When a mom spends a week away from the house on a writing retreat, a lot of things can happen when she returns.
For example, she might come home and discover that the celery sticks meant to go in the brown bag lunches are now rotting in the fridge. In the meantime, the jar of fluff is empty. Ditto for the bags of Doritos. A week’s worth of laundry might be festering in the hamper. She might walk into the family room hoping for a hug from her husband, who she missed while away, and find a 43-inch television screen has replaced the perfectly good, albeit smaller, one that had been there when she left.
When that happened to me, I decided to be chill and let it go. My kids and husband had been petitioning for a larger TV for years. And while I’d always dug my heels in and insisted that fatter books—not bigger televisions—were what we needed to improve our lives, this purchase didn’t show any signs of destroying our family or our brain cells.
“You okay with it?” my husband asked.
“Sure,” I said coolly and went upstairs.
That’s when I stopped being okay.
“What the hell is this?” I shouted. There in our serene bedroom, was the old 27-inch television propped on my husband’s maple dresser.
“I’m way less okay with this,” I shouted. “In fact, I’m not at all okay with this.”
He trudged up the stairs, clearly prepared to defend the TV’s existence in our bedroom. He said he needed a place to put the old television (I suggested Craigslist), and thought we might enjoy watching movies or the occasional TV show in bed at night. He said a lot of things, and at some point I kind of stopped listening.
“Why? I asked when we have gone for over 20 years without a TV in our bedroom, do you think we need one now?”
“Well,” he said, “I want one.”
But you’re never going to keep the romance alive and the lines of communication open if you go from being buried in your computer by day to absorbed in the TV at night.
I looked at him at him with my eyes narrowed. “Fine,” I said. “We'll try it for a week and see what happens.”
Well, here’s what happened:
After one week of having what felt like a brightly-lit Times Square billboard dominating a once quiet corner of our room, I found it really hard to fall asleep. Experts say to keep technology out of the bedroom—a place that should be reserved for sleep and sex—and I get it.
I get it.
Don’t we have enough images flashing through our overwrought brains all day without adding more at bedtime? Sure it’s sweet to snuggle up and watch a movie with your loved one, but that’s an activity that can be enjoyed in the family room, while there are other fun activities that can (and should) be enjoyed in bed.
Then there’s the communication thing. My husband has a stressful job, and we both work strange hours. So what could be lovelier than convening under the covers at the end of the day for a little cuddling and conversation? I love hearing the details of his life outside of our home, and it’s good to be able to share stories from mine. But with the TV on, we talked less. I’d end up falling asleep during a show and waking up when the it was turned off. At that point my husband would drop right off to sleep, while I’d spend hours tossing and turning, unable to get back to sleep after my brief nap.
So here’s the thing. Movies are wonderful. Television is also pretty great these days and we love watching a great show together. But you’re never going to keep the romance alive and the lines of communication open if you go from being buried in your computer by day to absorbed in the TV at night.
Instead, make the bedroom about the two of you.
As I reminded my husband when we were moving the TV downstairs into the basement for storage, we set up our bedroom with much thought and intention. Together we chose the color, the furniture, the linens, and the art. And the room is still our one sanctuary that we can go to be a couple. And it should remain that way—a distraction-free sanctuary.
Thankfully, he got it.