My Relationship With Screen Time Sucks

I am sitting on the floor of my bedroom and my kids are two feet above me on my bed.  They’re watching the iPad.  That dude from that show about modern-day Superman (Tom someone? Smallville?) is defining the word “experiment.”  They are riveted, even though they’ve seen that snippet a dozen times.

ipad4_2

Down here on the floor, I am feeling enormous shame.  It’s not “mommy guilt”– that sounds almost cute compared to what I am feeling.  I’m in a vortex of Mommy Failure or “Who the hell let you have kids”?  I loathe seeing my kids zoned out with the iPad.  In our new house, I insisted the TV go into the basement where we never hang out because I do not want to “use” it.  I’ve got that pesky addictive personality– if I can use something, I will, and now that I’m a parent, I can’t stand the shame that follows.

We’re all exhausted.  Jeff’s out of town; Sadie has been super sick, and I’ve been sorta sick.  We’re marinating in some murky mix of malaise, cabin fever, illness, and weird bursts of energy that hit each of us at different times.  It’s not hellish, but I need a break.  I’ve been parenting since 6:30 AM without any adult supervision, and Sweet Willie Nelson On Tour, I need a 40 minute break.  You know, less than an hour, but more than 30 minutes.

No, it’s not going to kill them to have screen time, and I don’t judge other people who use TV/screen time more liberally.  Who the hell has time to judge you? I am too busy judging YOURS TRULY.  If anything I am jealous that other people have a healthy relationship to technology; I just use it as a weapon to beat myself up with.

Why can’t I just be fucking normal? Why can’t I just give myself a little break today so I can write for a few minutes and clear my head?  Sadie and I have been stuck to each other since before the sun came up.  We’ve picked out pumpkins and eaten two meals and three snacks together.  We picked Simon up from school and commenced to do a pumpkin-based art project consisting mainly of painting our pumpkins with watercolors. (NOTE: Pumpkins and watercolors don’t mix.)  We had a quiet time and worked an alphabet puzzle.  I knew I was about to lose my marbles so I bundled everyone up for a walk.  We got 10 paces before Sadie was crying it was too cold.

I surrendered.  I came home.  I whipped out the iPad and despite all the energy I brought to my relationships with my kids today, I guarantee you I will get into bed tonight beating myself up for that forty minutes.  Jeff never uses the iPad.  Why can’t I be more creative? Why am I so lazy?  What if I start using the iPad more and more and then stop parenting altogether? And there will be another voice.  She’s just as annoying.  Why are you so uptight? It wasn’t porn, it was Sesame Street. Stop aiming for some Pinterest/nonexistent perfection and work on balance, you super freak.

You know what the worst part of all of this is? It’s not the damn iPad or feeling sick or not getting to go on a walk today.  Nope.  It’s the fact that I’ve made 40 minutes of iPad time a capital crime and have now spent my free time writing about how awful I am for giving it to myself.  It’s the out-of-whackness in my head about what that means about me or my kids’ childhoods or my work ethic.

It’s messed up.  It’s really messed up.

I’d love to end with a fun pun or joke about this but I can’t think of one.   That’s how messed up this is.

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32 thoughts on “My Relationship With Screen Time Sucks

  1. Wow. What a powerful post. You really took this one far — not stopping at “wahhh, I’ve got mommy guilt” and instead revealing the soundtrack we all have in our heads (in one form or another) that threatens to sabotage what we really want in life. This was so powerful and I dare to say you are on to something truly great — that’s when the sabotage soundtrack gets the loudest.

  2. You’re a great mom. This too shall pass. And revisit. And pass again. And you’ve nailed the issue. It’s not about the screen time. I have to be “painfully aware” of stuff for quite a while before I get myself to a point of relief. Kid home sick–that’s a free pass for whatever gets you through the day. xoxo

  3. I had a nonparent say something to me a few weeks ago that made so much sense and has helped me with these same struggles. I hope it works for you, too. I was trying to force my teenage daughters to do a cabin/hiking/hot springs weekend with me, you know, FAMILY TIME. They didn’t want to go. The nonparent said, “I know you need your away time, your down time. You need to go to a cabin. But they need some down time, too, and their idea of down time doesn’t match yours. Go. Go! Go to the cabin. Let them stay home. Let them chill here. That’s all they’re asking for.” He was so right. I had never really looked at it that way. We moms need time away, but we don’t always realize that our kids need time away from us, too. So carry on, don’t be so hard on yourself. Taking a break from each other is good for everyone in the long run.

