A little over ten years ago, when we moved into our new home, we made a conscious decision not to put a television in our living room. Up to that point, our TV had always been on. ALWAYS. It consumed us from the time we woke up in the mornings past past the time we went to bed. We were well-versed in all of the current shows, celebrity news, and pretty much knew the day of the week by what was on TV. The effects of television on our daily lives was insane. We ate in front of it, talked on the phone while watching it, cleaned with it on, did homework in front of it. Family gatherings consisted of watching TV instead of building relationships and connecting with each other, and these gatherings often ended before our favorite show came on. Our family was forever late to everything, and it took us forever to get anything done.
I don’t actually remember much about this period in our lives–in our marriage or parenting–except that I always felt tired and annoyed.
Prior to our unplugging, I read Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, by Katrina Kenison, who gave up the hustle and bustle of her hectic life to enjoy simple pleasures of the everyday gifts a mom is bestowed, but often too busy to recognize. In the book, her family gave up TV. Intrigued and inspired by her version of simplifying motherhood, I suggested to my husband that when we move, we put our one and only TV in the basement so if we truly wanted to watch TV we had to make an effort to do so. To my surprise, he willingly agreed!
Our timing for this lifestyle change was impeccable as our son would came into our lives shortly after this decision demanding an obscene amount of attention. I loved this part of our lives! He wasn’t planted in front of a TV so I could cook or clean, he was part of it (and now we have a son who cooks, loads his own dishes, and cleans up his own mess!) Our bonding was given uninterrupted attention and unconditional love and acceptance and made his transition from foster care to our home precious.
Let me assure you, we are not 100% without TV. Unplugging means I always have to have a wealth of activities to fall back on. Since ditching cable, we play countless hours of games and cards, fell in love with the outdoors and radio again. We’ve found a love/hate relationship with jigsaw puzzles, and read an insane amount of books.
Full disclosure: we now have 3 TVs in our home, including one in our master bedroom. However, I can honestly attest as I am writing this, it has not been on for over 3 months. When I am sick, there is nothing better than curling up with a good book or falling asleep to an old black and white movie. My son still picks books to read that he knows are movies because he knows this is a way to get to watch TV in our house. We set very firm boundaries on our TV viewing: No TV during the week. Although TV isn’t completely gone from our lives we have managed it to fit our family’s dynamic, and thankfully, we found a good balance before Facebook and Netflix broke into our lives.
Unplugging has helped tremendously with transitioning during the evenings especially—because there is no arguing or background noise while I’m cooking dinner and typically everyone is helping, we don’t hear arguing over turning TV off and getting ready for bed. Most notably, it has allowed us to slow down our lives by not trying to accomplish everything in a 2 minutes commercial break and provides us unlimited time to connect with one another.
My next big tackle: cell phones.