Challenge 1: What happened when I quit TV for a month?
Did you see my post about my 12 monthly challenges? I’m not doing traditional New Year’s resolutions this year, I’m choosing 12 mini challenges to do each month in 2019. Each month I’ll do something like go running everyday for a month, do yoga everyday for a month, keep a journal everyday etc etc. You can read the full list here: 12 months of challenges for a better 2019
I decided to go with no TV for January.
Now I’m not suggesting that watching TV is a bad thing and when I tell people about it they seem to think I’m judging them for watching TV. I’m really not!
My problem with TV is the fact that I watch it mindlessly.
Sam and I have a little routine each evening where we put the kids to bed, tidy the house, make dinner and then sit down and watch TV.
It’s a nice routine; it’s comforting, it’s easy and it’s relaxing but I often find myself sitting in front of the TV for 2-3 hours each evening watching complete and utter shite.
I watch TV mindlessly. Sometimes I don’t even watch it, I just sit and stare at it until I feel like it’s an acceptable time to go to bed. I often don’t even remember what I watched!
So while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching TV, I do think there’s something wrong with watching it mindlessly.
How I imagined a TV-free month would look
When I set myself the challenge to go a month without TV I fully imagined it would incredible, possibly even life-changing. I had lots of messages from people who don’t have TVs or grew up without TVs and they told me it’s great. They’re so productive and they don’t waste every evening watching TV.
I imagined I’d start spending my evenings doing productive things like meal prepping or cleaning the house. I thought I’d make more of an effort to go out with my friends or for Sam and I to have date nights. I thought I’d get some work done and stay ahead of my to-do list. I even thought I might go to the gym!
I didn’t expect to be 100% productive every evening. I also thought I’d swap my boxset binges for relaxing bubble baths, early nights and reading books in bed. I wanted to mindfully relax rather than just turn into a zombie in front of the TV.
I also thought I’d be healthier because it’s my evenings on the sofa where the 9pm munchies begin. The sofa is so close to the kitchen and it’s all too easy to keep popping into the kitchen to grab chocolate and biscuits and ice cream.
As you can see, I had pretty high hopes for my month without TV!
But how did it really go…?
More early nights reading books in bed. Sounds like a good plan!
The reality of a month without TV
I started strong, really strong. For the first week I barely even glanced at the TV.
One evening I went to the supermarket – something I normally do in the afternoon with Joseph and it’s a nightmare because he’s usually eaten half of the shopping trolley before we’ve got to the till. So that was nice to get it over and done with by myself when the shops were quiet.
The second evening I had an early night. I planned to read my book in bed but actually just fell asleep at 8.30pm! Not exactly exciting but I woke up feeling a million dollars.
One evening I sorted out my en-suite bathroom and one evening I worked.
I tried to get some friends to go out with my one night but they were all tired after work and were full in ‘January Hibernation Mode’. They said I could go and hang out with them and watch TV which I had to politely decline!
After a few days it started getting harder to leave Sam sat on the sofa where he was cosy and warm with the log burner lit and a good film on TV.
By the second week I was resenting it.
I was too tired to be productive every evening. I’m busy and productive all day and I just didn’t have the headspace to keep working at night.
If you could just bring me an iPad with the Netflix app, that would be great, thanks.
The realisation I’m not 23 anymore and parenting is HARD!
One of the main reasons I wanted to do this challenge was because I used to be so productive in the evenings.
When I was 23 I’d go to the gym and then go to work. After work I’d go to a networking event and then go for dinner and drinks with friends. Then I’d go home and chill for a bit and then I’d write a blog post and then I’d read a book before going to bed at midnight and getting up at 7am to do it all over again.
I didn’t stop!
My days were so full and so productive.
Part of me wanted my days to be like this again…
….but a bigger part of me knows this will never happen again.
I’m now a mother. I have two children to care for and I often don’t acknowledge how difficult that is. It’s both physically and mentally exhausting. On the outside I’m just going for little walks, going for playdates, going to the park, going for coffees, reading stories, painting pictures, building towers and making cupcakes. None of this is particularly demanding, it’s not hard! But jeeze, it’s exhausting in a way you can’t explain until you’ve spend 2-3 days straight looking after a 2 year old and a 3 year old. Even I don’t really understand why it’s so hard but it is.
