Mum Burn-Out - Why It's Okay to Use the TV Babysitterby Sarah Hurst
Before we start, let’s just confirm a few obvious but crucial variables: ‘Mum’ can be substituted for Dad or any other caregiver. TV can also be IPad, Tablet, phone or any other screen…all of them are OKAY…
I know a few people may be surprised to read a post like this from me…as an EYFS Teacher, I post online regularly about our playroom setups, the merits of independent, child-led play…screen-free activities to keep children occupied and lots of play ideas and examples of things we have done together. A lot of people think I have my shit together, that I spin all of the plates and create an education filled, playful and harmonious atmosphere at home at all times. Guess what? I don’t.
I KNOW about talking to children on a level, keeping calm during their tantrums and working through issues, yet I still lose my cool and shout when I’m at the end of my tether.
I know that a tidy, clutter-free home and play area create calm, more purpose to play and keeps everyone from feeling completely frantic – yet my house is still a total mess.
I know that screens create passive learning scenarios, that they use different parts of the brain and too much screen time in not healthy for developing minds – yet my children still get to use the iPad, the TV or the kindle on a daily basis.
Why? Because parenting is HARD. It's hard when it’s the only thing you have to do. It’s even harder when you’re also trying to balance working from home, self-care or any other number of daily jobs that are required to be fulfilled around the home on a daily basis.
Also why? Because sometimes children just need that time to switch off their brains for a little bit and relax their bodies too. When my children were at school, if they came home and asked to watch TV for a little bit I’d let them…they’ve had a busy day learning, using their brains, being active and controlling their behaviour and emotions. Let them wind down a little. Now that we are home-schooling the rules are the same.
Maybe you have an article to write, or a conference call to attend do…or you need to ‘make’ something that requires you to see it through from start to finish without interruption. Children interrupt – all.the.time. They interrupt you on the loo, in the shower, drinking a cup of tea, making a phone call. No matter what you have to do, your child will always feel that their need is more important than anything else in the world (totally normal by the way!) If you have more than one child they will switch from adoration to utter hatred of each other within seconds, frequently. You’ll have broken up multiple fights by the end of one single day, for sure. This occurs much less frequently if they are occupied by a film on the TV, I promise you.
Parental ‘burn out’ is a much bigger problem than excessive screen time. Self-care as a parent is really important. If you aren’t putting time aside to fulfil your own needs, manage your stress levels and get enough sleep then not only are you not able to give your children the best of ‘you’, but you are also setting yourself up for chronic, long term health issues further down the line. Your immune system will suffer which makes you a target for illness and ailments which will reduce your time and your parenting abilities further. We can’t ‘do it all’ and be everything to everyone all of the time. Perhaps back in the day when children were raised by a village and parents had a wealth of support around them – but the reality is that modern-day parenting doesn’t come with much support at all. If you need to carve out some time to stop being on duty with the children and focus on something else for a little bit of your day, then 100% - its okay to use the TV babysitter.