I giggle quietly to myself when they say it… you know, the people who basically have no idea what parenting’s like…
The young, single, beautiful friends who tell me how busy they are. Or how they never get any time to themselves.
Or there was that time my gorgeous husband came home to tell me that his day at work was frustrating as he had not been left alone to get his to do list done. “Did you have someone on your lap while you did a wee?” I asked….. His confused look said it all.
Having an audience for everything, yep, EVERYTHING brings out a new kind of desperation for some peace in us mummas.
And it’s in these times of desperation that I have been known to willingly and enthusiastically hand over the iPad, iPhone, iWhatever just to give myself a little sanity break.
My family used to joke that our local shopping centre was my second home as just to get a little peace, I’d bundle my two under two into the pram, give them enough snacks to feed a small nation, my old iPhone and wander with whatever caffeine was easily attainable in my hand.
I honestly thought I was doing just fine, as we were really strict on what our kids watched and it was mainly puzzles and educational apps they were playing. But it wasn’t until I went to an information session about what too much screen time can do to children’s brains that it dawned on me. It wasn’t what my kids were watching, but the fact that they were in front of a screen for longer than the recommended time that was doing harm to them.
I actually remember sitting on the couch when I got home and telling my husband we needed to stop giving the kids the phones to watch. At the café, in the pram, at home, pretty much anytime they needed occupying. I was genuinely worried about how things might be.
So we did it.
I’m not gonna lie. I found giving my kids less screen time (this includes Netflix….. *collective gasp*) harder than going off caffeine when I was pregnant. Harder than giving up sugar when I had gestational diabetes! I found it left an even bigger whole in my life than when Packed to the Rafters ended! (Get the picture?!)
So if it was so hard, I wouldn’t be telling you about it unless life on the other side was even better than I realised it would be. I learned that my kids’ biggest tantrums were when I tried to wrestle the technology off them.
The times their behaviour was worst was when they’d watched four episodes in a row of Dora (that’s a whole new kind of torture but we’ll save that for another time!). The times they found it hardest to fall asleep was when they’d been watching a screen for a big chunk of the afternoon and their little brains were literally fried.
From the bright side, I can tell you with no word of a lie, last weekend, the TV did not go on. My kids can play happily outside. They even ask to go out there. My son will choose a book over TV. They can occupy themselves happily and creatively think of things to do rather than beg for TV to go on.
My friend used to tell me that her kids were way happier with less screen time, and I admit I used to think , “Yeah but my kids aren’t that bad”. But let me assure you, with far less screen time, my kids are happier, calmer, more creative and all round better off. That’s the good news from the bright side.