Coming Clean on Television

By Law Momma Contributor

My neice and nephew watch television very rarely.  They play outside, read books, and do fun activities like coloring and planting vegetables and herbs.  When they watch television at all, it is usually in Spanish so they can work on learning Spanish at the same time.  They live on a lot with several fenced in acres, a swing set, a sand box, a vegetable garden and chickens,  and they prefer being outside to almost anything in the world.

My sister is a stay at home mom.

I work outside the home.

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When J was first born, I was hell bent on raising him the way my sister raises her kids.  I wanted him to have millions of options on what to do with his “free time” and I wanted none of them to be television.  I thought we would do arts and crafts and build towers with blocks.  I thought that our “free time” would be spent running and playing in the yard and climbing trees.  I thought that I could do everything my sister does in 1/3 of the time.  I thought that if I couldn’t do what she does, I was failing my son… failing myself… and failing at motherhood.

For a long time now, I’ve tried to hide how much television J watches.  I’ve tried to pretend that we spend lots and lots of time with the only noises being our combined laughter and the click, click, click of stacking together legos or blocks.  I’ve tried to pretend like I have reached some magic land of awesomeness where I can single parent without the need for Nick Jr. or Disney Jr. or PBS Kids.

But the truth is, I couldn’t do what I do without television.

There. I said it.

My son watches television.  We have a routine on Saturdays that allows us to be home in time to watch Wonder Pets at 10:30 followed by two episodes of The Backyardigans before lunch/naptime.  In the mornings, he watches Little Bear or Little Einsteins while I get ready for work and in the evenings, we snuggle together on the sofa and watch a Disney movie.  Our yard is not fenced in and I haven’t been outside to clean up the ridiculous amounts of dog poop since learning that having a herniated disc is a good excuse not to do that.  In short, when we go outside on the weekends, we mostly stay in the front yard or on the small semi-circle fenced in patio.  We still spend time building with blocks and coloring and racing cars, but we also spend a fair amount of time snuggled in front of the television, giggling at the antics of the Wild Kratts.

I have been embarrassed and worried about judgment and thinking that I’m a parenting failure for too long.  We watch a lot of kid-friendly television and movies.   And there is absolutely no way that I could be a single, working outside the home mom without it.  How would I shower? How would I cook/clean/breathe? The fact of the matter is this: I need television to maintain my sanity as a single, working mother.

And you know what? I’m learning to be okay with that. Because if this is the worst thing I do to my kid? Well, then I’m doing pretty darn great.


  • Melanie Thomas says:

    You go, momma! I am right there with you. As a working mom to a son (I think our sons are nearly the same age actually!), I totally agree! And you know what – we shouldn’t feel guilty. All we can do is be the best moms we can be. And you know what? Sometimes after a a long day, you just don’t have the energy to play all night, every night. Plus, I sooo enjoy that snuggle time we get sitting down to watch Toy Story (we have a MAJOR Buzz obsession at the moment :) GREAT article!

  • Lindsay says:

    Good for you. I’m learning that you’ve just got to do what works for you because you must maintain your sanity in order to be the best parent you can be. This gig is hard. I wish those books made that more clear.
    Twitter: Lilloveandluck

    • Law Momma says:

      So true. You just have to make do… and if it works, then stick with it! If it doesnt, then well… change it up. I try to do other things with J, too… but I’m tired of feeling guilty that he watches television!

  • It sounds like you’re making good use of the resources you have!
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  • We had a Dora-thon just last night. It was a Monday, I’d had Braxton-Hicks all day long, and I just couldn’t do it. Laura asked for Dora, and Dora’s what she got. We’ll be better today. No, really!
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  • Robyn says:

    Single working mom here too & amen! If it were not for TV, I would be one smelly lady with a hot mess of a house. No shame in our game… we do what we have to. Also, I think some of those shows really teach my son some things!

