Parenting in Screensaver Mode: Paring It Down For When You Just Can’t

Living on Screensaver: Paring It Down For When You Just Can't

Hello, Village… I’m still here… mostly 🙂

I’ve been thinking lately about screensavers. You know, the thing that comes onto your computer screen when you leave it on for too long to preserve battery life but still want to have its functions quickly accessible when needed. Mine are those standard Mac-issue, vaguely psychedelic squiggly lines that I imagine have entranced many a teenager while listening to Pink Floyd. In addition to being entertainment to a certain subgroup of the population, screensavers literally save your screen from burning up. I kinda feel like I need this for my life right now. I find myself calculating the least amount of energy I can expend while remaining functional and not burning out.

This is a list of illnesses that one or more of our four family members have had in the last six weeks:

  • Hand, Foot, and Mouth
  • Chest colds
  • Sinus infections
  • Pink eye
  • Ear infection
  • Food poisoning
  • Mastitis (me, obviously, and I just narrowly avoided antibiotics)
  • Sleep deprivation (while not an illness, it warrants mention because uuuugghhhhhh)

If you were wondering before about the screensaver analogy, you probably aren’t anymore.

This is the reason I haven’t written a blog post in 1000 years. I used to find the time to write in the wee hours when Juniper was nursing; I’d sit on my phone in the dark and write, thanks to GoogleDocs. But lately I’ve been so beyond tired (and currently attempting to heal from a sinus infection) that I usually just close my eyes… or at least one of them. I’m also doing my 200 hr yoga teacher training (more on that later, promise!) and that’s taking a lot of focus too.

I’ve had to curtail my regularly scheduled programming for a more efficient version of myself. In fact, Eric and I are just pared-down parents in general right now.

I have in the past called this “survival parenting”… and while I still think that’s a somewhat accurate term, I want to honour those parents who really are working on survival- wondering where the money for next week’s groceries will come from, finding reliable child care as a working single mom or dad, waiting at the foot of a child’s bed in the ICU, wondering if the kids are safe on their walk to school through conflict zones… you know… actual survival. (And no judgment to those who use this term loosely- I have just been taking a wide lens to ALL of my practices lately).

So this is “screensaver mode” parenting. I just don’t have the reserves to do anything more than need be. And you don’t have to be a parent to know what living on fumes feels like. We’ve all been in dim places, we’ve all felt the effects of having no charge. These are some things I keep in mind when I need to power down but still keep myself alive and my family safe + loved.

Living on Screensaver: Paring It Down For When You Just Can't

  • Bang for buck: My family’s holistic well-being is my biggest priority. But especially at times like these, I can’t be engaging both kids with developmentally appropriate toys, cooking organic meals, making sure laundry mountain is but a mere molehill, and cleaning the baseboards all at once. So what’s going to give me the most bang for my buck? Mainly spending time with the kids, with a small reserve for dinner, and a tiny thought towards laundry. Today, we put our old Timberline tent up in the living room. 25 minutes of entertainment to put up, hours of fun inside (lots of “sleeping” games), 3 minutes to make a fake fire, 15 minutes of drinking hot chocolate around the fake fire. “Camping” dinner tonight (mac n’ cheese).  Definitely not thinking about baseboards, but maybe I’ll fold a tiny bit of laundry and pretend I’m packing for the “camping trip”. After this coffee that the kid thinks is my hot chocolate (for the record, I actually NEVER think about baseboards). 
Pretend camp campfire
I know this “fire” looks a bit Pinteresty but it literally took me four minutes to make while holding a baby.
  • Standards vs. Shoulds: it’s good to have standards. These are the principles by which we live life. Our family all sits down together at every possible dinner. We do gratitude practice. We don’t absentmindedly stare at our phones when we’re with the kids. But those are different than things I feel I “SHOULD” be doing. For example, my standard is not to use TV as an emotional regulator for Kas. And full-strength me says I “shouldn’t” have him watch it at all. But screensaver me says eff that noise! So I keep my standard and I still don’t use it to numb or alter his emotions and behaviours, but screensaver me definitely uses Netflix as a distraction when I need to make dinner, put the baby down, or drink some coffee to rejoin humanity. As a lovely lady I know says, “don’t should all over yourself”.
Screensaver Parenting
If someone offers to make you a latte, you say “yes, please. That would be great”.
  • Accepting Help: Yes We Can. Repeat after me: “Yes, please; that would be great”. In my yoga teacher training, we did an activity where we were given a compliment and we’re not allowed to respond in any way. Just receive. And my first instinct is to say no, to excuse it away, to deflect. I have this same instinct when it comes to accepting help. “No, really, that’s OK, I’ve got it”. When you’re in screensaver mode, you say (feel free to repeat again) “Yes, please; that would be great”. We have accepted more help than I ever dreamed possible from my parents-in-law. And it’s been amazing. Sometimes you even have to (GASP) ask for help. Sometimes you might not even know who to ask. And sometimes it’s like a trust fall- yell “YES, please??” and see who answers the call. Help comes from unexpected corners sometimes. It doesn’t even have to be a person; I get a lot of help from technology- I recently downloaded the “Today’s Parent Mealtime” app, which is a menu planner/ recipe search engine/ grocery list generator all in one and I LOVE it in a kind of ridiculous way (not affiliated in any way).

  • Dry shampoo- this one is not a metaphor. I like Bumble + Bumble. Do it, you will never look back (also not affiliated with B + B). Don’t look too hard at my hair in the titled image, because I didn’t put any in today. 

… that’s all folks. Wishing you health and energy. And if anyone feels like coming and cleaning my baseboards, let me know. I can’t promise you won’t get sick while you’re here, but the coffee’s on.

In the words of my tiny dragon,
“Namaste to everyone, let the light shine through”.
My Signature


  1. Megsies
    November 19, 2017

    Oh my gosh, yes yes yes…I would say more yes’s but I am far too exhausted. Great piece…I was.juat thinking about how to spread my already spread-thin self a little further too…! It’s nice to hear about the inner workings of your world and have company out here in tired-land. 💗

  2. Julie Topp
    November 20, 2017

    Bri: so young and so wise. I love your posts. I am definitely on screen-saver mode in my working world as well. xo

  3. Amy
    November 21, 2017

    You nailed it! Thank you for your wonderful writing. I have shared this post widely. It’s wonderful to know that there are like minded, like hearted Moms out there experiencing these kinds of days (or weeks!!) along with me.

  4. Samantha Bernstein
    November 22, 2017

    Oh goodness, friend, what a time. Screensaver-mode parenting is a great term. Wish I could come clean your baseboards!


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