I’m constantly breaking up fights, constantly persuading and cajoling and encouraging and always staying so positive. ‘Good job! Well done! You’re so clever! That’s great!’ This constant upbeat positivity is exhausting in itself.
And then there’s the sleepless nights.
Joseph is two and he still wakes up the night.
George is almost four and he still comes to tell us he’s been for a wee in the night and likes to tell us all about it, even at 3 o’clock in the morning.
And even if they sleep through the night, they wake up at 6.30am with more energy than a caffeinated ping pong ball.
I don’t mean to paint motherhood in a bad light because it isn’t, it’s awesome, but it is exhausting and it’s absolutely OK to acknowledge this.
Before I did this no TV challenge I wasn’t accepting how tiring motherhood is. When I spent my evening lazing on the sofa with a glass of red wine while getting lost in a mindless comedy that made me forget where I was for a moment, I was telling myself I was being lazy.
‘It was another lazy evening on the sofa, I should have done something more productive.’
But this isn’t laziness, this is absolutely necessary to relax and recharge and there’s nothing wrong with getting lost in a mindless TV show that I’ll forget about in 3 weeks time. I don’t need to productive 24/7!
And let’s not forget that it’s really nice to snuggle up with your partner on the sofa and sit by the fire and watch your favourite show together. It’s nice to share a bottle of wine and eat too many biscuits and leave the laundry until the morning because you’re tired and CBA.
I think it’s also important to acknowledge that, while I am in no way old, I am 31 and I don’t have the same energy I did at 21. And that’s OK too! Because we all get older and as we get older we get a bit tireder and that is never going to change.
Swapping a night watching TV for a night doing yoga at the gym? In theory, a wonderful idea. In reality, I know where I’d rather be.
TV is sociable
I sometimes think watching TV is really antisocial as you sit there in your own little world and block out everything and everyone around you. I’m a particularly antisocial TV watcher and I hate it when people talk throughout a film. Sam is awful for this and he loves to narrate every show he watches! I’m constantly shushing him when he says things like, ‘Oooh, who’s that!?’
‘I don’t know!’ I’ll bark in reply, ‘I’m watching the same show as you, I don’t know who that is either!’
But actually, TV isn’t antisocial. TV brings people together like nothing else.
Just yesterday I had a good 30 minute chat with an elderly neighbour about our favourite TV shows. It turns out we both love house renovations shows and we stood in the street discussing Grand Designs, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and Escape to the Country. We found something we had in common and it was nice to feel a bond with someone I would have otherwise had very little to chat about.
It’s so nice to feel a connection to a person based on a show you love. You can laugh at the characters, bitch about the baddies, ponder what will happen next and discuss that tragic twist. And the best thing is, you can have these in-depth conversations with complete strangers and feel an instant bond.
I can’t help but think of Broadchurch whenever I’m near a cliff like this!
So how did I do?
I failed completely. I watched loads of TV. I hated the challenge. I hated that I failed. But I hated trying to force myself to be productive each evening when I actually just wanted to curl up with Sam and mentally switch off.
But I totally loved those cosy winter evenings watching TV.
Is it something I’d keep up for the rest of the year? Absolutely not.
Is it something I’d recommend? No, not in the slightest.
Will I do it again? No, not a chance.
Have I learned anything? Yes, Yes I have actually. I’ve learned that it’s OK to be tired and watching TV is a lovely way to spend an evening when you’re physically and mentally exhausted.
Just chatting to people about the challenge has made me more aware of what I’m watching and I think I’m less likely to sit on the sofa watching proper drivel. If there’s nothing on or I can’t decide what to watch on Netflix or we have nothing recorded on Sky then I am more likely to go and read a book or do something else.
I’ve also learned that when you announce you’re doing something to hopefully improve yourself, other people can get a bit funny about it. They think you’re judging them or you’re passively aggressively telling them you don’t agree 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 because of me. This is the first thing I’ve ever done where I’ve had a lot of snarky comments from people. There are people putting me down for trying and people justifying their lifestyle choices. I can assure you that you don’t need to justify your lifestyle choices to me!
Final thoughts: You can only be fully productive during the day if you’re well rested at night. And if you find TV restful, watch it!
All the photos in this post were taken during my stay at Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall.