By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
Hi, I’m Stephanie, and I’m a TV junkie. I’d like to say that I spend countless hours doing high-minded activities like yoga and attending the opera, but chances are good that most nights you’ll find me filling up on a healthy dose of reality TV, shows about teenagers (often bursting into song) or Grey’s Anatomy. There’s something quite cathartic about pressing the delete button on my remote – as though catching up on 100 hours of American Idol auditions is as much an accomplishment as getting my kids to school on time. There might be a million channels featuring a gabillion crappy shows and yet, thanks to DVR, I’m able to be selective and efficient with my time. Add my laptop to the equation and I’m able to multi-task like nobody’s business. So, is my television addiction a cause for concern or a much-needed veg-out opportunity that any hard-working mother deserves? I’ve decided to analyze how my television viewing habits as a mom have evolved over the last few years to find out…
Having just graduated with a master’s degree, I had a couple of months to waste before my first baby arrived. For some odd reason, I decided that reruns of Law & Order: SVU was the show to watch. This wasn’t the wisest choice considering I was living in Manhattan at the time and basically every episode was about horrible things happening to young children. So I switched to reruns of Felicity (which I watched religiously when it first aired – I love me some Scott Speedman)!
When my son finally arrived, I remember trying to watch the first few episodes of the last season of 24 while my baby nurse was next to me on the couch and talking loudly on her cell phone. Since 8 of the 24 hours were aired in the first 2 days, I got too overwhelmed with catching up and I never actually watched the entire series. Now, if deleting a mere half-hour show from my DVR is cathartic for me, you can only imagine the satisfaction I get deleting a series finale! But alas, I didn’t have that experience having ended my relationship with 24 one season early. Perhaps this is the main reason I didn’t have a baby nurse after having my second child.
Whereas my husband rarely has the time to watch sports with abandon as he once did, my tastes and viewing habits with TV haven’t really changed all that much (I’m not sure what that says about my priorities). I’m sure that if I didn’t have children, I probably wouldn’t wind up in a ball of tears after an episode of Parenthood or choke up during the sentimental endings on Modern Family and The Middle. I may drive a mini-van but I still carve out at least 40 minutes a week to live vicariously through a glamorous teenager’s life (i.e. 90210 or the now cancelled Gossip Girl) or follow the rising career of the next American Idol despite aging out of eligibility to audition for the show years ago. Speaking of auditioning, I’m glad to see the rest of the country jumping on board the Broadway bandwagon and sharing in my love of musical theatre by watching shows like Glee and Smash. Now I just need to find a mommy friend who’s a loyal fan of Bunheads and actually knows who Sutton Foster is.
Admittedly, I have a slew of guilty pleasures for which my husband is constantly making fun of me: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Real Housewives of NYC (also known as the gateway shows to Bethenny Ever After and Vanderpump Rules). I also put myself through the torture of watching House Hunters on HGTV and seeing people across the country buy mansions for a fifth of the price of the real estate in and around the NYC tri-state area. On the other hand, I also manage to find the time to watch Selling New York and Million Dollar Decorators and pine with longing and jealousy as I stare at my very empty living room while paying the landscaper for fixing a drainage issue. Oh well, interior design will just have to wait a few more years.
Of course my favorite aspect of watching TV is cuddling with my husband (and by cuddling, I mean forcing my feet onto his lap in my oh so subtle hint for a foot massage). Together we enjoy a feeling of nostalgia from the days when we first met by watching Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, The Office and reruns of Friends. Our new favorites are The New Girl, Big Bang Theory, Parks & Recreation, Girls and Homeland. After weeks of my raving about it, my husband finally made some room in his lineup for Modern Family and The Good Wife. The rest of our DVR space is of course allotted to our other favorites like The Fresh Beat Band, Yo Gabba Gabba and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Just kidding – those are our kids’ picks. And while logging so many hours in front of the TV might be the sign of our society crumbling – I’m quite thankful I have all of these shows literally at the end of my fingertips.
There are definitely times when I keep my deep love of television under raps – especially when I’m around those moms who claim they don’t watch any television. But I’m relieved to report that I’m not alone in my loyalty to the small screen and I’ve developed meaningful friendships based on this common interest. Now I have go-to friends associated with each television program I watch and look forward to our weekly post-show g-chats.
For the record, I’m a devoted fan of film and theatre and I’ve read all mom-requisite trilogies and NY Times bestsellers. I write, I teach, I mother. I have 2 masters’ degrees. I’d like to think the TV isn’t totally frying my brain. And so, I’ll proudly read my Entertainment Weekly next to the guy watching the news on the treadmill next to me at the gym (Facebook and Google alerts will let me know if there’s any really important current events I should be aware of). I realize there are a handful of amazing shows I’m missing out on, so pipe down all of you Downtown Abbey and Mad Men fans. For now, I’ll enjoy my quiet evenings in 20 and 40-minute increments and wonder how I ever survived life with 13 channels and a VCR.