The Reality of Being Bates


The Bates family of 19 is just like any ordinary family--but the attention it sometimes draws is being shifted in a major way. From transportation to food preparation, everything the Bates family does is magnified and supersized. Wrangling 19 kids to do anything is no small feat—lots of teamwork, prayer, and Godly wisdom are definitely in order.

This particular family has developed a way of life that may seem foreign to most people. But for the Bates, it works like a well-oiled machine. Now, thanks to UP Network and the Bates family’s desire to promote positive television and a more conservative way of life, the world can see just how the machine operates.

“Bringing Up Bates,” which airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on the UP Network, premiered on Jan. 1 with rave reviews. With so many glaring similarities to the ever-popular and beloved Dugger Family (of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting), it’s tempting to assume the two families are carbon copies. Beyond the numbers and similar ideologies, the Bates family has something worthy to say and a desire to shine a light all on its own.

Over the course of 27 years, Gil and Kelly Jo Bates have enjoyed the births of their 19 children, given three away in marriage, and welcomed one grandchild into the world. The family has seen its fair share of happiness as well as indescribable sadness, especially with the miscarriage of four children. However, it’s the joys of family and the promises of God that far outweigh even the darkest days and nights.

chad and Erin
chad and Erin

Both Kelly Jo, wife and mother of the brood, and Erin Bates Paine, the second oldest daughter and the second to marry, undeniably have hearts for women and the desire to see them flourish as wives and mothers. At the same time, these Bates ladies want each woman to realize her own potential and purpose.

It’s evident that the close-knit family has a strong belief in God and desires to live a life that is pleasing to Him, but it’s also the main reason the Bates decided to share their lives with the world, oftentimes in some of the most intimate ways. The good, the bad, and quite possibly the controversial are on display for the world to judge. Nevertheless, Kelly Jo says it has all been by design.

“We knew there would be a lot of criticism when we began the show,” she said. “Parenting is rewarding, but at the same time it is very challenging. We know how much we have been helped by other people. So we felt like if we could somehow be an encouragement to other families and help them focus on their priorities and relationships with each other and their relationship with the Lord, then we felt like it would be worth doing the show in spite of what [often] comes along with doing a show.”

In a genre often filled with sensationalism and questionable reality, “Bringing Up Bates” provides a taste of clean family friendly reality TV fare. As Kelly Jo quips, it’s as close to the truth as you can get with a camera lens in your face.

“The film crew does a great job trying to act like family and not interfere with our family,” she said. “But, at the same time, it is hard to relax when a camera is staring at you.”

It’s not just that the Bates family is sharing the great adventures and events that it often happens upon—such as great camping excursions, hilarious driving lessons, or even super sweet moments between Kelly Jo and Gil or the newlyweds—but the family members graciously agreed to share some of their personal struggles, as well. It’s especially true for Paine, who made the selfless and difficult decision to divulge details of her miscarriage and subsequent issues with fertility. She decided to attach her name to an issue that many women face, but often believe they are alone in battling.

Bates Family Dinner
Bates Family Dinner

“I admit it was hard because it brings back memories,” Paine said. “It’s really hard to put into words everything that’s in my heart, but Chad and I prayed about it and we realized many people and couples face the same issues. Knowing that it might help somebody else really motivated me to open up and share my heart about what we were going through. The feedback has encouraged me, and hopefully I will be an encouragement to others, as well.”

Having the opportunity to show the power and love of God in any given situation is the motivating factor in the Bates’ story. Having the honor and ability to share it with the world is an added bonus.

While you must watch the show to see what’s in store for the family, one thing is fairly certain to Kelly Jo. “I think you can expect to see a lot more marriages and a lot more grandbabies,” she said. “That’s just a guess, but I think you can probably bank on it.”