The 'bedroom parents vs living room parents' debate has gone viral - I'm the latter and here's why...

Hiding out in your room scrolling or hovering beside the kids at all times?

Playing, distracted and energetic kids with zen woman
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In a recent viral video, a mum drew distinctions between parents who spend time with their kids in shared living spaces and those who retreat to their bedrooms, leaving the kids to their own devices. Our deputy editor began to question her own choices after watching it.

Confession: I’m a living room parent. I see it as my 'job' to be in the same room as my kids almost all the time. Chilling out in my bedroom when the kids are around - even though they're now 10, 17 and 19 years old - just isn't my natural parenting style unless I’m sick or completely burnt out. Am I weird? Which type of parent are you—a bedroom or a living room parent?

This debate came to my attention when I stumbled across a TikTok post by Marissa Kile. She sparked a discussion by sharing her experience of growing up with what she called 'bedroom parents.' She said: “I grew up where my parents hung out in their bedroom, like 24/7, they were never in the living room… So growing up I always wanted my parents to be in the living spaces with us... Now I have a whole herd of my own children, and I’m never in my bedroom.”

Marissa even mentioned that her bedroom isn’t decorated because she’s only ever there to change or sleep. Same, Marissa, SAME.

Now, with the school summer holidays in full swing and my two older kids rarely at home, a curious pattern has emerged in my house. My youngest, enjoying the relaxed vibe of not having school, is spending a lot of time watching TV on the sofa, snuggled under her duvet.

I’m here for it. She’s usually a super sporty kid with training or physical activity every day of the week. The novelty of TV time will soon wear off, and summer activities will kick in, so she’s making the most of the chance to chill while she can.

But here’s the thing. When she’s watching her favourite YouTubers or kids' TV shows, I find myself feeling twitchy. I want to be beside her, soaking up the chance to hang out together in close physical proximity while she's still into that. But (whisper it) I don’t really want to watch the stuff she likes. Yet, I feel bad constantly diverting her attention towards things I’d prefer to watch. This is her summer holiday and we've only got 18 of them, apparently.

You’d think the solution is obvious: headphones. I own plenty of pairs and can easily watch Netflix on my phone or laptop. It doesn’t have to be Bridgerton or anything I wouldn't want her to glimpse over my shoulder, of course. But, dear reader, I just cannot bring myself to wear the headphones.

Why? Something about putting headphones on while in the company of my kids feels wrong. Rude, even. Maybe I’ve internalised messages about parenting that equate wearing headphones with not doing enough; not giving my kids my all. I know that’s a toxic way to think, but there it is.

Something about putting headphones on while in the company of my kids feels wrong. Rude, even. Maybe I’ve internalised messages about parenting that equate wearing headphones with not doing enough; not giving my kids my all.

Heidi Scrimgeour

Or maybe it’s a throwback to my old office job days when donning headphones was widely accepted as code for LEAVE ME ALONE. Or perhaps it stems from having my first child before the iPhone was even invented, which meant that my early parenting days were largely screen-free. I even banned TV back then because of all the scary stuff I read about the impact of screen time on kids. I guess I developed a sense that every waking moment with my kids should be about them, and certainly not about scrolling on screens myself while they're distracted.

I'm aware I sound like a dinosaur. And maybe I’m actually making a rod for my own back. Perhaps I am a less energetic and capable parent because I deny myself the chance to relax with a show when my kids are enjoying theirs. Maybe that’s why I sometimes feel so burnt out that I have to retreat to the bedroom as a last resort.

Keen to find out whether I'm the only living room parent I know, I asked around the GoodtoKnow office. 'My mum was always busy around the house when I was growing up, and my dad was always at work - he was only home on Sundays and liked to sit in his favourite chair and not be disturbed. So we spent no time in any room altogether, and I liked my own space in my room anyway,' says news editor and mum of two, Lucy Wigley.

'When I had my own children, I insisted on being in the lounge with them at all times with no TV or distractions while they played. I think a subconscious part of me wanted their memories to be different to mine. We kept that up until the tween stage, but now the youngest wants his own space and spends very little time with us, but my eldest likes to be close (and is a terrible sleeper!) so sits with us until we go to bed - at least we still have one!'

Mother and little daughter watching tv

(Image credit: Getty Images)

GoodtoKnow's editor-in-chief, Anna Bailey, finds her baby's age has dictated which 'type' of parent she is. 'I have very happy memories of when Freddie was a small baby in our room - she'd wake up, sit on our bed in the morning and play with her toys while we had our coffees,' she says. 'So we were bedroom parents in the mornings but now she can walk around, that's not an option for us anymore! She just wants to wriggle off the bed and pull all our clothes out of the wardrobe. Now, we're lounge parents. All of her favourite toys and books live there in a big box so they can be tidied away in the evenings and don't take over our adult space. I'm very conscious about making sure I'm not on my phone when playing, as I don't want her to think it's more important than her. If she's been at nursery, we're totally focussed on her - but if it's the weekends, we have the telly on sometimes. It's usually only Ms Rachel or Sky News though. Nothing you actually need to follow.'

Interestingly, my husband thinks nothing of donning headphones to catch up with his shows in the same room as the kids. In fact, he has quite the routine after dinner, clearing the kitchen and loading the dishwasher while plugged into whatever he’s watching or listening to these days.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that families shouldn’t be zoning out into their own individual private worlds when they’re at home together. I know it sounds crackers. And perhaps, like any parenting trend that contains the word 'should' this is one idea I should kick back against and discard.

Now, where are my headphones?

For more robust parenting opinion read 18 summers - 3 reasons why I hate this guilt-trippy parenting meme or Joe Wicks just dropped a parenting truth bomb about sibling rivalry and I feel so seen. And for more debates on a topical parenting theme, read If your Gen-Z kid asks you to go to their job interview, I’m sorry, but you’ve been doing parenting all wrong or Charging for playdates: money savvy or rude?

Heidi Scrimgeour
Deputy Editor

Heidi is a seasoned parenting journalist with over 15 years of experience. She has contributed to numerous UK national newspapers, including The Guardian, The Times, and The Telegraph. Her work has also appeared in a variety of print and digital magazines, such as Psychologies and Mother & Baby, where she was Shopping Editor for six years. In this role, she specialised in consumer features, including buying guides and baby gear reviews. Heidi is also mum to two teenage sons and a ten-year-old daughter.