We Have a Babysitter. His Name is Clifford.

I am a stay-at-home mom who used to be a kindergarten teacher and a nanny. I have spent a lot of time taking care of children. I know a lot of activities and crafts and songs and games that I can play with my toddler. So, ideally, my son would spend all day, every day, in an enriched learning environment filled with activities and songs and age appropriate stimulation.

However, I am also married to an anesthesia resident. That means that I do not get regular help. That means that my husband is routinely gone anywhere from 12 to 16 to 24 hours at a time. So the whole husband-comes-home-at-five-and-helps-with-the-evening-routine thing just isn’t a consistent part of my life. We also don’t live near family, and don’t have the resources for a scheduled babysitter, so I take on a majority of childcare and household responsibilities by myself.

As much as I would love to say that my child is always engaged in developmental play and on a good schedule and everyday is wonderful, that’s just not true.

Sometimes, I have phone calls to make that require no toddler screams in the background. Sometimes, the dishes and laundry need my attention more than Thomas and the train table. Sometimes, I need a break more than once every 24 hours.

So sometimes, TV is my babysitter. I monitor the content. Clifford, Thomas, Curious George, Caillou, and Peep and the Big Wide World are some rotating favorites. My child is aware of the Sesame Street gang and can recognize the Barney theme song. These are all facts that I’m not particularly proud of, but I’m not really ashamed either.

Spending every single moment engaging my son just isn’t realistic. There are bills to pay and business calls to make and a house to clean and dinners to cook; often without the help of a spouse. And then there are those moments when I have just lost my patience or my ability to deal with the constant needs of a two-year old in the prime of his terrible twos, and it might be better for him to watch TV than deal with a strung out Mommy.

TV is my helper. It helps me do the dishes and the laundry and the phone calls. It helps me get a break from my other wise never-ending care of a demanding toddler. It helps me balance parenting, household maintenance, life administration, and every so often; my sanity.

My son isn’t being raised in front of a TV, but it is a fixture in our lives. He will grow up with a lot of different activities and experiences, and I guess TV is just going to be one of them. As much as I hate to admit it, I really do depend on that little bit of animated entertainment every day. So thank you, Clifford and the gang, for your contribution to my child’s life. I’m not sure I could do it without you.