I think you've fairly assessed both of the families, with one exception. I don't see that Paul was inflexible and unable to to treat a woman as an equal. It is pretty obvious to me that Melissa feels like she has equal footing as far as input into decision-making, but she allows him to have the final say about issues. It works that way in my home and it is a very good system as long as the husband is considerate and not domineering. Melissa's Household Rules manual stated that he listens to her and gives her opinion equal value. The biggest thing that stuck out for me was the Cindy's rules were all to spite the father. She seemed bent on making sure things happened that would upset him. It didn't seem that she was interested in imparting values to the kids, but maybe getting them to like her just to spite Paul. She keeps saying that he's a control freak, but it seems to me that this control problem is, at BEST, a two-way street (although I have my doubts about just how much of a control freak Paul really is- he reminds me very much of my own husband except my husband wouldn't have tolerated being spoken to the way Cindy spoke to him - he would have left the room rather than be abused verbally - and I know this from experience ;) ). She didn't seem capable of being flexible enough to handle the different lifestyle of the family she swapped with. And even if, on some level, she WAS flexible, she wasn't willing to be with this family.
I am a strict homeschooling mother who happens to live in the same community as the Reimers. I didn't realize this until I saw the Robert Is Here Fruit Stand where they had fruit smoothies (the site of the 'potato chip incident') which is a place just down the street from me. There is a great deal of misconception about the socialization of homeschooled children. My kids get weekly exposure to other children of all ages during park day and during enrichment (arts and gymnastics they have on fridays). The rest of the day their primary socialization has to do with me and their father having direct influence over what they are exposed to and how to behave, and their afternoon playtime with our neighbor kids. There is a great amount of information available about the positive aspect of socializing children who are homeschooled. Think about it: who would you rather have the most influence over your children? You or their peers? If they spend 8-10 hours a day being influenced by people with values that differ from your own (whatever they may be), how much time are you going to have with them to teach them about the things you want them to understand and value? There are a lot of things that the Reimers family has available to them to get their kids around other kids as many days of the week as they wish. I know because I'm in the same city as the Reimers family.
Yes, there are plenty of kids that go to school and are well-behaved and well-adjusted children. But there are plenty of kids who go to school who are niether of those things. Since I began homeschooling my kids I've seen a big change in their attitude about learning and in their maturity. I want my kids to have fun EVERY DAY, but I also want to be their primary influence at their young age.
There is nothing wrong with discipline and holding your kids accountable for their behavior. Does anyone honestly believe the Bittner children are well-behaved and respectful children? Are they doing their part as a part of that family? Or is their mother working every day to take care of ungrateful and rebellious children?
I do think that there is something about this show throwing people into such polar opposite situations that is designed to create very dramatic tv. It is upsetting to see people who are hateful and angry with each other. I honestly thought that Mr. Reimers was very self-controlled in the face of an openly hostile, immature woman. She never once allowed him to explain himself and he didn't yell at her and get all over-heated so she just shut him down. Mrs. Rimer and Mr. Bittner clashed, but at least they tried to hear each other out. Mrs. Bittner was an angry, hostile, unpleasent woman. I am surprised she was allowed to go on this show. She was unable to cope with it because of her absolute lack of flexibility. She wanted to hurt other people. She had no intention of being open to anything other than her own way.
It bothered me to see such unkind words on here towards the lifestyle of the Reimers family. But I can agree with the parting words between the two wives: we can agree to disagree.