Real Chat: The Convenient Babysitter with Grace Patton

Today, I get to introduce you to one of my friend's since college (and old roomie!), and very witty mama blogger... Grace of Camp Patton. I dare you to read through her blog without laughing. While you are there, check out her amazing alteration skills (just a little jealous)! This topic is something every mother will battle on some level with their children. Thank you Grace for your honesty! Read on, and we would love to hear your thoughts!
Way back when my husband, Simon, and I were dating we discussed the fact that we wouldn't have cable TV in our future home. We both grew up without cable and agreed that it would be best for ourselves and any future children.  A TV-less life would foster imaginative play! A TV-less life would make our children book lovers! A TV-less life would be ideal! A TV-less life would be easy! And then my brother gave our daughter, Julia, a Baby Einstein DVD for Christmas when she was a mere three months old. As fate would have it, three months old is the age in which Julia woke up for the day at 4:45 in the morning.  You can imagine how easy it was to pop Julia in her bouncy seat, pop Einstein in his DVD player and go right back to the comfort of baby-free sleep. So I did. She eventually grew out of that phase and didn't require a TV babysitter in the early mornings but I started rationalizing a 'need for screen time'. When I made dinner? yes. When I wanted to shower? absolutely yes. When I wanted to send a trivial email? of course. When I wanted to paint my nails? you betcha. And it only got worse when she was 13 months old and we had another baby. I discovered and quickly grew dependent on Barney, Dora, and Yo Gabba Gabba streaming on Netflix. I silenced my guilty conscience with excuses, "Simon is working 84 hours this week -- it's okay!" or "How else am I going to shower?!" or "I need to make my coffee in peace!" but when "I just had a baby three weeks ago - it's fine!" turned into "I just had a baby six months ago - it's understandable!" I realized her screen time had turned into her full-time babysitter.  While we didn't technically have cable, our 19 month old reaped all the ugly benefits that we were so staunchly opposed to in a previously clueless and kid-less life.

I took one look at "newborn" six month old Sebastian, who now weighs a mere two pounds less than his older sister and easily decided to pull the plug and go cold-no-Netflix-turkey at the beginning of last week. I prepared for severe withdrawal symptoms like tantrums, tantrums, and more tantrums. I knew I wouldn't be able to shower in relative peace anymore, that dinner might not get made as quickly, that my nails would go woefully unpolished, and that I was inviting misery over for a nice long staycation.

It's been two whole weeks of deprivation and I've been pleasantly surprised by how well our former addict has taken it. She hasn't thrown a single tantrum when I say no Dora or Barney, actually 'reads' her books, interacts with Sebastian, plays with her toys, asks to go outside, and takes longer naps because apparently engaging in activity burns more energy than being parked in front of the laptop. 
Of course, she also makes triple the mess, makes Sebastian cry more frequently, and can be found whining at my ankles in search of interaction many times throughout the day. I've had to make dinner with her 'help', shower with a captive audience, and rescue Sebastian from a violent hairstyling session several times this week but overall, the "bad" is so worth the abundant good.

I'm not an idiot. I know that there will soon be an exasperating day in which I am lured back in by the glow of the laptop babysitter.  Successful potty training might warrant a reward by the name of Dora, I might get sick, Sebastian might get sick, or Julia might get sick and the distraction will be nice and almost necessary. I'm completely fine with that. I just want TV to be a special treat, not an expected and daily given.
And now onward and upward to scale the next mountain that is Julia's "my three hot and heavy blankies go e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e" policy and her gross "taste e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g I find" habit...
One million thanks to Anna for having me over and I hope you all have a superb weekend!

So tell us, How do you balance screen time in your house? An easy or difficult feat?  
With Gabriel and Veronica, we have a show in the morning (usually a musical one - Gabriel loves to sing and dance) that gives me time to get it together! I am thankful for that time to breathe, and it makes me a better momma! I love that like Grace said, its a privilege that Gabriel knows is not a given. Every family has different dynamics and different needs. Would love to hear how you manage this topic! 


