To the Moms in Survival Mode: Screen Time Rules Do Not Apply

“I’m totally failing.”

I’m not sure how many times I’ve breathed those words, I’m sure hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. I’ve stood in my living room, surrounded by disaster and emotional children and felt suddenly overwhelmed by just how far I’m falling short.

I’ve tried to be the do-it-all mom. I’ve rushed from task to task, in a frenzy of housework and emails and diaper changes, while putting out the fires of survival mode living. Doing it all is so overrated. Not giving myself a break, not giving myself permission to loosen the reigns only made me an awful mom to be around. What good is it, really, if I can keep up with all of the tasks and expectations of motherhood if I’m snapping at my kids and so obviously overwhelmed I don’t enjoy my days at home?

This is for the moms who can’t quite keep up. For the ones who have way more than they can possibly handle. Moms with demanding jobs, a newborn or child with special needs. Moms who are caring for their family and an aging parent or a sick family member. Whose husband’s travel for work or who may as well be because they work such long hours. If you’re struggling through mental illness, this is for you. If you’ve just got a killer cold and need a nap, this is for you, too.

Consider this your official (unofficial) permission to loosen the reigns.

I know what the AAP has to say about screen time and this isn’t me disagreeing with the advice they’re giving parents about tech. Avoid it before two, limit it after that. Sit down and watch it with your kids so you know what they’re watching. These are all rules we try to follow in our home. The only exception? When mommy is in survival mode, we throw screen times rules out the window.

Of course, I’m not an expert. I don’t sit on the board of Common Sense Media. I’m not a pediatrician or child development expert. I’m just a mom who has been there, done that many times before and I’m pretty sure mommy not losing it is a completely valid reason for letting your kids watch a little extra TV.

I’m not suggesting moms everywhere throw caution to the wind. Don’t burn your pinterest-inspired screen time tracking charts or delete the password from your iPad. I’m simply suggesting we give ourselves a little bit of grace, permission to fudge the rules without guilt because our wellness demands it. Time and time again, I’ve heard moms tear themselves down for putting on a movie when they’re sick or letting their kids watch an extra show so they could catch up on work. I’ve done it, too. I’m a rule follower by nature, but I’m convinced screen time rules are meant to be broken.

Moms in survival mode, now is the time to fall back on your lifelines. Hire a babysitter, call your mom and let your kids watch a little more TV. Right now isn’t forever, one hard day (or even a week of hard days) isn’t going to ruin your child forever. There will come time when you can start going to playdates again or show up for storytime at the library more frequently than once every six months.There will come a day when you can spend extra time outside or take a break from screens altogether, but today is not that day. Today, it’s OK to do things a little differently. Today, you have permission to do whatever you have to do to make it to bedtime without falling apart.

Mary is a mom of three and a freelance writer living in the Midwest. She loves to cook, read and watch movies with her husband when she has freetime. She has been published with Babble, Mom.me, SheKnows and Romper.

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