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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at writeeditrepeat.blogspot.com.

What’s On TV? Guilt, That’s What

Categories: Parenting, The Juggle, Working? Living?

7 comments

istock_000002991437xsmall.jpgOne 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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7 comments so far...

  • Thank you, Lylah!! I’m in total agreement here (as my sick kid watches Curious George) and I return emails.

    Lee  |  January 28th, 2008 at 7:10 am

  • I had this same guilt when I started letting my kids watch TV. As a matter of fact, I would say the same thing: when I was a nanny I NEVER turned on the TV. Well, hello, I was getting paid to play and entertain and it wasn’t (always) for 14 hours in a row! So the TV come on and I’m ok with it because now I have to work in another capacity.

    Two funny and relevant things:
    1) I used to work at ERS and often recorded musicians for The Playground. I was a live-in nanny then.
    2) Our family was at the house of the family I nannied for just yesterday and at lunch time their mom asked if she should turn on the TV to keep the kids entertained. My jaw dropped and we had a good laugh over that one. In my mind they still didn’t let the kids watch TV. That was 10+ years ago. Even she has to do it sometimes, too. Phew.

    Mandy  |  January 28th, 2008 at 7:31 am

  • Lee: I hope your kid feels better soon!

    Mandy: Good point about getting paid to keep the TV off (as a nanny)… I was just back in touch with one of the children I used to take care of so long ago. She’s 25 now, and one of the first things she asked me was if I remembered the coloring books I used to make for her to keep her entertained (yup, still make them for my own kids).

    And how cool that you used to work at ERS. We love “The Playground” — our oldest, who is 14, will still listen to it with the little kids!

    Lylah  |  January 28th, 2008 at 11:28 am

  • Thanks for this post, Lylah. We’re pretty good about limiting TV time to a reasonable amount. But my kids have been sick so the TV has been on non-stop for the past 48 hours. I’ve tried to entertain them in other ways, but their little fever-wracked brains just can’t absorb anything but the mindless chatter of TV.

    Amy S.  |  January 28th, 2008 at 7:07 pm

  • Amen. I owe my sanity to that squawkbox.

    Mir  |  January 31st, 2008 at 2:00 pm

  • Thank you for this!! I have been really using the TV as a crutch lately now that I’m at home full time. My son is a terrible napper and so I need him to have a little down time through the television. Now if my nanny did that, she’d be fired. Unless she reorganized my entire kitchen in the process :)

    selfmademom  |  January 31st, 2008 at 3:23 pm

  • When I was in the last trimester with my son, my oldest child had just turned three. Someone gave her “Cinderella” for Christmas. She was no longer napping, but *I* sure needed a nap! So, every afternoon we would put that stupid thing in the VCR (this in the days before DVDs), and I would lie on the couch, knowing that I would get 75 blessed minutes of sleep/rest. Every day, from December 26 - April 13 (when her brother was born, and then my memory gets very hazy for the next few months…)

    She’s 22 now, and it doesn’t seem to have warped her any…

    MaryP  |  February 3rd, 2008 at 8:57 pm

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