Did you see my post about my 12 Monthly Challenges? This year, instead of making traditional New Year’s resolutions, I’m choosing 12 small challenges. Every month, I do things like run every day for a month, do yoga every day for a month, and write in a diary every day. You can read the full list here: 12 Month Challenge for a Better 2019
I decided to go with no TV for a month in January.
I’m not saying that watching TV is bad, and when I tell people that, they seem to think I’m criticizing them for watching TV. Not really!
My problem with TV is that I watch it without thinking.
I have a little routine every night where I put the kids to bed, clean up the house, make dinner, and then sit down and watch TV.
It’s a great routine. It’s comforting, easy, and relaxing, but I often find myself sitting in front of the TV for 2-3 hours every night, watching complete and utter shite.
I watch TV without thinking about anything. Sometimes I don’t look at it and just sit and stare at it until I feel it’s time to go to bed. I often don’t even remember what I saw!
So, there’s nothing wrong with watching TV, but I think there’s something wrong with watching it without thinking.
Watching the waves crashing is way better than watching TV, right?
How I imagined my ‘no TV for a month’ would look
When I set myself the challenge of going without television for a month, I fully imagined that it would be incredible and perhaps life-changing. I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people who don’t have a TV, or who grew up without a TV, saying it’s great. They are very productive and don’t waste every night watching TV.
I imagined that I would start spending my evenings doing productive things like preparing meals and cleaning the house. I tried to make more of an effort to go out with friends and go on dates. I decided to get some work done and move forward on my to-do list. I thought about going to the gym!
I never expected to be 100% productive every night. I also thought about swapping out my box set bing for relaxing in a bubble bath or reading a book in bed early in the morning. Instead of just turning into a zombie in front of the TV, I consciously wanted to relax.
I also thought that if I got hungry at 9pm, it would be a night spent on the couch, so I would be healthier. The sofa is very close to the kitchen, so it’s very easy to pop into the kitchen again and again to buy chocolates, biscuits or ice cream.
As you can see, I had pretty high hopes for a month without TV!
But what actually happened…?
I started reading books in bed early in the morning. That’s a good plan!
The reality of watching no TV for a month
I started strong, really strong. I hardly watched TV for the first week.
One evening I went to the supermarket. I usually go there in the afternoon with my son Joseph, and it was a nightmare because we would often eat half the shopping cart before we even got to the checkout. So I was glad I finished it by myself when the store was quiet.
We had an early night on the second night. I had planned to read in bed, but I actually ended up falling asleep at 8:30 p.m. It wasn’t all that exciting, but I woke up feeling like a million bucks.
One night I cleaned out the private bathroom and one night I went to work.
I invited some friends over for a night out, but everyone was tired from work and in “January hibernation mode.” They offered to hang out and watch TV with me, but I had to politely decline!
After a few days, it started to become difficult to leave Sam sitting on the couch, the wood burner lit, a good movie playing on the TV, so cozy and warm.
By the second week, I started to hate it.
Every night I was too tired to do any productive work. I’m busy and productive all day long, but I just didn’t have the headspace to continue working at night.
I would appreciate it if you could bring me an iPad with the Netflix app on it, thank you.
The realisation I’m not 23 anymore and parenting is HARD!
One of the main reasons I wanted to take on this challenge is because I used to be so productive at night.
When I was 23, I went to the gym and then went to work. After work, I attended a networking event and then went out with friends for dinner and drinks. Then I went home, calmed down a bit, wrote a blog post, then read a book, went to bed at midnight, and woke up at 7am to start all over again.
I couldn’t stop!
My days have been very full and very productive.
A part of me wished days like this would come back again…
…But a big part of me knows this will never happen again.
I am now a mother. I have her three children to take care of and I often don’t realize how difficult it is. It’s tiring both physically and mentally. Outside, I just go for a walk, go play, go to the park, get coffee, read a story, draw a picture, build a tower, make cupcakes. None of them are particularly difficult or difficult. But yeah, not having to take care of a 2- and 3-year-old for a few days in a row is exhausting in a way I can’t explain. I don’t really understand why it’s so difficult, but it is.
I always break up fights, always persuade, soothe, encourage, always stay positive. ‘well done! well done! That’s very clever! That is wonderful! ‘ This constant upbeat positivity can be exhausting in itself.
