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Dear care and feeding,
I am a stepmother to three children and have loving and strong relationships with all of the children. They treat me like an additional parent. In terms of household expectations, my husband was very willing to set some guidelines before we merged households and when we moved into our new home together we were both involved in creating routines that allowed us all to be happy to function. My husband wants another baby with me…
He is a good father and the children are nice. They have a younger sibling in their mother’s house and I think they would easily adapt to another here. However, I have a disagreement about parenting that I don’t stand by with my stepchildren. I couldn’t keep quiet about it if it’s my place and my role: it’s screen time, especially video games. It seems small in my head and as I write it, but I can’t let it go.
They’re on their tablets or playing video games on the TV as long as they’re awake and allowed. They fight when they leave the house because they don’t want to be separated from their games. While they’re adept conversationalists at mealtimes or when you drag them out of the house, when they’re playing they’re either 100 percent in their own world or rude and short-tempered with one another. I’ve known her since the youngest was barely 3 years old and he’s been glued to the screen for all these years ever since.
Not my place as a stepmom to discuss it, and not to solve my problem (if there is one). I have raised concerns when certain issues arise and they are addressed, but he just doesn’t believe that the sheer number of hours spent playing video games (sometimes upwards of 13 on weekends!) is in itself a problem. I do. Pretty strong. As crazy as it may seem, I don’t think I’m ready to have a child and watch them disappear into a screen for most of their childhood. I don’t see how compromise could work if we had a baby; Whenever the older kids were here, the boundaries went out the window. And I don’t even know how to address this topic. How do you tell someone you love and whose kids you love that you don’t want a baby because… video games?
– game breaker?
Considering you’re acting as an “additional parent” and that you and your husband have previously had some serious talks about merging your households, I’m surprised you’ve given the screen time to go on for so long without saying more talk to him about it earlier. You need to start this dialogue as soon as possible as I would imagine it would be a tremendous surprise to learn that the children’s screen time habits are bothering you enough that it affects your desire to have children together. I understand that you may have felt that it was not your job to question the upbringing of your stepchildren, but it is a legitimate concern that can affect the children’s well-being.
Tell your husband that you’ve been struggling with these feelings for a while and don’t want to push your limits as a stepparent, but have a strong feeling that the kids are just spending too much time on their devices. Be aware that this is a very serious matter for you, and one that is of great concern to you as the two of you are discussing having children together. Remind him that experts are very clear that excessive screen time is not good for children and that raising a child who is not allowed to enjoy too much would be very important to you. Talk about your concern that it would be impossible to limit your (hypothetical) youngest child’s device time if they were exposed to the frequency with which their siblings are online. Encourage your husband to think seriously about his children’s device habits. Is he happy with them? Or is it just easier to give them screen time than hearing them complain about not having time?
This topic obviously means a lot to you, and with good reason; You’ll witness the ill effects of letting your stepkids over-indulge on their devices. Be honest with your husband and ask if you can work together to try to reduce the time your stepchildren spend in front of a screen. Hopefully he realizes how serious you are and evaluates some of the decisions he’s made so far. I wish you all the best.
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