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A couple weeks back, after much prodding on my part, our house become a device-free zone between the hours of 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. We could use our phones to take photos or videos but we couldn’t filter/caption/share them until after 8pm. Other than that, no devices were allowed.

In the beginning, the first night was not hard. It felt sort of like a game, who would involuntarily reach for or pull out their phone first? Not surprisingly, it was me. I peeked at my phone while doing domestic things in the kitchen (which I actually don’t do very often – suck it, stereotypes) and had about 13 missed Slack messages from coworkers freaking out about a project deadline. I had made my own rules but it didn’t matter, I couldn’t stop worrying about work, so I broke down and started working.

Day two was great. I sure as heck wasn’t about to cheat after what had happened the night before and Seth, who texts more than any female I know, went device-free the entire time with the exception of a trip to the bathroom – that he thinks I didn’t notice. Busted.

Day three was fine. I briefly forgot about the rule – well, I didn’t so much forget about the rule as much as I lost track of time and had no idea it was past 6:00. Seth scolded me, took my phone and then tapped at the clock on the oven to which I rolled my eyes like a small child and left the room. We then spent the evening preoccupying the boys and trying to keep Matty from asking to watch fire truck videos on my phone.

Day four. I have no idea what happened on day 4. But I think we did okay.

Day five. Day five…? 

To be honest, I think life got in the way of device-free evenings. That probably sounds like an excuse and a little cliché but I don’t know how else to say it. Just like day two when I didn’t realize what time it was and day one when work got in the way, life has a way of creeping up on us and smothering our good intentions – just like all of the parenting recommendations and advice have a way of piling up and overshadowing our good efforts.

Screen time has been a big concern of mine as of late because I hate how often Matty asks to watch videos on my phone. I’ve stopped letting him watch them for the most part and I’ve naturally cut back on my screen time because as soon as he sees a phone or computer he says, “Fire truck?” but, regardless, I still feel guilty. You can probably relate, I never wanted my child to be one of those kids screaming for my phone at all times. I want him to be patient and to be able to find other ways to occupy his time but now I struggle with the line between interests and curiosity versus laziness and complacency. I had a fellow, more experienced mother say something to me the other day that hit a chord.

“You have to pick and choose your battles. Some things just aren’t worth it.” The keyword being your.

It’s so true. For some reason, once you have a child people seem to believe they know how to raise your children better than you do – strangers on the street, strangers in the store, people who don’t even have kids, the articles upon articles. Screen time is just the tip of the iceberg. People want to weigh in on what your children eat, what time they go to sleep, where and how they go to sleep, how they’re disciplined, how they’re rewarded, where they go to school – if they go to school, how their time is spent, how your time as a family is spent, how many siblings they need – the list could go on and on and on.

It’s unreal.

In that moment I realized I feel guilty because of other people’s expectations and recommendations – not my own. I don’t feel guilty because I think Matty is developmentally delayed, complacent, lazy or unimaginative. I don’t feel guilty because I feel like I’m letting a phone or a television raise my child or even be a stand-in for me when I’m tired. In fact, it really has nothing to do with me or Matty and everything to do with other people pushing their agendas so freely. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one piece of advice that is worth giving and it is to fucking vaccinate your kids.

But we’ll talk about that another day.

As silly as it sounds, sometimes it’s easy to forget that I’m raising my kids, and I’m one of only two people who have any say in how that’s done. I am one of only two people who will EVER be held accountable for their unbecoming behavior, deficiencies and poor choices.

Let that sink in.

Maybe it’s time, as a society, we recognize this and stop insinuating our new parents are incapable of raising valuable human beings on their own, without all of the unsolicited parenting advice.