The Kids-and-Screens debate is about lots of things.
It's about distraction and addiction to quick hits of unpredictable pleasure and ego-boosts.
It's about consuming other people's creativity rather than making your own.
It's about being sedentary rather than active.
And 'Screen Time' is about Women and their Rights.
Each week I talk with accomplished and bright and thoughtful women, and have stopped being surprised when each is so so so racked with guilt and shame about screen time.
If the screen time is used to help make an obligation possible to fulfill - like cooking dinner or calling the pediatrician about that rash - then it's somewhat tolerable.
But when a mother wants to use screen time in order to do something that fulfills her like calling an old friend, or makes her day more pleasurable like taking a bath, then the fear and shame and guilt scream at full volume.
The particular fear I hear (and can experience myself!), is just like the fear I hear when talking with moms about their child's sleep or time outs or feeding them macs and cheese multiple nights per week.
Whether it's a baby's sleep or an 8 year old's Minecraft time, a core underlying fear is:
Will my taking care of myself equal my child suffering?
What I wish for every woman who is struggling with this fear and the resulting shame is that she trust that she can discern that for herself.
And if you need a little encouragement:
I believe that it is good for your children to see you taking care of yourself without apology.
I believe that you are entitled to a break to breathe.
I believe that if your children are of a particular age, it is very hard to breathe without someone or something else (a screen!) fully engaging their attention.
I believe that our culture and systems create punishing expectations of mothers, and that we are entitled to be pissed off about that and reject the expectations.
I believe that if you need to feed your intellect, or nourish your body, or find adult humor in your day in order to be fulfilled, that you have a right to do that.
I believe that without feeling entitled to take care of ourselves, we fall into shame and despair because we can't live up to the do-it-all-and-be-okay-with-it expectations, and we are then, ironically, way more likely to escape into our own phones and surrender to putting our children in front of the TV for hours and days on end.
I know that it's scary to discern for yourself what the right balance is between honoring your own needs and being responsible to your children's needs.
That fear may not just be about the 'what will it do to my child's brain' worries, but within it might also be a more fruitful fear.
The fear of rebellion and self-determination and living as if you are entitled to a fulfilling life.
I hope you step into that fear, because it's a freeing fear.
I'll meet you there.
With love and optimism,