As a mom who has worked from home since my son was a toddler, I often get asked how I manage it all. When I was first starting out, I would say that it was all about creating a routine, or learning how to work anywhere. And while that is true, there was something I was leaving out. Something that was big factor, but one that I felt ashamed to admit. One of the reasons I was able to get work done was because of screen time. Many working moms employ screen time to get things done, but we're made to feel bad for it.
There were days where the only way I was able to get anything done was to give my son my phone or his tablet. It enabled him to learn to entertain himself while I sat to get work done. Moms who work, especially those of us working from home, sometimes need a block of uninterrupted time to get things done. It's hard for me to complete an assignment when my son is trying to climb me like a jungle gym or asking me to play tic-tac-toe with him again.
Being able to hand him a phone to watch YouTube or give him a tablet where he can play games is the most valuable tool I have. Because he has so many options there to keep himself occupied, I can focus on my work and not worry about keeping him entertained.
Of course, I understand why doctors warn against too much screen time, especially for young kids. But the rules, and those who stick to them fastidiously, tend to make moms who rely on screen time feel shame. We all have different circumstances, and there should be room for that. Those of us who use screen time as a means to get things done aren't bad mothers, we're simply working with what we have. Working moms have a million balls in the air at any given time. And as a result, we're stretching ourselves thin. Giving our kids a solid block of screen time, or not closely monitoring usage hours is a way to not stress over yet another thing.
And that's why the stigma surrounding screen time usage is so shaming. Because it's placing yet another burden on those of us who are already carrying too much. We already put enough pressure on ourselves, and then seeing and hearing that we're doing something wrong only makes us more stressed and anxious.
Honestly, the recommendation of only 20 minutes of screen time is really limiting. I couldn't get anything done if I only allowed my son 20 minutes of screen time. While it may seems like a good amount of time, 20 minutes isn't really much time to do anything, let alone get work done. I can start something in that time, but rarely would I be able to finish. And if I want to have any quality time with my son at all, I need to finish my work. It's hard being a present parent when you've got deadlines and to-dos for work hanging over your head. So if allowing him an hour of screen time means I can give him that same amount of my undivided attention, I think that's fair.
Plus, when you look at the kind of content out there for kids, giving them extended screen time isn't always a bad thing. My son tends to watch a lot of content with an educational slant, like Blippi or other videos like it. And if he's playing games, they're often games that focus on the alphabet, or recognizing emotions. Swiping and tracing is also helping him with his fine motor skills. When he's consuming educational content, I can come in and reinforce it. Frankly, sometimes I just don't have the time to give him the level of attention I would like. And I'm grateful that there is content out there that will help him. When I know he's learning and growing, I feel even less guilty about allowing him so much screen time.
So much of the stress of being a working mom, even though I have the privilege to work from home, is from guilt. I always feel guilty that I'm not doing enough for my kiddo and giving him enough of me. That's why when people talk about parents giving their kids too much screen time, I feel like it's a direct attack. Allowing my kid unlimited screen time so I can work doesn't make me a bad mom. It makes me a mom who has a lot going on and has to pick her battles. Unlimited screen time is a battle that I don't want to fight, especially because in the end it helps me so much.
Working moms who use unlimited screen time to get work done are well aware of what they're doing. We've read the studies, we've heard all about how too much screen time is bad. But guess what? There are a million other things that we have running through our minds at any given time. If letting my kid watch Ryan ToysReview while I finish work and make dinner makes me a bad mom, I'll learn to live with that. In the meanwhile, let's extend a little grace to each other.