When I told my husband that I wanted to turn the televisions off for an entire week, his first question was, “All of the TVs ... even the one in our bedroom?”
It all started after I quit my full-time job and delivered my second child five months ago. Every morning, at 8 a.m., my 4-year-old daughter, Sarah, would ask me to “set her up” in front of the TV. I would gladly oblige, so that I had plenty of time to nurse the baby, take a shower, make the beds and do other household chores. By 10 a.m., I was ready to go out and face the world as a clean, organized mom of two. The drawback? Sarah had just zoned out in front of the boob-tube for the first two hours of the day.
Around 2 p.m. each day, the argument would usually ensue. “Mom, I’m bored. Can I watch TV?” If I said no, she would become pesky and annoying until it was difficult not to think of TV as a welcome respite for the both of us.
Because of the morning and afternoon TV ritual, she was watching two to four hours of television each day. I used all of the normal excuses to rid myself of guilt. “She is watching educational programs.” “She is often coloring WHILE watching TV.” “I need the TV to keep my sanity.” “I wouldn’t be able to get anything done without it.”
But was that my reality or were those falsehoods I was making up so that I would feel better about myself? Deep down, I just didn’t feel right about it. It was time to see what life would be like without the TV.
On a Monday morning in August, we told Sarah that the TVs were broken. I realized this was an outright lie, but I didn’t think we would make it if she knew it was optional. The TVs being “broken” didn’t seem to surprise her one bit. After all, we lost the use of those same TVs during the windstorm of 2008 and the ice storm of 2009.
Halfway through Day 1, the questions started coming. “When did you find out the TVs were broken?” “How did you find out?” “Is the man coming to fix them?”
But as the week continued, our house seemed to de-stress. The days seemed longer and less busy. Things that we didn’t have “time” for before seemed to easily fit into our schedules now. During the day, my daughter kept herself busy with art projects, books and puzzles. She didn’t seem to be “bored” as she claimed before. Every night, we played a card game with our daughter and read books. We were all asleep by 9:30 p.m. each night. My husband commented that it was the most sleep he had gotten in quite some time.
On Day 4, my daughter woke up at 6:30 a.m. Now normally, I would turn on the TV and drift in and out of blissful sleep while she watched. This was the first day that week that I was tempted to throw the whole experiment out the window. Instead, I told her to go get some books and I would read to her. I was surprised to see her smile and light up. After a few minutes, I was truly enjoying our alone-time together. It was the first time we had done this since the baby was born and I really felt like a good mom. Is it possible that the TV was keeping me from being the best mom that I could be?
On Day 5, the first words out of our daughter’s mouth were, “Mom, I don’t need a TV, I have one in my head.” Now, I cannot explain exactly what that meant, as the mind of a 4-year-old is a mystery, but it seemed to me that, although she still knew the TV was not available, she seemed to be getting used to the idea of living without it. We all were. We were peaceful, tuned in to each other and more focused on our time together.
The week ended without much fanfare. No one mentioned that our experiment was coming to a close and no one expressed excitement that we could turn the TV on again tomorrow. But I don’t think anyone in our family is going to rush to do it. We discovered that we actually like each other and have plenty to do without it. As a matter of fact, my husband and I would be happy to throw all the TVs out the window today ... if football season wasn’t right around the corner!