  1. Anna and Grace, I love this post. I let Gabriel and Claire watch one show in the morning before breakfast and one show at night before bed. I also justify it with "I have two crazy toddlers and their dad has been deployed for 12 months" but... at this point, I'm ok with it. It totals up to 1 hour a day and I think that's reasonable for our situation. I know we can always do better though so maybe I'll look into cutting out one of the shows ;)

  2. This is something I feel strongly about as well. I putGMA on in the am...b/c it starts my day nicely with a good cup of coffee :), but after that I turn it off. I doubt I will flip if some days our tv has been on longer than I wish, but I also don't want it to be a usual part of our day. I think setting a time limit is awesome...1 hr will help me maintain my sanity in the future...that's how I look at it. Mommy happy=baby happy. That being said, I hope to promote a tv-less life for my darling(s) by playing outside, doing creative activities, etc. Oh, I rambled. Ha. Cheers.

  3. Anna and Grace, as a mom of two girls now 18 and 22, I can tell you it is not an ALL or NOTHING thing. You will learn that in ALL things moderation is key. A little tv watching never hurt anyone, but being parked in front of it for hours on end, not a good thing. Same thing with sweets, one cookie, fine...the entire box in one sitting, not so good. I know you get the picture. I agree, when the tv is off, most kids will find other ways to entertain themselves, just make sure they have good things to do so with...books, crayons, sand pails, sidewalk chalk, bubbles. Honestly, it is more about WHAT they are watching when it is on then about actually watching it. There are some good quality shows out there, but many more that are not.

  4. Grace, this was such an honest, open post - thank you for sharing. My husband and I have the same sentiments - we don't have a tv in our home. At first it was for a happy healthy marriage, now it's for that and a happy healthy baby. We've been offered a TV from friends over a dozen times! But we are well without. My son gets to watch Paddington Bear or Sesame Street, once every two days (via my laptop) - so a total of around 2 hours a week. Particularly when I need to prepare dinner and hubby isn't around - and little hands want to reach for the stove. I applaud you for setting new limits and for making the change in your family. I agree with Simply LKJ - moderation is key in life. It's amazing what the Little Ones can be entertained by. Mine loves to sit at my feet while I'm preparing dinner with lots of bowls flipped upside down and utensils to bang on them :) I've also brought the exersaucer into the bathroom to be able to take a shower and keep an eye on him. Oh the things Mamas do!! Happy Mother's Day Grace!

  5. Thank you both for sharing this post. We have a 15 month old boy and he doesn't watch TV. Okay...there are those occassional times when it will be on, but we don't make a practice of it. We want to raise him free from electronics as long as possible. He DOES have a huge fascination with our computers though...mostly trying to get into the towers or play with the keyboard and the mouse. We try and block him off from that. Basically, what he sees us doing, he wants to follow suite. Yesterday when I was frantically cleaning before my parents came over for dinner, he was in his swing watching me. Once he got out of the swing, he grabbed a spare rag that was sitting on a nearby table and proceeded to help me "dust." They are definitely little sponges...so I think the "no or very little tv" is a good rule.

    Happy Mother's Day you two!
    Heidi (hi-d)

  6. Love this post! It is great to hear about what other moms do with the TV issue. It reminds me of the Berenstain Bears book, "Too Much TV." At the end of the book Mama Bear says, "I don't have anything against TV, what I'm against is the TV habit."

    I think everyone, child and adult alike, can get kind of zoned out after watching too much TV. For my 3 year old, if he watches more than 45 minutes a day, I notice he gets a little cranky. I have been thinking about going to only cartoons that are completely in Spanish so he will be getting more out of his TV time. Thanks for sharing, Anna and Grace!

  7. My kids (3 year old twins) watch probably about an hour every morning. Sometimes less. Sometimes more. It lets me wake up and get my morning routine going.

