Books have helped me survive some of the tough days of early motherhood (I have a 1 and 2 year old). Yet when I recommend favorite reads to other moms they often respond “oh, I don’t have time!” At the end of 2018 President Obama released a list of his favorite books of the year, considering there were 29 books on the list we can assume he read a great deal more than that, and, while he may not be changing 10+ diapers a day, I’d argue that he is a pretty busy guy. And still, he makes time to read.
Creating Time to Read
Bestselling author and speaker Laura Vanderkam prefers the phrase “it’s not a priority” to “I don’t have time” and I find this to be a more honest approach, especially when it comes to reading. The very early days of motherhood are actually a great time to read. Reading “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” reminded me that I would once again enjoy the pleasures of getting dressed up, when I was in a haze of stained sweats and nursing bras after giving birth to my first son. I raced through Anderson Cooper’s “Dispatches from the Edge” during late night and early morning pumping sessions after the birth of my second son, finding myself transported to war zones and exotic locals over the whir of my Spectra. I listened to “The Book of Joan” and laughed with Joan and Melissa Rivers (instead of at myself) as I pushed both boys in the jogging stroller, willing myself to run again.
I Missed Reading
There was a period in my life around college and the years following when I stopped reading for pleasure. Perhaps burnt out from academic reading or overwhelmed by the task finding my way as a young adult, it simply wasn’t a priority, as Laura Vanderkam would say (and you should make time to read her fantastic books).
At some point, in the midst of in a vague malaise, I realized I missed reading. I went to my local library and applied for a card. Books returned to my world by the stack. They brought ideas, adventure and encouragement, even when my life felt stuck and monotonous. In a year when I spent 20+ hours a week in the car commuting to a job I despised I listened to more than 70 audiobooks as I battled traffic. It’s not an overstatement to say that on some days books were my sanity and saving grace. The times when I feel most overwhelmed, when I am most tempted to step away from reading in an effort to eek out a bit more time, are exactly when I need it most.
It was reading that helped me realize a desire to write, which has enhanced my life. The famous Joan Didion quote “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear,” rings true to me.
Reading Tools for Busy Moms
You won’t know how reading benefits or affects you until you start doing it regularly and you won’t know which books or types of books speak to you until you start reading widely. Summer is the ideal time to dive in to a book. Beach reading, back porch reading, and summer reading lists let you soak in the season in a way TV never will. Even with a new baby, young kids, a busy, active, growing family, you can make the time to read. Here are some of the tools that help me make reading a priority:
- A library card – this is essential to keep costs down and let you sample a wide variety of books. Join your local library and start exploring. Learn how to search the online catalogue and put popular books and those from other branches on hold. It’s easier than you think. Libraries are also a great place to borrow books on CD (if your car has a CD player), which can be a wonderful way to squeeze in reading time on the go, especially when choosing family friendly books that you and your kids can enjoy on a road trip. I have used and benefitted from the resources at both the DC and Fairfax County libraries.
- Apps – Audible has a fantastic app for listening to books on your phone, while driving, exercising, etc. But you really need not pay for an app to do this. When you get your library card (see above) request information about the library’s electronic resources. Most libraries offer access to apps, which patrons can use to download audio and ebooks onto their mobile phones and ereaders. I use the Hoopla, Libby and Kindle apps for reading and listening to books using my iPhone.
- An eReader – While not necessary, having an eReader can make reading even easier. I love throwing my Kindle in the diaper bag and knowing I’ll always have something to read if I have a few minutes to spare. Additionally because it is lightweight and easy to use, the Kindle was my go-to reading device when breastfeeding, pumping or snuggling a sleeping baby. And finally, having the Kindle Paperwhite which includes really pleasant customizable back lighting allows me to read in the dark or early morning without disturbing anyone, this is a great way to get back to sleep after a late night feeding or diaper change.
Recently I’ve seen an onslaught of information and news about the importance of self-care for mothers. For me, reading is an essential part of self-care. It entertains, informs and allows me to step outside my own mind, my worries, doubts and endless to dos. It is something I do for me, though my family also reaps the benefits. By all measurable standards you may not have time to read, I encourage you to make it a priority anyway.