  • mrshiggison says:

    Aw hell, we’re a two-parent household and Maëlle learned to blow kisses from Iggle Piggle (creepy bugger) and it’s the cutest dang thing on the planet and I love it. 
    Television has it’s place, it is sometimes the only thing that distracts from a meltdown- mine AND there’s. 
    I’m not letting them watch WWE Raw, for cripessake.
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  • LauraC says:

    I hate that everything in parenting seems to be labeled “good” or “bad.” There are few absolutes in parenting, so I don’t understand why TV is bad. I truly believe that … for MY family… one of the lessons I want to impart is responsible TV watching. Sometimes that means we snuggle on the couch and watch tv. Sometimes that means we turn off the tv to be together. Watching TV together can be a positive, meaningful way to spend time with our kids.
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  • Aim says:

    FYI-art is a break for me (my kids are older so i don’t have to help) and the outside is our equivalent of TV–we just have the space and a fence to keep the kids contained ;)  I hate playing with toys inside with the kids!! You should never wanna be like me (or anyone else) because behind closed doors, who knows whats there ;)  I always think YOU are a great mom and I don’t do enough b/c look at how much you guys do and you have a full time job on top of it.  So there.  ;)

  • AlexMommy626 says:

    I’m totally with you, come the weekends I try to over plan things for us to do that don’t involve TV but  the truth of the matter is that you can only run and jump and build stuff for so long before you are pooped! My husband and I both wish we had our son’s energy but we don’t, so there is nothing wrong with some quality time watching Mickey Mouse Club House or **gasp** The Avengers. In the end all my son cares about is that his mommy and/or daddy are sitting right there next to him watching his favorite shows. 
    Twitter: Alexmommy626

  • Liz says:

    We keep a healthy supply of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake and the Neverland Pirates on the DVR.  I do feel guilty about it sometimes, but let’s face it, it’s nice to be able to cook dinner or go to the bathroom without a toddler hanging onto me.  And nothing beats toddler snuggles before nap time while watching Tangled.  
    Liz recently posted..A letter to myselfMy Profile

  • Candice says:

    Great post. Our yard is also unfenced, we live right near a highway, and have two dogs that go in the yard… so, yeah, I’m not playing outside unless we get in the car and drive to the playground. I try to do that as much as I can on weekends, but in the morning and night (before/after work), we play and watch TV. I love our morning snuggle time watching Little Bear and have been known to watch The Fresh Beat Band even when my son is already in bed. I think it’s important that you try to balance it.
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  • Tracy says:

    Let me say that even though I do have a partner in crime to help with the parenting on a daily basis, we too enlist the help of television. It’s become our normal routine when we get home that we watch that day’s DVRed Sesame Street. Sometimes I do dishes or get dinner going while Abby is watching, and sometimes I just sit down next to her and watch along. And you know what, I have to say that people who say that too much television is not good for toddlers should come to my house and listen to my newly 2 year old talk and count and name colors and make up songs and pretend to cook dinner.  And I’m not ashamed to say that Yo Gabba Gabba taught my kid what it means to take turns. It’s a balancing act, but sometimes momma, any kind of momma, needs a much needed break. Nothing wrong with that. and it makes the stress of trying to get so much stuff done a little bit less….you know.
    Twitter: wa_tracy

  • Mary Beth says:

    I think you used the most important word: “together.” We all do what we gotta do to get done what we gotta get done!
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  • Shannon says:

    You have a lot on your plate as a single working mom, and I commend you for your honesty. I am not a huge television fan, but I know how hard it is to shower or breathe sometime when you have a little one around and I love love love love LOVE snuggle time with my boy :) One thing I will say, though… I absolutely cannot handle that speech impediment of the chick on the Wonder Pets! Drives me bonkers!!
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  • Kim says:

    I work at home and I love this post! Thank you for making me feel a little less guilty. We really enjoy watching tv together and my little boy has learned so much. He seems to understand concepts better when he sees them on tv.
    Twitter: kimchau

  • KeAnne says:

    The first time I turned out the tv for a children’s program vs my normal Food Network or Law & Order, I felt horrible (how could Oswald or Little Bear be any worse than serial murders or Paula Deen? makes no sense in retrospect), but my husband was out of town, and I needed to keep my toddler occupied while I got ready for work. And you know what? I realized it wasn’t a big deal.

    He watches an episode of Super Why with his father every morning while I get ready, and when we get home, we usually let him watch some of his favorite Thomas movie before our bedtime routine. I’ll admit he watches a little bit more tv on the weekends, but it’s usually around meal times and when he needs to start settling down for nap time or bed time.

