I Was a Screen Time Expert. Then the Coronavirus Happened.


Before the pandemic, I was a parenting expert. It was a cushy gig. In 2019, I boarded 34 flights. I checked into nice hotels, put on makeup and fitted jewel-toned dresses, strode onto stages large and dinky, and tried to project authoritative calm. I told worried parents about the nine signs of tech overuse, like ditching sleep for screens. I advised them to write a “family media contract” and trust, but verify, their tweens’ doings online.

While I was on the road, my two daughters were enjoying modest, cute little doses of Peppa Pig and Roblox, in between happily attending school, preschool, after-school activities and play dates, safe in the care of their father, grandmother and our full-time nanny.

Now, like Socrates, I know better. I know that I know nothing.

Parenting expert? Please. I took only 12-week maternity leaves, and for the second baby, I had both the nanny’s help and the big girl in pre-K five days a week. I finished my parenting book about screen time on that maternity leave, which was kind of like writing up lab results before the experiment was finished.

My point being: I have never, ever, spent this much time with my children, or anyone’s children, as I have over the past four months during shelter-in-place orders. Nor have I contemplated working full time, while my husband also works full time, without sufficient child care, let alone while dealing with multiple weekly deadlines and 5 a.m. live radio hits, in an insanely stressful 24-hour news cycle where it’s actually, kind of, my job to doomscroll through Twitter (well, at least it’s job-adjacent). By the way, “zombie fires” are eating the Arctic and they are as terrifying as they sound.

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