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Apr 17 2013

Watching TV is Different When You’re a Mom

By at 10:01 am

law and order svuI admit it: there was a long period of time when Law & Order: SVU was my favorite TV show. I’d set the DVR and watch it every week, giving myself crazy nightmares. But like any good addiction, it was hard to quit. Week after week, I’d watch–sometimes covering my eyes for half of the episode–because I needed to know how Elliot and Olivia would handle the latest “ripped from the headlines” tragedy.

Then I had kids. And suddenly, a show about special victims went from appealing to appalling. I can barely watch the commercials anymore. SVU has lost its glamour.

But all of TV seems to have changed now that I’m a mom. I have a new level of understanding for the mom character on all sorts of shows, from old reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond to Friday Night Lights (yes, I do watch most of my TV shows on Netflix). With my newfound mom point of view, I have to be judicious in what I watch. I simply can’t watch TV the same way anymore.

For example, like many of you, I was obsessed with season 3 of Downton Abbey this spring. But I was a few weeks behind, and (SPOILER ALERT) I found out via Facebook that Lady Sybil died in childbirth before I watched the episode. You’d think that knowing that the tragedy was on its way would’ve been enough for me to have turned off that mom-vision just a bit. But no, dammit. Not only was I bawling my eyes out, but it was worse than it used to be. If I’d watched that episode before having kids, I would’ve empathized with the husband who’d just lost his wife. Now my empathy was with the mother who just watched her grown daughter do the most amazing thing in the world–give birth–and the die. In an instant, her whole world fell apart. I wanted to turn off the empathy but I couldn’t. It took four episodes of The Big Bang Theory before I could finally fall asleep at 2 in the morning. (Thanks Mayim!)

My daughter, age 3 and 3/4, has lately been asking me if she can jump into the TV to be with her friends on Yo Gabba Gabba and Fresh Beat Band. She just doesn’t quite understand why that doesn’t work. Me, on the other hand? I’m glad not to live in the land of make-believe TV shows. I like that there’s an off button. Because even if I can’t turn off that sometimes soul-crushing mom-empathy, at least I can turn off the TV. For a few hours, at least.

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