Monday, February 4, 2008

What's On TV? Guilt, mostly

There are days when I struggle with the work-life juggle, and the fact that my kids watch TV. Sometimes, more TV than I'd like. To wit:

One of the things I always tell other parents — especially other working moms who are struggling with their juggling of career and motherhood — is that they shouldn’t feel guilty for letting their little kids watch TV if they need to get their work done.

It’s something I really believe is OK. It’s something I do more often than I’d like. And it’s something that makes me feel like a total hypocrite because, half a lifetime ago, when I was a nanny, I never turned the TV on when the kids were around. Ever.

I was the uber-nanny, the one who took care of three or more kids at a time and kept them entertained without the Disney Channel for hours on end. Never mind that the Disney Channel didn’t exist back then. Even PBS was off limits. It was a matter of pride, sometimes, but more often than not it was because the parents I worked for didn’t want their kids staring at the TV. Sometimes, it was extremely hard — a winter trip to Florida comes to mind — but they were the parents, so their word was law.

Now, I’m the parent. And, while I still use some of the TV-free tricks I learned way back then, I’m just as apt to pop in a DVD of “The Backyardigans” and only turn it off when I realize, all of a sudden, that the kids have just watched four episodes in a row.

Adding to the guilt: The American Association of Pediatrics says that kids under the age of 2 watch too much television. Granted, mine aren’t getting four hours of tube time at a pop, but still. I know, I know — there are plenty of alternatives to watching TV (and some of them are here). Problem is, few of them — if any — are doable if you’re also trying to work on deadline.

So, what’s a working mom to do?

Find balance. Relax. Accept that real life isn’t always ideal. Get the work done.

When the TV is on, my kids are usually doing something else at the same time — playing with puzzles, drawing, flipping through books, terrorizing the dog, pretending to cook, “helping” me type. There’s a big difference between “Teletubbies” and “Cops.” They love listening to “The Playground” on WERS-FM but, unfortunately, that great children’s radio program isn’t on every day.

I remind myself that there are going to be times when I’ve got a huge project that has to be done because the bills have got to be paid. And, when those times come, my kids aren’t going to sustain any lasting damage from watching a bunch of “Dora the Explorer” episodes back-to-back(-to-back-to-back). I might — there are only so many times an adult can listen to “Backpack, Backpack … yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, delicioso!” without going insane. But my kids will be fine.

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