Monday, March 16, 2009

Get Off the Fence. . .

I worked in the medical field before I became an official SAHM. While I was pregnant, I came in daily contact with a variety of medical professionals, mostly doctors.

And one resounding thing that kept coming up in those interactions was the constant reproach as they regarded my growing belly: "Don't you let that baby watch any t.v." Since I had, indeed, been planning on allowing the baby to watch t.v. ( Ein.stein and such), I was a little confused.

It turns out that there has been a lot of research showing that television watching in the young infant set causes learning delays and socialization issues later on. Apparently, the tender synapses in the young baby brain are developing at such a rapid pace that all of the stimulation from the flashing boob tube can cause a disruption of the neural pathways. These "disconnected" pathways can cause problems that some researchers believe leads to learning disabilities, aggression, and even Alzheimers.

That being said, I really don't think television is evil. I watched t.v. as a kid, and I turned out literate and (pat self on shoulder) a productive member of society. However, as doctor after doctor (and our own pediatrician) recommended "NO television," I did some research and discovered that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television viewing prior to age 2.

To that end, my husband and I came to the conclusion that we would not introduce Will to t.v. prior to his second birthday. We aren't t.v.-Nazis or anything. If he sees a glimpse of television in a restaurant or at a friend's home, we don't shield his eyes in terror, lest the synapses start shooting fireworks off in his brain. We just leave the t.v. off when he is in the room with us and don't own any "kidvids."

I am not a huge t.v.-watcher myself during the day, so this has been no great sacrifice. Sure, there have been days when it would have been nice to pop a video in and get some much needed minutes to wash dishes, run a load of laundry, or even take a shower. But after my research, I just feel as if this is the right decision for Will. I have no judgment over people that allow their infants to watch t.v. I think there are probably benefits to that path, too. My good friend has her two boys watching t.v. constantly, and they are smart little boys who know their ABCs and 123s. My best friend's son watches a video or two every day and seems perfectly well-adjusted and very intelligent. I have seen the amazing results from that infomercial "Your Baby Can Read," and I sometimes wonder if we aren't making a mistake. But, ultimately, our choice has been to follow the recommendations and have no t.v. for Will.

The reaction from friends and family is mixed. My mother, who feels as if she let my 15-year-old brother watch too much t.v., is definitely on our side of this matter. Other reactions have been the occasional eye-roll or even the "We'll see how long that lasts. . . " When I go to a friend's house with young children, invariably, the t.v. is on with a kid-friendly video. I don't say anything, I just situate Will with a toy or in an activity where he can't see the screen. I don't judge those parents for popping in a DVD, but I sure get a lot of judgment back for choosing to refrain.

I guess it's just my early training that not everyone will agree with your parenting decisions. Some things are more controversial that others. I just feel as if I am defending myself a lot. Now that Will is six months old, I get a lot of strange looks in public when I breastfeed. I have had several strangers ask me how long I intend to keeping feeding "that baby." When we tell people that I am staying home with Will, we also get a lot of judgment. I thought it was bad when I was pregnant, but it's just gotten worse. And this parenting thing is difficult enough without everyone else putting in an opinion - usually the one that is opposite of what you have chosen to do.

How do you handle it when people judge you for your parenting decisions? What do you say? I know this is only the beginning. . .


Fertilized said...

We are using cloth diapers. This also gets the gasp and opinions/eyes rolling. My parents (who watch MT alot) refuse to use my cloth diapers. So when they have him, he is in disposables. I wish i knew how to deal with the judgement better. Or how to approach the situation better. I usually just avoid the topics all together.

If that doesn't work, I simply state that we all have choices to make. But it makes me feel horrible on the inside to be judged. I try my very best to keep things in moderation (organic foods/tv/nap time/meds/stimulations etc) and then the rest is up to fate. I do not handle harsh judgements very well. It makes me feel less confident in my choices at first. But the more I have to defend them, the more confident I become in the long run

Fertilized said...

Another way that I deal with judgement is tell poeple that this is my first and maybe my only. I want to try different things. I try them and give them enough time to see if it is something that meshes well with My Immediate Family and our values/goals in life (me, E and MT). If we all love it - It's On. If we try it and it just didn't work out to how we thought it would - we move on and let it go. Why? Because We are the parents and we get to decide that for our family.

