My Kids Need Netflix When They Wake up, and Honestly, So Do I

Every once in awhile, I fantasize about getting rid of Netflix and having completely screen-free lives for my kids. Or at the very least, having lives that do not routinely require screen time in order to keep the peace. However, no matter how many times I resolve to live the simple life with my children, I always seem to end up back-tracking because I cannot survive mornings without TV.

“Can I watch something?” are the first words out of my daughter’s mouth each morning. I cringe every time she says them. I hate that she is dependent on TV first thing in the morning. I hate that I’m dependent on her watching TV even more.

Our day cannot start without cartoons ala Netflix. Once she’s settled in to watch TV, the other two kids will simply join her when they wake up. Sometimes they won’t even say good morning to me before sitting down on the couch and zoning out. But as much as it may drive me crazy that this is their routine, it’s also the one thing that keeps my sanity in tact.

The truth is, I am not a morning person, and cannot imagine a day where I ever could be. I can barely get through the morning while getting everyone fed and clothed and ready for school. I usually wind up spending at least one morning a week frantically searching for someone’s shoes when we are already late, or trying to defrost the icy windshield of my car with warm water because I forgot to start the heater five minutes before we had to leave.

Those are my mornings with the aid of an hour or more of TV time for my kids. I honestly cannot fathom doing it without the help of Netflix.

When I surreptitiously decide to buck routine and suddenly spring it on my daughter that there will be no Jake and The Neverland Pirates at 6:30 a.m. the wailing, injured-animal-noise she makes is sure to wake up the whole house. When the crying eventually stops (if it eventually stops), I have to face a thousand requests. They want pre-breakfast snacks, because the lack of TV makes them realize they are hungry and/or bored, and therefore need crackers in the shape of bunnies. They want to do crafts, in the morning, because why the hell not. And there is much, much more time devoted to whining when Daniel Tiger isn’t reminding them how to act through the magic of song.

So despite my guilt over my kids’ excessive screen time, I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon. Whether I like it or not, Netflix has become a tool for morning survival, and I can’t get by without it. I need the peace that is offered by some mindless boob tube in the a.m. so I can drink some tea before it gets cold, and put breakfast in front of them in a timely-ish manner. I need the hour of respite from their constant needs as my brain tries desperately to catch up with my slow-moving body. And to tell you the truth, I’m tired of feeling guilty about it.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know it was bad for them. I wish I had the blissful ignorance my own parents had when it came to screen time, when I would watch hours and hours of cartoons while they went about their own lives. I wish I had the luxury of putting my needs first and just letting my kids be content in front of the TV without worrying that I was messing them up. There are so many things I have to worry about because I know better. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t know all the details and research, so I could let myself off the hook.

So, even though I may know better, I’m giving up on giving up screen time. There are worse things than a little bit too much TV that I’ll have to worry about throughout their lives. I’ve got to let myself breathe and understand that this is not the thing that will make or break their success. I can make up for the deficit elsewhere, when I’m more awake and caffeinated, but for mornings, it’s on with the shows.

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer with a BA in writing from The University of Nevada, Reno. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Glamour, Women’s Health, Babble, Yahoo Parenting and more. She lives in Reno, NV with her husband, three young children, an awesome dog and a terrible cat.

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