My husband and I agreed before our daughter was born: “No TV under three!” As little contact as possible on the smartphone and tablet and under no circumstances have a cell phone in our hands when we are eating. “It doesn’t work at all,” we agreed. “Raven parents”, we thought secretly when a child at the table in a restaurant stared into the iPad. With experience you get smarter.

Our daughter was born in the first lockdown. At first, relatives and friends only saw her, you guessed it, on the screen. Thank you for video calling. We soon made “exceptions” that we talked nice about. She was allowed to use her cell phone from time to time to look at pictures. She learned the phrase “look at pictures” pretty quickly, and soon demanded it. At the age of two, she was already able to unlock her smartphone and go to the photo app. And we became more and more inconsistent.

Finally, the childhood illnesses lined up. “Because you’re sick, you can watch mouse clips”. We lied to ourselves that it was educational television. “The show with the mouse” can’t hurt, the experts have to see it that way, above all the clips are only 2D and not this animated stuff that is available on the streaming platforms.

It’s like this now: our daughter can say very clearly what she wants. “Mamaaa, I want to watch mouse”, “Babaaa, please look at pictures.” At least she asks politely—and we pat ourselves on the back for raising her well, after all. Another lie.

When she was recently ill and I had to work urgently, I persuaded her to co-work with me. My desk next to her table where she can paint and do stickers. “It has to work,” I tell myself. Less than 30 minutes later she is lying in her bed with her iPad and watching mouse clips. Am I a bad mother now?

I ask for advice. First my colleagues. “Am I a bad mom for letting my kid watch Mouse so I can work in peace?” I write in our work chat. “Yes, very bad,” write the first jokingly. And: “That counts as educational television.” That’s what I’m saying! A wild discussion quickly ensues that television wouldn’t do any harm after all, after all, the majority of my colleagues grew up with television. Grandma would have parked them in front of MacGyver, others looked for all the Super-RTL and RTL II animated films. So I’m in good company for watching TV at a young age. But the experts say something else?

So I write to the Hamburg child psychotherapist Shirin Sobhani that my almost three-year-old daughter is allowed to watch “Die Maus” in exceptional cases. I tell her about my pretended reasons such as “We’ve been driving the car for so long now”, “I have to do something for work” or “You’re sick today, so you can watch something for a moment”. Am I harming my child by doing this, I ask the therapist? Sobhani is very clear that video time at this age should not be used “to buy free time as a mother, although that is very tempting.” Children also have to learn that they have to wait patiently and keep themselves busy. “It would be wasted opportunities to negotiate conflict interests, to deal with frustration and to practice postponement of needs,” she replies to me. But you shouldn’t judge yourself too harshly as a mother. As long as you stick to recommended times and don’t make TV a routine, it would be justifiable. If there is no other way, then you don’t have to tear yourself to pieces with feelings of guilt.

Now I’m a little relieved. And make a note on my notepad: Don’t watch TV and videos for more than 30 minutes. Accompanying the child when watching TV and talking about what is seen: “Every mother does it as well as she can,” the child psychotherapist concludes her email. When I get home, my daughter is already waiting for me: “Mamaaa, may I watch Mouse?”