Picture the scene. You’ve been up several times feeding the baby that night. She enjoys her final feed (phew) at around 4:30. You drift back off to sleep, hoping to get a few extra Zzzzz, while also being mildly relieved that the night is almost over. Nights are tiring and fear-inducing with a new baby.
But in what seems like a blink of an eye, your toddler is stirring. You groan, check the time. It’s 5:30. The night shift with the baby might be done, but the day shift with the toddler is only just starting.
He wakes in a foul mood. Your husband gives you his deepest sympathies as he dashes out the door for his twelve hour shift at 6:00am (he’s dashing with glee, you’re sure of it!)
Twelve hours. Twelve sodding hours to fill with a toddler and a new baby. You caffeinate up and prepare a moderately healthy breakfast to help you power through. You feed the baby and your tot. You put the baby down to nap and then get yourself and your tot showered (not as easy as it sounds!) You progress past a mild nervous breakdown as you try to get the three of you dressed without the toddler ransacking the bedroom. You head downstairs and start a painting activity. It’s completed in 20 minutes…inclusive of complete and utter carnage. You then somehow clean up while holding a fussy baby in the other arm…
It’s 9:00am. You feel like you’ve already done a full shift and ITS ONLY 9:00 SODDING AM! There are nine – NINE – hours left until your husband gets home to give you a hand. What the ACTUAL hell are you going to do with them for the rest of the day?!
You pop on the TV so the toddler – just for 30 minutes – stops bouncing. So you can have a break. So you can muster some energy. So you can find the will to go on through the remainder of the day (a day which you can almost guarantee does not include a nap for your toddler…or for you).
It goes on. Day in and day out.
This. This is my life right now, in varying degrees. Sometimes we go out. Sometimes we can’t…or I daren’t. Some days pass easily. Others are absolutely abysmal and I’m on the verge of packing my bags, running off to Hawaii and escaping the tree-lined trenches of suburbia!
I do my best to entertain and “educationally stimulate”, but I’m only human. Sometimes I need screen time to fill the space, to entertain my toddler, to give me a few minutes of peace and friggin quiet before I blow!!!
So yes, regarding screen-time judgement. There’s a lot of it. In fact I saw someone post a link to a Facebook Mum Group the other day. It was about the negative impact of screen time – TVs iPads, iPhones. In short, it drew the conclusion that any parent who allows their child to watch a screen is detrimentally impacting the development of that poor child’s brain. They’re basically the devil. Yup.
Of course, there were a ton of comments from parents talking about how they never let or strictly limit their kids’ TV time. Comments about how they would absolutely never dream of handing an iPhone to their child in a restaurant. And also a few that don’t even own an iPad so they’re able to provide the most unplugged childhood possible for their children.
It’s fine. I totally get it. A ton of screen time isn’t good when compared to stimulating, structured activities such as crafting, imaginative play, reading, etc.
And my god, if you’re able to provide all of this to your child through the hours of the day that they’re awake (…or refusing to sleep in my spirited son’s case) then seriously, hats off to you.
But in the case of mere mortals such as myself…sometimes, just sometimes, screen time is needed for everyone’s sanity.
When you’ve been up since 5:30am and have already painted, been to the park, read stories and fed them by 10:00am…whack on the TV. When your tiny terrorist just WON’T SIT STILL and is ransacking the café you and your hubbie are trying to enjoy a coffee in during a rare outing together…pull out the iPhone. When its Friday night, your tot isn’t in bed, you want to watch something other than Daniel Tiger, but they’re whining on and on and on…hand them the iPad. And then go pour yourself a BIG glass of something cold and relaxing. Because you damn-well deserve a break from it all.
Even robots have off-switches, and we should not have to be “on” all the time!
We’re home in the UK for the summer now. We can get outside more and it’s brilliant. But my son gets overstimulated during outings very easily (nothing like a good shout in M&S and a plank on the floor in John Lewis, right?) In this weekend’s case, my Mum kindly relieved me of my toddler duties for the majority of the day, and took Zachy to a carnival. Mesmerizing for a two-year-old, right? He had a fab time, but returned tearful and tired and way beyond the assistance of a little car nap.
I played with him in my parents’ garden, but he was like a melting ice-cream of tears and tantrums, literally collapsing on the floor over nothing. On the way home I said to my Mum that he just needs to sit in his quiet zone for a bit to recharge. I popped Hopster on my iPad, and he settled down and calmed himself before dinner and bedtime. It’s ability to tranquilize his inner demon is just like magic.
And I know there are arguments out there that warn of further stimulation through screen-time. That “you’ll pay for it down the line”. But meh, all I saw was a little boy who’d had a wonderful day out with his Nana, but needed some mellow time to wind himself down before bedtime. Don’t we all?
My point is…know yourself, know your limits, know your child’s limits. It’s a busy, emotionally and physically draining time being a parent…and the same goes for being a toddler. Sometimes, just sometimes, screen-time is needed to restore some order.
P.s. Hopster, You Say?
Yes! Hopster is a brilliant entertaining and educational app available on Apple App Store and Google Play. Built for preschoolers, its jam packed full of brilliant, high-quality shows (the theme tunes of which will get completely stuck in your head…Rory The Racing Car!) Admittedly we do use it more for its entertainment value, with other favourite shows including Tractor Tom, Max and Ruby, Pingu (who is a naughty little sod I now realise!), Storybots, Paddington, and literally dozens more. There is, however, a great educational element to it too, with learning games, a creative art studio, a “Mini Maestros” section, music, books (including our favourite, Mog The Cat), and lots more! You can also download episodes to watch offline if you’re travelling – AMAZING!
My monkey burning some of that endless energy at the park.