Joy said...

There will be opinions and snarky remarks whether you are a SAHM or work, whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, use cloth or disposable diaps. I just try to ignore it all.

Sometimes it DOES bother me, especially when it comes to discipline (I feel panicky in public and think, "What the heck do I do with everyone watching?!").

At the end of the day I'm the one bathing them, brushing their teeth, putting them to bed.

I commend you for turning off the TV! I did that with my oldest. It was harder when we had our youngest because she wants to do as sister does. So we put TV limits. I really appreciate your info, too, because I think I may limit TV time even more so that we get more activity and crafts in, which is probably way more beneficial!

Joy said...

Oh, and never feel you have to defend yourself. I completely ignore someone when they say something I don't appreciate (pretend I don't hear them, or I smile at my child and start talking to my child as we turn and walk away).

Everyone does everything different. Find your own rhythm and stick to it. When I see women sneering about something I do, it makes me think twice about how I view the frazzled Mom at the store with two screaming kids (not as incompetent but as tired and worn out).

Nicky said...

Like Joy said -- no matter what choice you make about anything, someone is going to judge you for it. We use cloth diapers and get eye rolls. I went back to work, and many people clearly disapprove. My response is always to shrug and say, "We do what works for our family." But it's kind of reassuring to know that someone would disapprove even if we did the opposite of everything we're doing. It's rather freeing.

Nicky said...

Oh, and we're not doing any kidvids or television until 2+ either. We're not fanatical about it (LL has seen several football games on television, including the Super Bowl) but we keep the TV off when he's playing, and we certainly don't own anything that's meant for him to watch.

Mrs. Piggy said...

So glad you brought this up!!! I am doing the same thing. TV is always off while they are around unless I'm desperate and have to catch up on a show or two :) But I do know when I have it on they stare. So its almost always off unless like you said, we're at someone's house. Their occupational therapist has said over and over, NO TV. So that is what we are doing, but I'm no nazi about it. But I get everyone saying "so and so grew up in front of the TV and they are fine".
I'm also going to try and be strict about them watching teenager'ish shows like high school musical when they are 4 or 5. My niece does and she already acts like a little brat teenager! I want my kid to be a KID!

Gibson Twins said...

In our case, it is the grandparents and greatgrandparents who tend to disagree with us. They don't call us out on things, but if we correct them (a big issue is WHAT they feed the kids) by saying, "you know I'd really rather they DIDN'T have x, y, and z for dinner but something healthier (that they'd prefer anyway)", they make gestures and comments about how it USED TO BE IN THEIR DAY. I just roll my eyes and say "that was back before when they didn't know as much as they do now".

I'm most offended by people who think I don't do anything all day and "can stay in my pjs all day long if I want". I just think to myself, I sure can stay in my pjs- I cook, clean, and take care of toddlers all day long so I reserve that right.

As for the great TV debate, I let Alli and Ryan sit in their bouncers to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse around 4-5 months. They at first loved the colors and music. Now they can't live without the show. I have it on DVR so I can control when they watch it, usually they watch 2-3 episodes (25min each) per day which is very acceptable to me. I don't know if it was a twin thing that I let them watch tv- it definitely soothed crying babies here and there and bought me time to get a shower in the early days.
They have learned an infinite amount from MMCH- numbers, colors, songs, shapes, alphabet. They answer questions that the characters ask, etc. But trust me, they know if they are acting out, it does not go on for any reason :)

Anonymous said...

This discussion really hits close to home. I'm due to have a baby in August and already having arguments with people. My mom actually got mad because I'm not putting a quilt and pillows in the crib. I tried to explain about the risk of SIDS. I was accused of being a know-it-all. (sigh)

Tracy said...

Well, I try to ignore people that judge me, but inside it chaps my ass. LOL

Seriously, you need to do what you feel is right. I've been judged for having such a rigid schedule with the twins, and for letting Rowan, especially, do some CIO. But until people have lived in my home, with my babies, for their whole lives, they shouldn't presume to know them better than me. I know I am doing what is right for my children and my family.

So, mostly I ignore them. If I say anything, I say, "well this is what works for us..."

