120 years ago.
Would you say yours was the hardest journey into the family because you had to make that jump?
I can speak for my sister wives. We all chose this as adults. So they all had to make their own decision. They grew up in homes like that where it was their family life, and they were happy. But you still have to make the choice of whether you're going to marry into a family like this.
I think my choice was probably similar. It was a faith-based decision. It didn't hurt that Kody was such an awesome guy either!
Being a mom, you talk about how you just kind of like going to work! Is it easier to do those kinds of things having sister wives?
Oh yeah! Are you kidding? It's great. I have so much freedom. I've always been able to work, and I like working. Trust me, I was never stay-at-home mom material. I knew that from the beginning.
I like going to work. I don't have to miss work generally for sick days for my kids. I've been able to travel through the years, knowing that there was someone at home who was genuinely interested in the welfare of my children and with watching them and with rescuing me from last-minute science projects that hadn't been mentioned to me until the day before they were due.
And doing the doctor's appointments and the soccer runs. It's nice; I get to come home and do those things, but my children have so much more opportunity because they have somebody at home to do those things with them. And I get to work, and that makes me a much nicer Mommy. For sure!
Everyone is fascinated by your sex life. What's the advantage of not having your husband in your bed every night?
Laughs. We really ... we have opened our home to the camera, to show our family, but we've really tried to cut it off with bedroom questions. It's a very private thing for us, and we aren't really discussing that.
I'm very happy in my relationship.
I'm very happy in my life. I love my choices I've made. I would make those choices again. I have a tremendous support network, and I have a husband who's amazing. He's getting his edges knocked off all the time; he's really always in trouble with somebody.
And it makes him so much more sensitive, I think. He's really fabulous. I think he's the best man I know.
The take-home for other relationships seems to be make good use of the time you have together.
I think we really capitalize on the time. We do so much as a family. Our life is our family, and the whole family. It's healthy for relationships to have that individual time, so we really have to make sure that when we have that individual time that he and I -- my husband and I -- are really engaging.
We block off everything, and we really talk to each other and spend some time together. That's a healthy part of our relationship; that helps keep it healthy.
Are there any other things you've decided as a family to keep private?
We really are representing only our family. What you're seeing here is our family, and we've chosen to open up our home to show our family. That's all I can really speak for.
Are you watching Sister Wives? How would a sister wife help out in your house?
Images via Discovery