Before I became a parent – like all people without children – I had very specific ideas on how I would raise my son. But when you become part of the “mom club” you quickly learn about the high standards to which you are supposed to aspire. The medicine-free orgasmic water birth, the two years minimum of breastfeeding, and the homemade organic baby puree are all parts of the super-mom package.
And then reality hits. The super-mom package is exhausting.
In fact just being a normal mom is exhausting!
The “no screen time before two-years-old” rule, as recommended by most pediatricians, is another one of these idealistic expectations I had for my son.
I thought that one would be easy. After all, my husband and I don’t watch a lot of TV. We don’t have cable and really only watch a few shows or movies at night when we have time. As a teacher, I see first-hand how too much screen time can affect children’s attention and in no way would I want that for my children.
I have held good and hardly ever let O. play with my phone. Just as the television was never lit in his presence, we rarely watch it, only at night and always when he would be asleep.
Until a few months ago. I don’t remember why, but my son watched his first cartoon around the age of 16 months. He was probably sick and cranky that day and I didn’t have the courage to occupy him otherwise. I was probably short of ideas and surely tired. I had given up, I recognize.
Now I often reconsider my own rules and forget about my unachievable, idealistic mom expectations. Mornings when I need to get ready for work and Hubby is on a business call right at 7am. Or the days when O is sick and wants to cuddle on the couch in front of his favorite cartoon. Sometimes during long car rides, or on the days when I am exhausted, cranky and nauseous because I am growing O’s little baby sister, are all times I have second thoughts about no TV time.
In those moments TV becomes our savior!
Why do I have this horrible and permanent feeling of doing something wrong? Is it the moral discourse that we hear everywhere about the misdeeds of the screens before 2 years old? Is it the pressure of the perfect education or the worship of the perfect child?
I think that there is probably worse. I know that in some families the TV stays on all day, with programs not even adapted to children. A lot of toddlers have their own iPads with unlimited access. We are very far from being in this case but I cannot help wondering where the real limit is.
As I try to find a balance, I try to control as much as possible the access O has to screens. First we don’t use cable TV, but instead specific cartoons we’ve downloaded or that we play from YouTube. It is always a program we choose and 99% of the time in French so it doesn’t feel like a complete waste of time.
We try to stick to a 45 min limit at home, and O spends the day with his nanny who doesn’t let him watch TV. I feel reassured that he spends most of his time doing so-called “normal” activities: drawing, painting, outdoor walks, playing with friends and construction games.
But sometimes your sanity is more important than a little bit of screen time, right? Does it make me a bad mom? I am not perfect and I do not always have enough patience. So sometimes, yes, I put my son in front of his favorite cartoon. Am I to blame for that? I mean, is half an hour of Chuggington really that bad?