I used to be a TV buff. I still am. But it has changed. Oh, how it has changed.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s all kind of streaming platforms. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. But let me tell you how none of them are responsible for changing my viewing habits. Absolutely none. The only factors responsible for changing my viewing habits are my two children: they have managed a complete takeover of my life – and that includes my TV.
When my first child was born, we had a group of friends who we were very close to. They had a few kids of their own and they used to regularly comment on how ‘life would change’ when we have kids. Like all pre-parenting-phase-humans my husband and I used to scoff at the magnitude of change before us. And like all new-to-parenting humans, we were in for a shock of a lifetime. One day our friends visited it when my little one was just a few days old. My friend smiled and looked around the apartment. I suddenly saw what she saw: pampers in a corner. There used to be DVDs there (yeah, back then we had DVDs). Damp, small rompers strewn on the sofa for drying (we had cushions there). Tiny towels on the dining table (we had a nice little centrepiece on the dining table before the little one was born). It had all changed.
As the little one grew up and the second one came along, all I watched were kids’ cartoons. Now, I don’t mind those. I’m big on the song and dance so I loved singing songs. But tell me how many times can a fully grown adult enjoy ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ or ‘Wheels On the Bus Go Round and Round’? Only so much.
I remember a small comic strip from the Family Circus: it talked about how you know you’re a parent when you find yourself humming ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ to yourself as you drive yourself to work. I realized this much later but by then it was too late. Right now I may have a channel subscription to 300 plus channels but we only watch the one where the little cartoon is trying to figure out if it’s a triangle or a square.
It’s a challenge to watch anything that only airs on TV. For Game of Thrones, I would stay up late and put every kid into bed so I could have the TV to myself. I couldn’t watch a lot of stuff on the telly: the kids would watch it and I would be sitting on the sofa watching something on YouTube which is airing on TV as I sit there for the forty bajillionth rendition of ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider.’
There’s no way around it. That’s the bargain. You know how there are marriage vows? In sickness and in health? They should have them for parenting too, and kids should be reminded of them when they grow up: ‘When I decided to have you, I decided to give up everything cool and fun in my life, like watching TV in my PJs with my food in my hand or look good in a pair of skinny jeans’.
Yet, so it goes for everyone. For those before us, they must have given up the matinee shows. Those before them must have foregone the privilege of watching the local theatre. Parenting has always been about sacrifice. About giving up a part of yourself to let something else grow. At least in 2019, we have pampers. And Netflix.
Masala!'s Digital Editor Mahwash Ajaz lists the pain and pleasures of being a mom in Dubai in her column Parent Trap.