I’ll start by sharing what our screen time guidelines are for Piper. My husband and I talked about these as she started getting interested in TV sometime between 18 months and 2 years old. For the first year she was only allowed to watch Sesame Street or Classical Baby (both on HBO). For the most part we put it on when we needed a break – and then as she grew to LOVE Sesame Street it became something we always let her watch in the morning on the weekends.
Around this time (18 months or so) we also downloaded a few games on our phone that we use when we are in a situation like waiting at a doctor’s office or on a long road trip and need something to occupy her. She also loves to look at photos on our phone – while I don’t think that’s a bad thing it is technically staring at a screen! We always use this as a last resort. We didn’t want her to grow up thinking every time we go out to eat or go to Target or the grocery store she’d automatically get a phone or iPad to play with. We wanted her to actually EXPERIENCE where we were going. So like I said, it’s always our last resort but if we are out to eat or doing something for ourselves we have no problem letting her play a game if it buys us a little more time. I was just at an event the other day during witching hour, by myself with both girls and I didn’t think twice about letting her look at pictures when she started getting cranky!
Right now we have the same weekend routine – she gets to watch a few shows on Saturday & Sunday and then during the week when she’s home with me on Tuesday & Thursday I usually let her watch a show when she wakes up from her nap because she’s so cranky. If there are work deadlines I need to meet, or if she’s having a meltdown and I’m alone and need to cook dinner – I put on a show. We still try to limit the types of shows she watches to PBS & Peppa The Pig but she really likes Sofia & Doc McStuffins too.
Because we’ve always had limits – screen time is still something special for Piper and something she gets really excited about. I used to feel SO GUILTY when we’d be at home in the afternoon or on a Saturday and she would be sitting in front of the TV but then I started to realize how fortunate I am to have a job that allows me to work from home WITH the girls. If I didn’t work during the day I’d have to go back to working a 9-5 – so there has to be some type of compromise and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Our income DEPENDS on my ability to be able to post content every single day! Through Piper’s different phases of development I’ve found different activities to occupy her enough to write a blog post or send off a few emails but at the end of the day sometimes TV is just easier. And since Austin works most weekends sometimes I just need a break too, the weekend really isn’t a ‘weekend’ for me most of the time. If I just want to veg out and look at Pinterest for an hour and have a mug of tea on a Sunday while my kids watch TV I shouldn’t feel bad. This is also MY work-from-home situation. If you don’t have a job other than being a mom (which IS a job too) or you work outside the home your scenario may be entirely different from ours!
When we ourselves are happiest we are better parents.
So maybe if you are happy when you have a clean kitchen and work out of the home all day, letting your kid zone out allows you to clean that kitchen. Maybe 20 minutes of screen time allows you to read a magazine or book that brings you joy. Or heck just have a glass of wine on the couch next to your child. I feel HAPPY when I go to bed with a clean house and kitchen, so if putting the TV on around dinner time lets me get everything cleaned, organized for the next day, really I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. The motto everything in moderation really rings true for me with screen time. Once I started actually believing this myself and not getting caught up in what I thought was right or worrying about what other people may think I felt much more confident in our screen time decisions. Sure there are definitely times when I still feel guilty about letting Piper zone out in front of the tv (pictured above) but for the most part I don’t have those feelings anymore. I know Piper is stimulated, socialized and active in school 3 days a week. I know that I take her on outings and experiences and do projects and cooking at home, too. And based on reports from school and the doctor, I know she’s doing just fine developmentally, too!