    I’ve also realized that the shows aren’t as crappy as I thought they’d be. He has learned a lot from Super Why and Thomas!
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  • JP4GA says:

    I grew up in a home without TV, but my kids watch TV probably more than they should. I try to limit what my kids watch, and have balance between electronic media and other activities. I don’t see TV as good or bad, I see it as just another activity to consume the time of kids. Sometimes, it is nice to set my daughter down in front of a show so that I can shower, cook or clean. I always just remember what works for other families may not work for mine. I guess the point is we do what we gotta do to make it. 
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    • Law Momma says:

      Yep. I try to balance the electronic stuff with “real” play. One hour of tv, then no tv and build with blocks or race cars or dance. 20 minutes of playing games on my iPhone, then no iPhone and reading stories. it’s a balancing game but neither is good or bad, you’re so right.

  • Katie says:

    my dear friend…we Tivo Eddie’s shows so we can put them on just to give him something to do so we can sit DOWN for a minute after work.

    When I am home with Eddie, there is a LOT of TV on. he’s not always watching it, but it’s almost always on.

    There. I said THAT.

    Screw the people who say letting your kid watch TV is bad. Eddie has learned LOTS from shows and we practice it later.

    As a teacher AND a mom? I am cool with that.
    Katie recently posted..being readyMy Profile
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    • Law Momma says:

      HERE TOO!!! When J leaves the room he says “I’m gonna go play with my toys… but don’t turn this off, Mommy.”

      I try to do no tv time, but sometimes it’s not as long as I’d like.

  • Erika says:

    My toddler also watches a lot of tv too. He watches an episode of fresh beat band while I get ready for work. Then another one while I make dinner. Then probably a mix of playing and nick jr. watching from 7-8 then bed time. On the weekend when he wakes up at 5:30 he comes to our bed and gets two episodes before we wake up.

    Jokingly I asked him last night, ” am I rotting your brain” you are right if this is the worst I can do then I’m ok with it.

  • Brandee says:

    Pretty much daily, I think “MY CHILD IS WATCHING TOO MUCH TV!” and I too feel like a failure. 

    And then? I realize that for a good 10+ hours a day during the week, she’s out learning and crafting and painting and dancing. She is making friends and doing her business, all while we work. So if the 2.5 hours of the night she’s home before bed include TV for a majority of the time, then whatever. When I get home, I’m tired and people’d out and pre-kid, I liked to lay my fat ass on the couch and decompress with the TV. So I sometimes think she feels the same. She has literally played ALL DAMN DAY, so maybe a little Nemo or Yo Gabs seems like a good idea for her. 

    On the weekends, if we’re home, the TV is generally on. Why? Because both her father and I were also raised with the TV, and it’s a habit. We’re pretty cool people, and I don’t feel like my mom didn’t love me because she let me watch Ducktales. Honestly I sometimes don’t get the big deal. 

    I think if you’re interacting with your child on a normal level and doing things out of the home and away from the TV on a pretty regular schedule, then watching TV isn’t a big deal. It isn’t for us anyway but then, we’re not those “we don’t even have a TV” types….no, we’re the “we have 4 TVs, each one BIGGER THAN THE NEXT” types :D
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  • Brandee says:

    I don’t know if you ever saw this either :D Solidarity sister!
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  • Kristin says:

    Try being a working full time mom at home. Yes, we watch tv. Either that, or I would get fired. I try really hard to not put it on in the morning, and some days we make it through. Some days, when my boss calls and the kids are going nuts, it goes on. That’s just how it is! We DVR everything they are allowed to watch, so that there is always choice, I don’t have to worry about what time it is and what comes on at that time. I do try to mix the shows up, not too much of one kind in a row, and really try to only do one show at a time. Most days that works, some it doesn’t.

    We all do the best we can, its ok!

  • Sandy says:

    Oh TV… It’s pretty much always on in the background at our house. We leave it on when we leave the house for the dogs, so why turn it off when we get home. haha
    I may not be a single parent, but my husband leaves early for work and goes bike riding as soon as I get home from work.
    That television gives me the 15 minutes I need to get ready for work!
    Wish I could have all that your sister does (sounds like my dream life), but I don’t, so I’m making do with what I have. It means TV in the morning and while I’m making him dinner.
    I’m thankful he’s finally willing to watch it for more than 5 minutes.
    We do what we have to for mental preservation.
    Thanks for sharing so we can all “own up” to it.. haha We are not bad parents.

  • Taryn says:

    If he likes those shows… try Dinosaur Train on PBS. It’s such a great show and relatively educational. My 3.5 year old know the Cretaceous and Triassic and Jurassic and all the names of all the dinos… Morris Stegasaurus, anyone? :-)

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