One look inside Jon Gosselin's home and it's clear he has kids. Lots of them. Two dozen pairs of sneakers and flip-flops line one side of his entryway, and his kitchen is papered with kiddie artwork-along with a "Good Behavior" chart for each of his eight children with ex-wife Kate. "They get marks for not fighting or helping clean up," he explains. Three years after his infamous stint as one of reality TV's bad boys, Gosselin, 35, is finally getting his own high marks for good behavior. "For the first time," he says, "I'm content with everything in my life."
With a new career, new girlfriend and a custody arrangement that gives him plenty of time with his eight children, the former reality star has plenty to be thankful for. The cozy ski-chalet-style house he's renting in Morgantown, Pa., is a far cry from the sprawling home on 24 acres he shared with his family in the later seasons of their hit TLC reality series Jon & Kate Plus 8
. But Gosselin says he's just fine with that. "It's nice to go to the Ritz and all that stuff," he says, "but I'm more Holiday Inn Express." His old friends agree. "The storm has ridden its course," says Dustin Sands, a pal since middle school, "and he's getting back on track."
Storm? More like a Category 5 hurricane. In 2007 the family started filming their series, chronicling the challenges of raising sextuplets Aaden, Alexis, Collin, Hannah, Joel and Leah (now 8) and twins Cara and Mady (now 11). But as the show's popularity grew, so did its time demands, and by August 2008, a frustrated Jon wanted out. But Kate, he says, wanted to continue, and they did-as tensions mounted and became more evident on-camera. When pictures surfaced in early 2009 of him partying with women at local hot spots, a full-blown tabloid scandal erupted. "I married at 22, and for 10 years I never went out," he says. "I reverted back to being 23. I didn't realize how famous I was."
He quickly learned. The paparazzi set up residence outside their Wernersville, Pa., home, and more than 10 million viewers tuned in to Jon & Kate
that June to watch the couple announce their split. Around that time, Gosselin moved to New York City, with a new girlfriend in tow. Not wanting his divorce filmed, he refused to appear on the show (TLC sued him for breach of contract; they settled in 2010) but continued to make tabloid headlines for his boorish behavior (see box). He now apologizes for putting Kate through that-"I didn't think because I was in the moment"-and accepts his responsibility in their divorce. "I was passive-aggressive," he says. "Then I'd get mad, but I was the one who wasn't communicating."
Gosselin spent the next three years in search of a new career, including a 2011 gig installing solar panels. He now thinks he's found it: He is director of sales and promotions for Gameface International and develops mobile applications for local businesses and celebs. He's also enjoying his new relationship with Liz Jannetta, 27, whom he met at a local restaurant. "We're serious with each other," he says, "but we're both single parents who are divorced, so we're taking it slow."
And for the first time in three years, he and Kate are on speaking terms. "Now Kate and I communicate great," he says. "It's parenting together, but in separate locations. She's a great mother." After unsuccessfully trying in 2009 to get his kids taken off their spin-off show Kate Plus 8
, which ended last September, Jon no longer opposes the brood returning to TV. "They miss it," he says. "Now it's different. They're older. I want the best for them."
And for himself, whatever the future holds. Gosselin, who has a book expected to come out this fall, won't rule out a return to show business. "I have to think about my kids," he says. "I want to make them proud."