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Letting Your Kids Watch TV Doesn’t Make You a Horrible Mom

Photograph by Getty Images

I’ve been around moms who say things like, “We don’t allow our kids any television,” or “She only gets 30 minutes on the weekend,”

My personal favorite is, “We choose not to own a television.”

I was once like these moms. Before I became a parent — like all people without children — I was an expert on raising children. My kids were going to grow up painting, picking wildflowers, playing with eco-friendly toys, reading books, but definitely not watching TV. When you join mom club, you learn about the impossibly high standards to which you are supposed to aspire.

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If you didn’t have a medicine-free orgasmic water birth, two years of breastfeeding at a minimum, make your own organic baby food from your garden or personally engage your child all day, you must not love your baby. I get it, motherhood is a calling and we must honor that calling. But is a half hour of "Yo Gabba Gabba" really that bad?

I say nay, dear reader.

In the midst of competing parenting theories and recommendations, I too am issuing a call that I hope all mothers will hear:

Moms, can we just collectively chill for a bit? Trying to be supermom is exhausting. In fact, just being a normal mom is exhausting. Can this mom just have a mug of tea and check her Pinterest feed while her toddler dances along to "Dora the Explorer"? Side note: I also wrote the article, Should I Ban "Dora the Explorer"?

At some point you have to decide if the benefit of having a sane mom outweighs the detriment of a child not getting any engagement or acquiring language skills for 25 minutes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ position on the matter is that they “discourage” TV for children under age 2. In our home, we avoided television programs for about the first year and a half of our daughter’s life. I focused on talking to her, playing alongside her with all the high-contrast toys we’d bought, singing, reading and taking her to story time at the library or the park.

I have no background in early childhood education, so here I was, this second-rate Mary Poppins who was physically and mentally exhausted. At some point you have to decide if the benefit of having a sane mom outweighs the detriment of a child not getting any engagement or acquiring language skills for 25 minutes. I chose sanity; my baby got to watch "Sesame Street." We are all happier.

Despite my pro-TV stance, most of my toddler’s day is spent playing. We go outside every day. She enjoys independent play, though in short intervals. We read to her every day, even if it’s just at bedtime on our busiest days. On weekends, we try to get out of the house together so that she can be a real life explorer and have her own “We did it! ¡Lo hicimos!” moments.

But on an average weekday? I’m OK with her watching "Bubble Guppies" while I answer email after breakfast or while I prep dinner before my husband gets home. When she was sick with a cold last week, she curled up in a blanket on my lap and we watched and re-watched "Frozen" because it made her happy. I felt no guilt.

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I favor educational programs geared for little ones, and in our home we enjoy "Dora the Explorer," "Super Why," "The Chica Show" and "Sesame Street." Letting my kid watch television doesn’t make me a terrible mom, it makes me a normal mom. I write this for all the caring and diligent moms who are made to feel bad because they’re not supermom 24 hours a day.

Put down the Baby Einstein flashcards. Because taking a break helps us be good moms too.

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