    Sometimes we head straight out the door and they never watch a show. I usually keep it off until I'm making dinner, and sometimes that is another hour. Sometimes they play out back instead. I haven't found it to be that big of a deal either way. I think I would miss it if it were gone (a easy distraction), but I'd definitely say they watch more in the winter than in the summer.

    I can't stand it on during the day, adult or kid shows. But for mornings and nights, I don't really have a set limit. We spend so much time outside that I think it's fine quiet time :)

  8. HI I just found you through Camp Patton, nice to meet ya! I went to FUS too, just a little before your time...ahem.

    What we have always done for our children is ONE show a day. They get to watch a half hour each night after dinner and before bed, which calms them down and lets my hubby and I clean the kitchen, make lunches, etc.

    I have to say that after 10 years or parenting, the one tv show a day has had lots of benefits. (They only watch PBS) They have learned a lot and laugh together as siblings. Now we have started to treat them on weekends by letting them watch one movie either on Sat night (they get to stay up a little later, which they love) or Sun afternoon in lieu of a nap. This way they can still see current movies and our old favorites, and they really appreciate their screen time because it's so rare!

  9. What a great post and really honest too!:) With our 3 older kids its one movie a day if they want to watch. And thats after chores are done and if they even remember that we have the TV since we don't have cable and our internet moves slower then a turtle so Netflix is out for us. But can i say that when they were little especially my twin boys who are now 10 they loved there veggie tales and yes sometimes mama needed that time so desperately:) So i guess i would say Mama's out there don't be so hard on yourselves! Everything in moderation and take your kids to the library:) My kids love reading a good book just as much if not more then a show:))

  10. Great post, Grace! You both are two amazing mamas. I'm in the early stages of motherhood - mine is 5 mos old today! Already he gravitates to the TV (or any screen for that matter), turning his head whenever it's on. But we haven't established any parking in front of it (YET), as he still gets entertained by watching me get ready or playing with his toys. I think I'll adopt the one show in the morning philosophy and for rare/special occasions. I'm sure it's hard not to default to that though... Motherhood is no joke and hard work, that's for sure!

    Meggy from Chasing Davies and Chasing Babies

  11. Great post! I was raised without cable and when I got to be school aged we were allowed a movie on the weakends. And I think it allowed me to grow into the creative person I am today, but as for how I'm going to be with any future children, that remains to be seen. I hope to use the tv babysitter as infrequently as possible, but it's always easy to say what you'll do when you're not in that situation yet :)

  12. I save the t.v. for when I need a shower. Or there's an injured chicken that needs the undivided attention of capable humans without tiny humans helping. When the weather was bad and they watched too much, I found we didn't actually get any more done. There was just a lot more sitting. It's a weird thing that it does to them, for sure.

  13. Love. Love. This is a great post! I was an amazing mother before I had kids. Now, I still think I'm pretty darn good, but TV finds its way in, and I am ok with it. It doesn't mean I'm a bad mom :) (Here I am rationalizing to myself again...) Anyway. Ellen started watching TV when we moved out of state. We were away from family and I never got a break during the day because of it. Mike was working long hours, the house was still in boxes, she wasn't sleeping well. You know. The yoosh. So, I found that Elmo was calling my name. He was saying, "Jenna, just let me hang out with Ellen for an hour. You can blog. You can eat. You can shower. You can sleep." It was so tempting. I am happy to say that I have kicked my Elmo habit, and have been clean for three weeks. Will I ever go back? Oh yes. There will be days I will need to. But, I have found that she plays pretty well on her own if need be, and showering while Ellen is whining because she wants to come in? Well, that is easy. I just turn off the baby monitor. Just kidding! Kind of...

  14. I try to keep my 18 month old son away from tv for as long as possible. Lucky for me he enjoys playing on his own while I cook or do other housework and if not I set his little table up in the kitchen and give him some ingredients he can play with. But I understand that every child is different and sometimes you just need all the help you can get.


Love hearing from each of you. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! <3

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