"I have to laugh about this or else I'll cry," says the reality star
Credit: Roger Wong/INF

As scandalous headlines continue to surround Kate Gosselin, her husband Jon, and their eight kids, the fed-up reality star is wondering when people will stop attacking her.

“Before this, I’d never stood on line at the grocery store, looked at the people on the cover of magazines, and thought about what they’re going through,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’d never thought, ‘This is totally doing them in.’ But now, I understand what they live with: Everywhere you go you’re being stalked, you’re being followed – it’s hell, on the cover of a magazine.”

Kate admits she’s often been an easy target for those who want to make her out to seem like a monster. “In the first two and a half years that we were doing the show (Jon & Kate Plus Eight), I felt very ugly towards fans,” she says. “The gawking, that sort of response creeped me out. I was not willing or ready to accept what you get back when you put your life out there.”

But over time, Kate learned to embrace the attention. “At some point, I turned around and I realized, ‘Okay, people are pulling for us, the feel inspired by us, they love us. It clicked: without the fans there is no show, without the show, there is no job.”

A Breaking Point

Though the Gosselins have gotten used to interest in their lives, the scrutiny of Jon and Kate has become increasingly intense since reports of the couple’s alleged infidelities hit the newsstands. It s tough to escape when the job that keeps their family afloat is also keeping them in the tabloid glare – and even the tough-minded mama has her breaking point.

“It’s so scary,” she says of the lengths to which some go to cover her family. “It’s like one of those movies where you have to change your identity and go underground. I’ve been saying, ‘Let’s find a country where our show doesn’t air, and let’s just go there until this all dies.’ I have to laugh about this, or else I’ll cry. It’s a matter of, when will they stop?”

No matter what might be said about her, Kate says if anyone really wants to see her bare her fangs, they only have to go after her kids. “I don’t want them dragged into this. It kills me,” she says. “I’m far from perfect, but I’ve started to prioritize what is important, what has to change, what I can live with, and what I have to live with. My children are important. My attitude is important. My marriage is important, and though I don’t know where that’s going right now, I know I can definitely choose my attitude. And I know that I will never give up, I will not stop, I will not fail my kids. Everything else I can’t control, I’m just going to have to learn to live with it.”