I'm Giving Up On Screentime Rules... Again

by Elaine Roth
Originally Published: 
COVID screen time rules over

Thanks a lot, omicron + bad winter weather

Last week, my son’s basketball season went on pause because Covid case numbers in my area surged. A week ago, my daughter’s tennis instruction was put on hold because too many instructors and students were either quarantined or sick. Within days, the careful schedule I’d crafted for us back in September, the one that was supposed to keep our bodies active, minds engaged, and faces away from screens, the one I’d written with colorful markers when case numbers were low and things seemed to be settling into a new normal, was gone. And we were once again faced with a lot of time at home.

Then it snowed. And iced. And even if there had been somewhere to go, we couldn’t have gotten there, anyway.

Amid the cancellations, quarantines, surging case numbers, and bad weather, we’ve been home a lot. And for a lot of that time, my kids were on screens—alternating between Roblox, Netflix, YouTube, and whatever else.

And I let them.

Instead of dreaming up a new craft project or decorating another cake, instead of pulling out another board game or cajoling them into a family Pilates session, I let them bounce from screen to screen with breaks for family meals or to help me around the house.

I (metaphorically) balled up our screen time rules and tossed them out the window, which is where they’ll stay for the next few weeks while Covid is everywhere, activities are cancelled, and the weather is too miserable to discuss. Because working from home, running the household, and keeping two tweens (and a dog) healthy and happy during a pandemic takes more than I have. Because after two years of pandemic living, I’m all out of energy and creative ideas. Mostly, because after nearly two years of solo parenting during a pandemic, I’m burnt out. My energy and patience reserves are depleted.

Disregarding screen time rules combats some of that burn out. For a little while, the house is quiet. The kids aren’t fighting. I have the mental space to work through some of my endless to-do list. And we can all forget that the world isn’t turned inside out.

Cue mom guilt. Cue the inner voice telling me all the things I should be doing and how bad excessive screen time is for my kids’ growing brains.

But also, cue the choice to give myself some grace.

Yes, I could have found one more craft project. I definitely could have dug up another board game, but it’s been a tough two years. For all of us, and especially for solo parents, who have done all the emotional, mental, physical, financial heavy lifting on their own. Right now, during another Covid surge, during the worst of the winter weather, it’s okay to go into survival mode. It’s okay if a WiFi connection is the heart of that survival mode. After all, my kids won’t suffer irreparable damage if they watch Encanto for the seventeenth time.

If I can just rely on screens a bit longer (says every parent everywhere every day), my kids will get mom whose patience is intact enough to curl up and watch one of those Encanto viewings with them when she’s met a portion of her deadlines. A mom whose nerves aren’t too frayed to play in the snow on the weekend. A mom who is doing her best, which is more important than screen time rules in the long run. At least that’s what I hope.

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