We do let Evan and Rowan watch just a bit of TV. VeggieTales, Sesame Street and Baby Einstein, but never for longer than 20 minutes or so once or twice per day. With that said, we are about to take a 10-hour car trip and are buying a DVD player and yes, we will let them watch whatever we need to in order to keep some peace in the car. LOL

Ms. J said...

Oh my, LOL, I have gotten sh*t for all sorts of things - I love how everybody is an "Expert" when it comes to adopting a toddler from China!

I don't believe in t.v. as a babysitter . . . but I was given advice by a fellow-China adopt mom that the t.v. exposure helped her daughter learn English. If my kid was a "Sitter" I'd worry, but she is VERY active and energetic, eats super-healthy, and doesn't have a weight problem. It'd be tough for me to NOT have the t.v. on since part of my job involves monitoring what media reports on that affects people I represent. I think there are a lot of educational shows on Noggin & Sprout channels.

THat being said . . . we ALL have our "Sticking POints" that we feel passionately about. Mine is JUICE! Lil Pumpkin is strictly limited to one 4-oz juice box per day, and we have her chug water. She gets a kid-friendly (all natural) flavored water if I get desperate or she seems hydrated (she thinks its juice). People think I am insane, but I didn't want THAT KID who will "only eat/drink chicken nuggets and juice." She eats what we eat, and we don't make special meals.

We are also refuse to tote 12 stuffed animals everywhere we go (she can choose one when we leave the house, that's it!), and I go through wet wipes like crazy in an effort to keep her healthy (and she IS, so HAH, naysayers, LOL).

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie. Long time reader, not sure if I have commented before. I think that when people judge you for your parenting decisions, it is because they feel uncomfortable with their own choices. The people that condemn you for breastfeeding are probably those that never got the chance to breastfeed. The parents that chide you for not letting Will watch tv probably feel bad for using tv as their babysitter. I think when someone points fingers at you, they had better remember that three fingers are pointing back at THEM.

As long as you, your husband, and your ped are on board with the decisions you are making for Will, that is all that matters.

Yoka said...

We are with you on the TV. Lilli doesn't watch any TV at home. When we are out or visiting friends we sometimes catch her starring at the screen. But while she is awake the TV stays off.

Jen said...

I am with you on the TV thing. I just don't think babies need TV.

And is there anything at all to do with parenting that people don't judge?

Hehe. If strangers asked me how long I planned to keep feeding that baby, I'd say forever, since people die without food. (However, this would only work if they didn't specify breastfeeding. Darn.)

Intrepidgirl said...

You're so right about TV. We are doing the same. Using Google you can find tons of research that backs you up.

Sophie said...

The TV thing seems to be a big one. To handle this particular "judgement" I try to say exactly what you said in your post, in the same diplomatic way. We are following our Dr's recommendation, and it's now known that TV adversely affects brain development. You do what you have to do, I guess without driving yourself crazy. I try to remember that I am my daughter's biggest protector/advocate, and if that puts ME in uncomfortable situations sometimes, so be it.

My daughter is 4 and we did no TV with her. I love that she has no idea who Hanna Montana is, and is so happy to dig for worms and find ladybugs and create her own little gentle plays with her dolls (maybe all kids do this tho!).

We also do Waldorf type stuff and they are big into no TV. I think finding support for what feels right to you also helps, and that seems to just happen organically.

If anyone is interested:

Mel said...

Amazes me... how everyone seems to think they know best, eh?
You are mom and this is your baby to make decisions for and at that, I think no TV is a GREAT decision and one I have been thinking about myself.
Thanks for sharing.

Polka Dot said...

Well ... we're not there yet, but we definitely have ideas on what we want to do / not to do ...

And no tv is one of them. But I'm talking beyond babydom and well into grade school. Movies during a family night are one thing, but no sitting in front of the tv for hours each evening. And that goes for video games as well.

So you're not alone, most definitely.

And, like Farah, we've talked about cloth diapers. After researching it, there are so many options these days that are tons better than when we were babies (or my nieces & nephews, for that matter) and it's something I want us to give a shot. It may or may not work, but we're going to try.

The one thing to try to keep in mind is that your Will's mommy and you know what's better for him than anyone else's mommy. Maybe just try to shrug your shoulders and say "eh, it works for us" and leave it at that. And if they push? Pull a me and get snarky *grin* (although I find repeatedly giving the same response to the 'yeah but' eventually gets my point across, too).