Tuesday, October 4, 2016

So They Had 8 Hours of Screen Time...

by Andilyn Jenkins

Aaron texted me from work and asked, "How are bills coming?" My response was this picture. It was a rough day. I knew it would be. I knew my kids would be in front of the TV or sitting in my lap for most of it because I was behind in reviewing our finances, and in my mind, it had to get done. So I pushed in movie after movie and yelled at my kids when they started directing their attention-seeking misbehavior on each other, getting in fights and trying to discipline each other.  I knew the whole day long that their bad behavior was my fault. I knew they were acting out because they felt neglected. But I didn’t care. I needed them to be quiet and obedient and stay alive. And those were my objectives regarding motherhood that day.

And ya know? I beat myself up about it. I was frustrated. I wasn’t accomplishing anything. Tasks that take me an hour in a quiet, uninterrupted room were taking me four. The day came to a close and I had barely skimmed through the mail pile, let alone reworked my excel spreadsheets. I was deflated. I counted the hours of television my kids had watched and the number of times they walked away from me slunch-shouldered because I said I couldn’t read that book or play that game. And I wanted to cry. Or scream. Somehow, I had sacrificed my children’s well-being for a task that wasn’t getting done anyway. It seemed so pointless. And when I looked at that picture, all I saw was my grumpy, beaten face. But searching for some solidarity, I posted the picture to Facebook.

And then, I got a notification and looked at my phone again, and as luck would have it, at first I didn’t realize the comment was for that post. So when I saw the picture, I saw it with fresh eyes. And, man, my kids are so darn cute. Look how happy they were climbing all over me! I was so focused on myself I had disregarded the expressions on their faces. They are happy!

And that’s when I realized: moms, we have lives. I’m not saying I made the best choices that day. Maybe I should have put the bills away and focused on my kids. I see those blog posts all the time. Time gets away from you. Don’t blink. The television is not a babysitter. Put down your phone. You won’t get these moments back. More than an hour of screen time a day will make your kids' heads explode. Mostly sound advice. But, people? I'm not okay with the self-abuse here. Because half of the sickening knots in my gut today were legitimately from trying and failing to get my work done. But the other half? Was from guilt. And I gotta say, moms, we put enough of that on ourselves. So let’s be real.

You might feel sick if your kid will sit still through Big Hero 6, followed by The Incredibles, followed by Letter Factory, followed by binge-watching Sofia the First on Netflix. But, honey, do what you gotta do. Hopefully not every day. But I promise your kids' heads won't explode. And, bonus, you might get a nap or a shower or poop cleaned up off the hallway floor or the cookies baked for that party tomorrow night. You can always start the day at the park tomorrow.

You might yell. You might lose your patience and tell your kid to sit in timeout for things you know are minor infractions. But, hey, there might be a thread of wisdom your child can gain from going to timeout when she stomps her foot at you because she’s had to say your name four times and you haven’t responded. And, ideally, when you pull her out of timeout, you apologize for not responding sooner.

You might indulge every request for snacks, juice, and milk. You might get to the end of your day and realize your kids ate half a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, m&ms, freetos, goldfish, cheesesticks, cupcakes, and a gallon of chocolate milk a piece. And because you were busy, your GI track is reminding you that your diet wasn’t much different. But it will pass. Although, I don’t envy you the diaper changes.

Moms, we all have these days. The sick days. The busy days. The lazy days. The rainy days. The midnight, 2, 4, 6 a.m.-feeding days. The bored days. And the unmotivated days. Leave the guilt in the dirt where it belongs. You can trample it tomorrow when your kids go build mud pies in the garden. And for crying out loud, leave the mom-shaming in the crapper. We’re all fighting personal battles.

Because, as you might have noticed, this wasn’t a great day. But, by the end of the evening, I had made a sizeable dent in my work-load, even though I felt as though I had done nothing. And my kids? You saw them in the picture. I was doing my darndest to ignore them, but they were still goofy-happy hanging on me and getting spoiled with snacks and screen time.

So take your days as you need them. Play hard on the rest. You are not a bad mom. You are a human being. And that means giving yourself the chance to put your needs first.