• helenmcnutt

Let's nail the TV thing now


How do you find time to write this summer holidays? By handing your children the remote control...



A lovely lady got in touch with me over the weekend. She’d read a copy of my summer holiday guide, where I recommend plonking your kids down in front of the TV for an hour in the day so you can get some creative time to yourself. She said thank you for not making her feel guilty about doing this. And I think it’s worth mentioning. Because no mum, especially one who has had her children at home every day for the last four months, should feel bad about actively creating some time for herself.


I am a far nicer mum when I write. The issue of how to write when you’re a parent is tricky enough without feeling bad about sitting your children in front of the telly. I can’t remember a time when my children were sad about being allowed to watch TV either.


In my holiday guide I also recommend getting up at six, to gain an hour’s writing time, followed by half an hour of meditation or exercise. If my kids get up before seven thirty I feel zero guilt about letting them watch TV then too.


The TV watching isn’t the thing that will do any harm, it’s the guilt we heap onto ourselves for allowing them to do it. It’s the not making any time for ourselves throughout the day that will finish us off before September.


I’m not saying I let mine watch it all day, every day. I try to make sure that they don’t watch it in the day when I’m not writing. Then, if I’m not with them and need to get on with something like cleaning the bathroom, I kick them out into the garden. (I have tried ‘including’ them when I clean the house. It is not a good idea).


But if I have a deadline or something urgent to finish and my husband isn’t around, I gladly hand them the remote control. My youngest two are sat a couple of metres away, watching Super Truck on Amazon Prime as I type this now.


So at the start of these holidays I say drop the guilt now. It is stupid, pointless, and won’t do you or your children a bit of good.


And if you’d like to read some less bossy, more sweary thoughts on TV, you might like to take a look at the blog below, which I published a few years ago.


And please let me know your own thoughts, in the comments section or at helen@helenmcnutt.com


TV: A Crucial Developmental Milestone

This morning Raff woke at 6.20am. When I came downstairs the dog had weed on the floor and Paddington Bear had hung himself.



Things continued in this mildly out-of-control manner as Raff sneaked off to the toilet bowl to wash his hands in it, then sprinkled a huge box of elastic bands all over the house, and Bear refused to let me cut poor Paddington down. Raff then had several tantrums about the layout of our ground floor, the general gist being that there’s too many corners and not enough straight bits for his tractor.

He has recently learnt that when he yells ‘muuuum’ I will do pretty much anything to get him to stop and he has not shied away from using this information to his advantage. Currently at mealtimes he is eschewing cutlery altogether in favour of an immersive, performance based approach. And because of the stupid bastard summer holidays, for the last month there’s been no respite in the form of nursery.


But this morning there was a glimmer of hope: Milkshake on Channel 5. Now let me explain (out of sheer snobbery) that it would normally be CBeebies. Lovely, innocent, Cbeebies, whose shiny, enthusiastic presenters look like they’re safely tucked up themselves by the end of the Bedtime Hour. But CBeebies was on the blink, so Channel 5 it was. Channel 5’s presenters look like they’ve only just made it in time to the studio after a big night out. I think at one point this morning the presenter was actually gurning.

I couldn’t have cared less. Because for about three glorious minutes Raffy took on the slack-jawed, slightly stoned look of a kid slipping into a TV Trance.


Finally! I have been waiting for this for months. Waiting until the day when I can actually sit down whilst Raffy is awake.

Because Raffy is a force of nature. His nursery teacher has said that in thirty years she has not seen a child like him. He is absolutely fearless, which is both my favourite and least favourite thing about him. Some days all I do is follow him around. Pulling him out of the washing machine, un-tying the electric cord he’s wrapped round his neck, stopping him jumping off the garden wall or trying to nick the Quad bike. By the time he goes to bed, all I can do is sit on the couch, drooling slightly, feeling slightly sick in front of The Real Housewives of Cheshire, (admittedly, that’s often because of the Cheshire Housewives, not just Raff).

When he’s at home, most of the time he is outside with us in the garden or farm. So I could not feel less guilty about trying very, very, hard to get him to watch telly.

Bear is an experienced TV watcher. He has worked his way through the Tractor Ted cannon, CBeebies and is now into Netflix. Heavily screened Netflix; we have learned at our peril that we are not quite ready for Dinotrux.

Bear goes to a brilliant nursery. Yet when he comes out with words like ‘nocturnal’ and actually knows what they mean, he usually says he’s learnt them from the telly. He has also learnt another valuable life lesson. About a year ago I put his Peppa Pig DVD in the bin because Bear had started to whinge just like Peppa. Bear watched me do it and is now very clear that if you whinge you get put in the bin.

In the last couple of weeks he’s had two lots of cousins to stay, been to Legoland, trapped moles, stacked hay, helped his dad kill and pluck two chickens, been swimming more times that he can count and had a tea-party for eight friends. By now I think even he is glad of the televisual respite. Because it’s not just adults who sometimes need to sit drooling and staring blankly at a screen.

And as for Raff, he’s progressing amazingly. I nearly cried when Andrew told me he’d got nearly twenty minutes, TWENTY FRICKIN MINUTES!!!! of screen time with Tractor Ted this morning. Although Andrew did place a bowl of food in front of him, as an added incentive.


Here’s to obese, telly addicted kids. Hoorah!

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