Parenting

The Big, Black Elephant in my living Room

Officially, I have been a Stay At Home Mum for a little under a year. Unfortunately, I missed all the induction days for this role, am still patiently waiting for my contract and most importantly, was never given the phone number required for calling in sick.

Despite this rather lax professionalism from my new employer – whoever this may be – I do love my position. I wasn’t forced into this role out of desperation or a lack of alternatives. I actively sought it out. But there are definitely those moments when, if I knew who to send it to, I would happily hand in my resignation.

At the low points when I am frantically Googling who I actually work for, I am reliant on the TV to do my job for me. I always know where my Mummy Mood is based on how much time the big black thing in the corner of the room isn’t quite so black.

Do you set limits on screen time? Officially I don’t. I keep flirting with the idea of a screen free month but have a feeling if it went any further than this I would wake up feeling dirty and used and desperately wanting to eradicate the encounter from my memory.

I have read all the research, well I have read a couple of very scary headlines at least and in today’s world that definitely counts as being informed. But to be honest I don’t really care what the experts say – don’t panic, I am not channelling Michael Gove, under normal circumstances I very much care about experts. But in this case, it is personal hatred of what our television represents that motivates me. When I am enjoying parenting, enjoying my kids and enjoying life, the TV hardly features. It might fill in a gap before dinner or as background to a snuggle session on the sofa as we warm up from a winter’s walk, but it isn’t something I pay much attention to.

It certainly is no devil, but I still resent it because it symbolises those times when my energy and enthusiasm has deserted me. The backup plan when my imagination is in hiding. And although it has taught The Dude a lot of very valuable things, from centripetal force to how a toilet works and without it I would have lost my mind, I cannot come to terms with its immense, lurking existence in the corner of the room.

So I am making the effort and have started small, we no longer have it on in the background and we spend most of our time in other rooms of the house so we don’t even have to acknowledge its presence. But I still feel uneasy. I am never good with moderation and I know that soon it will be on again and I will be back to Google searching for a way out.

Obviously, I am concerned with issues of speech delay, nature deficit, hyperactivity, aggression… and I know the more it is on, the more I feel like a failure as a Mum, but these aren’t my only concerns. I also find myself getting sucked in to it too. You know things are really bad when you let them watch the next episode of Ben and Holly because you need to find out what happens to them on the Planet Bong. Or when you are rushing them home from the park because you don’t want to miss the start of Andy’s latest adventure. Or when the big one is at preschool and the baby one is asleep but you are finding Flop’s soothing parenting advice a little bit too comforting to turn it over or, even better, off.

We obviously do need limits in our house, but clearly not for the benefit of the small people. At the moment, they seem pretty good at regulating themselves. I am the one that needs the rules. Perhaps it isn’t my fault though. Perhaps I can blame my lack of willpower on my own childhood sat in front of a square box?

I think the American writer, Paddy Chayefsky, got it spot on when he said:

“It’s the menace that everyone loves to hate but can’t seem to live without.”

But our TV shouldn’t get too comfy just yet, as you never know, maybe one day I will be brave and throw it out!

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books.” 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

 

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