To: the parent who has had to allow extra screen time lately…

From: Josie Mental Health Coach

Dear working parent,

Hi! I’m Celina, a mental health coach at Josie. Building on World Mental Health Day, I’m excited to make a guest appearance in today’s newsletter. Today, I want to address a common topic that has come up from many of the working parents in our community: screen time.

The situation: Your child is home sick from daycare. You’re working from home but couldn’t take the whole day off work or find last-minute childcare. You have one more meeting you need to get through. You know a guaranteed way to keep your little one entertained for the next hour is with some screen time. So, you turn on Sesame Street and say, “Mama/Dada will be right over there.” You sit down at your desk to prep for your meeting and everything seems to be going according to plan until…the guilt kicks in.

“I shouldn’t be letting him have screen time…”

“I can’t believe this is the second time I’ve had to do this this week…”

“Other parents wouldn’t have this issue…”

“Are these hours of extra screen time going to ruin him??…”

“I should have been more prepared…”

“Being a working mom is too hard. I don’t know if I can do it…”

“I am a bad parent…”

If this situation and these thoughts sound familiar… you are not alone.

While all of these thoughts come with a level of self-judgment, we want to keep a sharp eye out for that final thought: “I am a bad parent.” When we go from “I did something bad” to “I am bad,” we move from guilt to shame. Feeling bad for allowing your child extra screen time and telling yourself “I am  a bad parent for doing this” can quickly turn into guilt, or perhaps more accurately, shame – and shame is a breeding ground for burnout.  

In these moments when your thoughts are spiraling and the guilt or shame is kicking in, ask yourself: “Am I doing the best I can with what is available to me here and now?” Your initial response might sound something like, “Yes, BUT…” Pause there. Take out the “but” and stop with the “yes.” Your best is enough.

One of the few guarantees in parenthood? The unpredictability. As S. Mitra Kalita so eloquently put it in her most recent article for TIME and Charter, caregiving – in this case parenting – “does not operate on anyone’s schedule, and regularly, inevitably, notoriously throws the best laid plans into chaos.”

So, all that is to say: when you do allow more screen time than you would like my guess is that it is because you are adapting. Adapting to the unpredictability of parenting. Adapting to the challenges of the day and your shifting priorities. Adapting in a way that will allow you to get your needs met (yes, your needs matter too). You are turning to the TV/iPad/cellphone for some help and adapting, like asking for help, is a strength, not a weakness.  In fact, we like to think about adapting as a breeding ground for resilience.

So, the takeaway?

Shame = breeding ground for burnout.

Adaptation = breeding ground for resilience.

Let this empowering thought sink in, and see how it can apply to any number of scenarios as a working parent.  We hope it helps!



Announcement:  New “Dear Josie” (ask a coach) Series!

Are you navigating the unpredictability of working parenthood? Do you have a question for our Josie Mental Health Coach? We’re starting a new series Dear Josie and we want to hear from you. Send us your question, situation you’re stuck with, or just some common thoughts you’re having to [email protected] and the next letter from our Mental Health Coach might be to you (anonymously, of course!).

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