I want to say something that I know will be upsetting to some. But I’ve reached the point in the pandemic when I just can’t pretend or hide or feel bad about my choices anymore. So, I’m putting all my cards on the table.
Here it is: When we’re not outside, my TV is on. My 2-year-old watches TV after he wakes up, while he eats lunch, and at some point before he goes to bed at night.
Seven months ago, I was proud to be the mom that only let her kid watch a little bit. I bragged about my son’s ability to walk away calmly when we turned it off without begging for more. But now, I’m the mom that depends on that TV to entertain my son when I just—can’t.
I’m tired of shaming myself over it, and also I’m just tired. I’m really tired.
This pandemic forced me out of my beloved New York City. I’ve given up my apartment, my nanny, my office, my independence, my date nights, my friends and my sanity. Instead, I’ve had to embrace my old ‘friends:’ anxiety and depression. It’s been sad and exhausting, and it feels like I have this word cloud hanging over me that reads, but what if I can’t?
Well, I am learning that I can, and I will. But here’s the thing, I need help. And while the world changes around me, I need to change too—part of changing, for me, was changing our TV watching habits.
We all need to drop our guard and consider the fact that we cannot conquer a pandemic. We can be safe, we can find small comforts, but we cannot fight. The energy expended on fighting is hurting us more. And over the past few months, and maybe my whole life, it feels like I’m always fighting something. As though my life was just one big checklist, and if I keep fighting then maybe one day I’ll check everything off. But when you think about it, what a sad way to spend time. There’s no grand prize at the end.
So, here’s what I’m doing: I’ve tucked my battle armor away into my new, suburban closet and I try really hard each day to keep ‘beat COVID’ off of my to-do list. In the morning, I lay in bed for 10 or 20 more minutes—even though I know my son is up—so I can practice calm before a new day that will feel all the same as the last.
When I do get up, I make coffee. After I’ve hugged my son and talked to him about his good dreams, I try to play with him. But if he doesn’t want to play, I put on the TV. And while Baby Shark sings and the bright colors flash over my son’s face, I start checking my email—because I have to keep my job. And when my CEO calls me to talk about a struggling client, I put on CoComelon because my CEO depends on me, too.
And because not only do I have to keep my job, I want to; I like to work. And that’s okay.
I choose backgrounds for my Zoom calls that place me in wine cellars, West Elm furnished rooms and beachsides. But the truth is, sometimes I take down the literal façade so people can see the backdrop of life as a parent. “Jamie, can you mute?” they ask. No, actually I can’t. My son is screaming because he needs something and I want you to know that I showed up anyway.
And when my son finally throws himself onto the floor in a tantrum, and I’ve been working for 5 hours straight without looking up or eating, and I remember I haven’t seen friends or been out to a meal, Elmo and Big Bird will entertain my son while I cry.
And all of it is going to be okay.
He’s okay. He’s learned colors, numbers, letters, words and seasons, all while I guilt myself over his screen time. He points out things to me when we go outside that I can’t believe he understands: fire hydrants, garages and the breed of a bird flying over us.
My son is okay.
We’re living in unprecedented times. There is no perfect advice that will make this all better because no one has experienced this before. That means the rules of right and wrong do not exist yet. We’re making them now. And I say, we choose to be a little kinder to ourselves, and each other.
So put the TV on, drink your coffee, unmute, give the pacifier back for 10 minutes—let’s just get through this.
We’re going to be okay.