I decided to replace my evenings in front of the TV with long baths and pampering sessions
And then there are the sleepless nights.
Joseph is 2 years old and still wakes up during the night.
George is almost 4 years old and he still comes up to us in the middle of the night to tell us he went out for a bit and tries to tell us all about it, even at 3am.
And even if you sleep all night, you’ll wake up at 6:30 a.m with more energy than a caffeinated ping pong ball.
I don’t mean to criticize motherhood. Actually, that’s not the case, which is great, but exhausting, and it’s perfectly okay to admit this.
Before doing this no-TV challenge, I hadn’t accepted how exhausting being a mother can be. I used to tell myself that I was lazy as I lazed around on the couch drinking red wine at night, getting so caught up in a pointless comedy that I momentarily forgot where I was.
“Today was another lazy night on the couch. I should have done something more productive.’
But this is not laziness. This is an absolute must to relax and recharge. There’s nothing wrong with getting hooked on a mindless TV show that you’ll forget about in three weeks. You don’t have to be productive 24/7!
And don’t forget that it’s so nice to snuggle up on the couch with your partner, sit by the fireplace, and watch your favorite show together. After sharing a bottle of wine and eating too many biscuits, I’m tired and CBA, so it’s good to leave the laundry until morning.
I’m not old by any means, but I think it’s also important to realize that at 31, I don’t have the same energy as I did when I was 21. That’s no problem either. Because we all get older and we all get a little tired as we get older, and that never changes.
Why not turn a night of watching TV into a night of yoga at the gym? In theory, it’s a great idea. As a matter of fact, I know where I want to be.
TV is sociable
Sometimes I think watching TV is really anti-social. Because you sit in your own little world, blocking out everything and everyone around you. I’m a particularly antisocial TV viewer and hate it when people talk during movies. Sam is not good at this and he loves doing voiceovers on every show he watches. Whenever he says something like, “Oh, who is that?!” I always shut up!?’
‘I don’t know! ‘I’m watching the same show as you and I don’t even know who it is!’ it barks!’
But in reality, television is not anti-social. Television brings people together like nothing else.
Just yesterday, I had a nice 30-minute chat with an elderly neighbor about our favorite TV shows. After all, we both love home improvement shows and would stand in the street discussing Grand Designs, George Clark’s Great Spaces, and Escape to the Countryside. We were happy to find common ground and feel a bond with someone we would otherwise hardly have spoken to.
It’s great to feel connected to people through your favorite shows. You can laugh at the characters, complain about the villains, wonder what will happen next, and discuss tragic developments. And the best part is that you can have deep conversations with complete strangers and feel an instant bond.
When you’re near cliffs like these, you can’t help but think of Broadchurch!
So how did I do?
I completely failed. I watched a lot of TV. I hated that challenge. I hated that I failed. But I hated trying to be productive every night when really all I wanted to do was curl up with Sam and mentally switch off.
But I loved those cozy winter nights spent watching TV.
Is that something that will continue for the rest of the year? Absolutely not.
Is it something you can recommend? No, definitely not.
Would I do it again? No, not a chance.
Did I learn anything? Yes, yes, it actually is. I learned that it’s okay to be tired and that watching TV is a great way to spend an evening when you’re physically and mentally tired.
I think just chatting with people about this challenge has made me more aware of what I’m watching and less likely to sit on the couch and watch some proper drivel. If there’s nothing on, or you can’t decide what to watch on Netflix, or Sky doesn’t record anything, you’re more likely to go read a book or do something else.
I also learned that when you announce that you’re doing something to improve yourself, other people can sometimes get a little amused about it. They think you are criticizing them or passive-aggressively telling them that you disagree with their lifestyle choices.
All I have to say about that is that people make decisions based on themselves. I decided to do these challenges for me. This is the first time I’ve ever done it, even though I’ve gotten a lot of vitriolic comments from people. Some people look down on me for my efforts, while others justify their lifestyle choices. I assure you, you don’t have to justify your lifestyle choices to me!
Finally: You can only maximize your productivity during the day if you get enough rest at night. If TV calms you down, check it out!
All the photos in this post were taken while staying at the Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall.