How reading is saving this young mom’s life (or at least her sanity)

How reading is saving this young mom’s life (or at least her sanity)

Please join me in welcoming Becca of Making Room to the blog!

It is a truth universally acknowledged by every parent of young children:

Life with little kids is hard.

So parents need a creative or intellectual outlet – an activity to do after the kids are in bed, to talk about on the playground, and to share with the world as their Passion In Addition to Parenting.

What is your outlet? Some moms I know make beautiful things with their hands, like my friend Tara: she works as a nurse and makes gorgeous jewelry in her spare time. Some moms love to run, like my friend Tracy: she tracks her progress in minutes, miles, and amazing races. Still others write beautiful essays, create amazing recipes, and develop a photography business at home.

And me? Besides dreaming about doing all those other things, I love to read.

As my children have become more numerous and more talkative, I’ve clung to reading more than ever. According to Goodreads, the year my first child was born, I read about 30 books. The next year I read 54. This year I’m hoping for at least 65. Maybe even 70!

Why reading? Well, reading is sort of lazy, meaning it is deliciously relaxing. It requires sitting down, ceasing all conversation, and being told a story. For an introvert like me, this is not only peaceful – it is also restorative and absolutely necessary for survival.

Reading is also something that cannot be undone. The floors don’t stay clean. The dishes don’t stay washed. The children don’t stay full.

But the books stay read.

Once you have read a page, a chapter, another book, it’s yours forever. When you finish a book, close the cover, and slip it onto your shelf, you can look at it in your messy, crazy home and think, “I read that, and it was good. That is one thing in this house that won’t change.”

And lastly, reading is also very quantifiable. You read a book, and you have read one book. You read 10 books, and you’ve read 10 books. Ten books! That takes work. You can set a goal, and you can achieve it, all while sitting in bed, turning pages, and being mentally fed and sustained. That’s no small thing for a parent.

But there were stages in my life when nothing on my bedside table interested me, and when I couldn’t imagine sustaining interest in a book. Slowly, that has changed, and I think there is one main reason: I have discovered my genre.

It’s hard to read anything when you don’t know what you’ll enjoy. But when you discover a category of book that really starts you turning pages, you can jump from one good read to another without wavering in between.

Thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s summer reading list, I finally discovered this year that my favorite genre is women’s fiction. When I tell people this, no one has any idea what I mean, so I’ve come up with this very simple definition: it’s like chick lit or romance, but deeper.

It’s girl meets boy, but the girl is a lot more messed up and the boy is a lot less of a hero and there will be serious issues thrown in there too, like mental illness or euthanasia or abuse. It might be historical fiction (Pride and Prejudice falls in this category) or it might be brand spanking new (like Big Little Lies). Once I plugged into this genre and discovered new-to-me authors like Jojo Moyes and Kate Morton, I was on a roll.

I also finally admitted I love memoirs, usually by women, usually modern. Food writing (like A Homemade Life or Bread and Wine) or personal growth (like Carry On, Warrior or The Happiness Project) are favorite memoir topics for me.

Oh, and one last genre. You’ll probably laugh, but here it is. I love pretty much anything about France. From Julia Child’s memoir to Parisian life advice to parenting guides, it doesn’t matter.

How Reading Can Save

And since reading – at least for me as a mom – is all about having fun and learning, I just go with it.

Here are a few tips that I use to keep wonderful books piling up – and flying off – my bedside table:

  • Start with something that looks fun, and don’t let other people’s opinions stop you.
  • Figure out the format that works best for you: tablet or audio or real paper.
  • Learn your library (especially the hold system) so that you always have a stream of free and interesting books trickling your way.
  • And bring the book with you everywhere. Modern Mrs. Darcy taught me this one! You never know when you’ll have some downtime.

As you change diapers, make lunches, bandage boo-boos, and read books, I’ll be right there with you. Happy reading!

Becca is a military wife and mother of two who recently moved from Sicily, Italy, to San Diego, California. She writes about simplicity parenting, everyday hospitality, and growing up overseas on her blog, Making Room.

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  1. Laurel says:

    We could be reading twins, Becca…EXACT same genres I love. 🙂 I’ve got two girls two-and-under and it truly does keep my sanity to make time throughout my day for reading a page or two. Thanks for this wonderful post!

  2. I live that you said “creative OR intellectual”. I want to paint and cook and DIY, but I naturally read, watch TED talks and study French. My outlets show less, but they are relaxing and fulfilling.

  3. Elisa says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes 🙂
    I can absolutely relate to this! I no longer have to change diapers, but I still have to do school drop off and pick-up, errands, cleaning, laundry, homework.., some days I feel like I spend all day running around and waiting for people, and books make that a blessing rather than a curse, because any time waiting is quickly turned into time spent reading! Thank goodness for the Kindle, which allows me to never ever ruin my books’ covers, start a book immediately after finishing the previous one, look up words in a second, and have lots of books with me at all times without making my full handbag even heavier 😉

  4. Joanna says:

    I love this article’s opening line! It is, of course, paraphrasing one of the most recognizable opening lines in English literature. Rivaled only by that in Anna Karennina perhaps. All of your thoughts are so well articulated. One of the things I’ve struggled with since having my daughter two years ago is how difficult it is to get out of the house and out of our little world. Books have saved me in that regard- they’ve allowed me to travel, and hear other stories, and just generally feel less alone- all without leaving my couch. My brother recently had his heart broken and I immediately recommended Graham Greene’s “End of the Affair.” I realized then how much I have relied on books throughout all of the stages of my lie- I can recommend books for joy, sorrow, heartache and more.

  5. Erika says:

    Thanks for this! While working helps feed my brain, I too need reading to stay sane among caring for my littles. The point about books staying read is an element I’d not thought of before, but it’s so true. While I love to cook, there is less sense of accomplishment in it since there’s always more food needed for the next meal. Sigh. This post is wonderful encouragement to read more and parent well. Thank you!

  6. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    Yes, yes, and yes again! I was given a book for Christmas when my first baby was a few weeks old and it was left sitting around and before I knew it I had finished it while nursing and rocking the baby. I have probably read more during my 5 years as a mom than in the 5 years before that when I was out of high school and working. I used to think that something so solitary wasn’t a legitimate hobby or entertainment, but I have come to see it as the best relaxation for my busy mommy days!
    Thank you so much for sharing the encouragement!

  7. Lauren says:

    I recently recommitted myself to reading regularly. I’ve come to accept that my mood is just way better if I’ve spent a little time reading and a little time writing everyday. It sounds like I’m cheating on my kids or husband to spend time doing those things, but I don’t care what it sounds like anymore. Especially not after reading that some moms are reading 50+ books a year. Looks like I better set some goals.

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