Home with Baby: 5 Alternatives to Watching Television

In the early years, keeping the television off was better for our family, especially since I postponed a career to stay home. Daytime programming depressed me.

Most shows offer advertising that targets their core audience. This is good news when watching Meet the Press or 60 Minutes. Those commercials offer choices between corrupt banking institutions, hot vacation destinations or expensive restaurants.

Ever catch commercials during a weekday?

Jenny Craig didn’t exactly make me feel like a winner. After five or ten different pitches about “earning your degree at home” or “getting compensation after being injured in an auto accident,” most educated moms are ready to kill themselves. Do we need to be reminded that we are now in the same demographic as crystal meth junkies and CSI addicts?

I didn’t want my babies watching television. When they turned three, I’d turn on Sesame Street and afterwards, find something fun to do.

I did this with active and loud twin sons, while coping with a perpetual headache, so don’t complain to me about the importance of down time. We are the ones who decided to bring children into the world and now we’ve got a job to do. Down time is a thing of the past, along with back rubs, foreplay, and The Late Show.

There are people who take this anti-television thing to an extreme. Those who advocate killing your television are in desperate need of a remote island somewhere and condoms.

Lots and lots of condoms.

Instead of extremes, let’s set a good example and teach kids how to get along in today’s society without being a slave to it.

In other words, don’t shoot your boob tube, just turn it off every once in a while. Here’s some fun things to do instead:

1. Listen to NPR on the radio or read a book. It’s no secret that television drains IQ points. Listen to Ira Glass instead – while doing kegels. You’ll get smarter and sexier at the same time. Besides, negotiating with a toddler about giving up his Binky, and losing, already made me feel stupid; no need to make it worse.

2. Join different playgroups. Find one in the neighborhood, another in church, synagogue or coven, and perhaps yet another filled with friends who have similar voting habits. Playgroups aren’t perfect. Hypercompetitive moms who take the drive they no longer channel into their career and instead use it to push Junior into a marathon before his first birthday. Focus on the positive. Camaraderie is important and we need a chance to talk to grownups.

3. Exercise. Those last twenty pounds of baby weight aren’t going to work themselves off. And by the way, can we really call it baby weight when the “baby” is starting preschool? Yoga, exercise classes, even a few laps around the mall is something we can do with our children. Just put them in a stroller and go. Let’s face it, getting active is much better than watching a Law & Order marathon where the scripted drama never fully distracts us from that slowly spreading ass we’re sitting on.

4. Get involved. Lots of people need help – generational poverty, addiction, and dangerous neighborhoods are enough to make even the most optimistic among us reach for a Stoli and some sedatives. We feel better if we do something about it. Join a group dedicated to solving some important issue. It can be an international issue, like starving children in foreign countries or legal aid for abused women in the Middle East. It can be a national issue, like preserving our environment or historical sites. We can lend our voice to state groups dedicated to cleaning parks or raising money for schools. Local recycling movements or holding rallies to get streetlights funded in dangerous neighborhoods help more people than we can imagine. This teaches our kids to think of others and to put their good thoughts into even better action.

5. Call local parenting groups. Some organizations make house calls and have lots of ideas for age-appropriate activities. I’m no Martha Stewart. I have no idea how to turn that big cardboard box into something that could, quite reasonably, transport the entire family to the moon. But I hooked up with a local group called Parents as Teachers and their weekly visits always gave us something to look forward to. If nothing else, the caseworker sat with my boys for five minutes so I could take a shit in peace.

I know it’s not easy. Believe me, there were times when I escaped into my closet for a few seconds, screamed into my pillow, and wondered if I’d ever find a healthy social outlet during long days where my only friends were Elmo and an overeager washing machine.

It helped to turn off the television and get out of the house.