I often hear from people, in conversations and in DMs, about how difficult it can be to get back into (and maintain) reading once having kids. While it may seem obvious that priorities shift and schedules get busier, what really comes across is that these parents miss being able to lose themselves in a book. And I wanted to help them find their way back to reading.
Full disclosure: I don’t have kids. So, I reached out to a number of Le Salon participants who do and asked them how they make time for reading. These are all moms who have anywhere from one to three kids, aged between two to six. On mom said that the newborn stage is definitely not the time to be reading: “when I was pregnant with my first, I had two weeks of pre-baby maternity leave. I started the Poisonwood Bible. I finished it when that baby was 10 months old (to set the scene on reading while parenting).”
My hope is that you may see yourself in this post and know that there is no ‘perfect’ way to read!
A Constant Battle with Time
What came across loud and clear from all the parents I talked to was that finding time for reading is the biggest issue. Between working and parenting, there isn’t much space to get alone time to focus on a book.
Many of them mentioned that reframing reading as form of selfcare helped them prioritize it more, just like a workout or a long bath. Doing so often meant communicating with their partner about their desire to get back into reading and making a concerted effort to pick up a book instead of scrolling on social media (this might look like putting your phone across the room or even on airplane mode). But it doesn’t have to be painful! It can even look like:
“Some nights once I get him to sleep, instead of tidying up—I go read. Instead of watching a show, I just go read. I pick the spot in our house that I find the most relaxing and I set up with the dogs to snuggle and read. It's my version of true self care—something that allows me to both rest and relax, but also feed my soul."
“It is alone time for me, but it is also something I do just for me. I think that is the big thing. When you focus all your time and attention on your kids, you can lose a bit of yourself in the process. It's important to have your own hobbies outside of them—and reading is one of those things for me.”
It’s Ok to Say “Not right now” to Reading
Each parent explained that there were clear lines drawn when reading was a simple no go. That may be engaging with their kids after school or dinner. It was generally agreed that if you couldn’t give a book your full attention, it lessened the enjoyment of a good read.
But it wasn’t just about the kids’ schedules, sometimes exhaustion made focussing on a book nearly impossible. The interesting thing is, this was equal to also being too tired to do anything else actively (like watching a complex show or going for a run). Chances are, reaching this level of burn out is a type of survival mode and you’re better off leaving the book closed and meeting your basic needs instead.
“I’d say kids changes reading from a casual hobby into… Something like a training event. I need to carve out the time, make sure I am rested, and see it as an investment in my (mental) health. If I don’t do it purposefully, it doesn’t happen. Other things flood in and fill that time pocket. But I’m always glad when I do."
The good news is that many of the moms identified opportunities that can become reading time: naps and bedtime, bath time, their kid’s screen time, and even waiting for appointments gave more wiggle room (and ability to focus) to pick up a book.
“I bring my phone everywhere (parenting involves A LOT of waiting—doctor's appointments, extracurriculars, etc.), so it means I've always got a book to read on hand if I have my phone with me!”
“Audiobooks in the car or while multitasking with other hobbies/ house maintenance is the big one for how I actually read, and finish books.”
As a parent, your kids come first. But the great thing about getting back into reading is that you don’t have to dedicate hours at a time to reading a 1,000-page novel you’re not interested in. And in the part two on this topic, I’ll cover what specific tips these parents have that you can try with your schedule and family dynamic.
I want to say a big thank the book loving moms who helped me with this post! Read part II here.