  4. aww punkin, you’re tired. and sick. and it’s getting cold outside, so –if I project my feelings onto you, and of course isn’t that what the internet is FOR, anyway to make sure that everyone else is like me? — anyway – come cold weather I used to imagine the bars clanging down into place sealing us all inside and WAY too close to each other for the foreseeable future. Yeah. It was 40 minutes. You could’ve been mixing meth or whatevs, but hey. Digital literacy is what they call it when they want to get fancy, so in fact (paradigm shift coming, get ready): YOU WERE PREPARING YOUR KIDS FOR THE FUTURE. There. Don’t you feel better?

  5. Parenting is hard. HARD. You’re doing okay. Better than okay.
    My mom limited us to a half-hour of TV a day (basically, one show in the 80’s). She kept her sanity, we got TV but weren’t frying our brains.
    See? You’re just being a good parent.

  6. Incredible summary into the minds and hearts of many Moms:
    You know what the worst part of all of this is? It’s not the damn iPad or feeling sick or not getting to go on a walk today. Nope. It’s the fact that I’ve made 40 minutes of iPad time a capital crime and have now spent my free time writing about how awful I am for giving it to myself. It’s the out-of-whackness in my head about what that means about me or my kids’ childhoods or my work ethic.

  7. I honestly don’t see a problem with using some TV/YouTube/whatever as long as its educational and age-appropriate. Just so long as it’s not the only thing the child gets to do. I don’t ever have help at home so I have to use the TV at certain times. I need to cook or clean. Or even go to the bathroom. It’s not detrimental to the child at all. You didn’t do anything wrong. We all need a break now and then. You’re certainly not a bad parent for giving yourself a break, either.

  8. We need breaks. That’s it. Kids need a break to chill out, and so do we. Everything in moderation. I know about the research on screen time and kids’ development, but I still let my two year old watch TV every day. Not a lot, but he likes the stories, likes the music, and I am a better mom if I have a little down time.

    • Really? I was thinking with your PhD you’d be anti kid TV. THis makes me happy because I like authority figues and you are one for me.

      On Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 12:39 PM, Outlaw Mama

  9. I think about this All. The. Time. As you know, I have an interesting relationship to TV in that I watch practically every single show on TV, and what I don’t watch, David does. Now that we want to have a family, I wonder what we will do when the kids finally arrive. we obviously can’t carry on exactly the way we do, because that’s definitely not a healthy example, but on the other hand, making it taboo isn’t the best way to go either. I think it was so much easier when we were little and the only screen around was TV. Now you practically can’t even read a book without a screen, and the lines drawn are much murkier.

  10. sigh. I can relate to that inner dialogue all too well because it’s in my head too. And, when I read it, it DOES sound crazy. But, I live it every day, so I get it. I totally do. But, from an outsider looking in, it sounds like you spent a lot of time with your child too. You’re a good mom!

  11. I can’t afford an iPad.

    Otherwise, Cimmy and I struggle with the concept of how much screen time (even for us– not just the kids) is appropriate. Boy’s preschool teacher was hardcore about telling us to reduce, reduce, reduce screen time. It was largely because of his echolalia (an autism symptom)– he’d parrot snippets of all sorts of TV and Internet scripts. But even when we cut things back, we noticed he’d pull a memory out of his head from way back and go all Parrot Boy again. (Plus, somehow banal campy kid music was okay, according to the preschool, which sometimes drives me battier.)

    This argument will rage on ’til the end of time. Personally, I had more of a steady diet of AM/FM radio and collected music… I can recognize all sorts of music and artists that peers my age probably don’t. There will always be someone somewhere yelping about people’s consumption of media, especially when kids are involved.

  12. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t spend precious time beating myself up from two directions about something that’s precisely 1/1,000,000,000,000th as important as everything else in the world. I’m completely rational and have all the answers.

    Aaaaaand, scene. [bows]

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