“I’m saving up to be a stay at home mom because I want to be around to limit screen time and make sure my kids are eating only healthy food,” said the young single girl I was chatting with. I thought to myself, “Oh sweetie, let me tell you how I became friends with the TV.”
Don’t get me wrong I don’t think TV is evil, and I don’t judge moms who eliminate it or put limits on it. What happens in your household is your business. As a first time mom I really had this fantasy that my children would be capable of entertaining themselves at some point, and before that we’d have beautiful days filled with learning opportunities. We would follow a routine with structure and make arts and crafts, take nature walks and have sensory activities. What I did not picture in this fantasy was the complete physical, emotional and mental exhaustion I’d feel nearly every single day. I did not factor in my children would have their own minds and express their desires so deeply and passionately (by passionate I mean full blown tantrum). Never had I ever imagined a typical day would include being taken down by a toddler tag team. One distracts me with a poopy diaper while the other climbs to the top of my head, and in a choke hold pulls me to the ground. Then it all turns Wild Kingdom. Two raving chimps begin ceaselessly jumping on me (one without pants because she was just getting a change) and they screech with laughter. Oh, also I did not account for having twins. Whoops!
As soon as my kids could walk and run in opposite directions it has been a struggle to find peace and to finish tasks. By the time the terrible two’s settled in I gave up trying to keep the TV off. My kids were up by 6:30 and finally asleep by 9:00-ish. Did I mention they gave up naps? Those two and a half glorious hours I had to myself each day. The only hours where I could finish the dishes, laundry, eat my own lunch and enjoy a solo phone conversation. Gone.
It was around this time I had my first anxiety attack ever and landed in the ER. It took a brilliant neurologist to tell me there’s nothing wrong with you. “You just need a Xanax and a good therapist.” At first I thought she MUST be getting a kick back from big Pharma! What she continued to say was, “you are trying to do too much all alone. Gone is the day we raised our kids in a village. If you want to be healthy learn to manage your stress better.” So began my journey of learning to let things go.
The first thing I let go of? Mom guilt. Then I grabbed the remote. My girls watch very limited programing in small doses. We started with Blue’s Clues then branched out to Dora the Explorer and it was just downhill from there. If I want to finish cleaning up from lunch and start dinner they watch TV. If I need to just take a mental health day (yes even SAHM’s need those!) I turn to Disney Jr. Some days I can feel my brain shaking trying to make room for any singular thought amongst the loud screeching and whining of my children. That’s when I turn on Little Einsteins.
My reality is I am outnumbered. I have limited day care options. There are two human beings suction cupped to my body 90% of the day. It’s stressful. It’s difficult to get through when I don’t have time to decompress from that stress. How do most adults decompress at the end of the day? In front of the TV with their spouse! So, how do my girls and I decompress during the day? Sheriff Cali.
Let’s just take a collective sigh here. Give ourselves a break from the mommy guilt and understand that even Harvard graduates probably watched hours upon hours of TV before their 1st birthday. So, my dear young, single friend, when you’re ready to take a break I’ll be happy to bring you a hot fresh coffee and the TV Guide. Then I’ll share with you the magic of bribing your kids with Goldfish crackers and juice boxes.