Until someone becomes a parent, they have no idea how little time parents actually get for themselves in a day. I get asked from time to time how to find time to read as a parent. The question usually goes something like this:
I know that reading to my kids is one of the best things I can do for them. I also know that one of the best ways to raise kids who become readers is to model it and have them see me read regularly. And I love to read. But let’s be real. I’m barely keeping my head above water, trying to get my work done and run a household, all while trying to be a good parent. I can hardly find time for the most basic self-care—sometimes I can’t even find time to go to the bathroom!—so how am I supposed to find time to curl up with a novel?
I can relate. Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing anything as well as I want. My job, my marriage, my parenting, my exercise, my self-care—they can suffer at times because my life is so full. Then, add in a global pandemic, where the world is in chaos and our kids are home with us more than ever, without the child-care support we count on to be productive or do something pleasurable (like reading), and the idea of taking care of ourselves can seem almost laughable.
But it’s so important. It really is. We have to find ways to actively care for ourselves. And if you’re a reader, then that’s a great way to do it. You just have to be a bit creative and committed to make it happen. There’s hope, and there are steps you can take.
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For example, create a tiny habit. When can you reserve fifteen or twenty minutes to read? Don’t wait for that “free hour” that will almost never come. Instead, schedule in a window each day that you can prioritize yourself and read for joy, inspiration, or knowledge. Maybe it’s right after your child goes down for a nap or at her bedtime, or maybe it’s right after breakfast or just before you go to bed. Or, maybe you can’t get it in every day, and it’s only on Saturdays, but you know that 9-9:30 is your scheduled reading time. Just make it a priority. Actually add it on your calendar if it’s only a weekly time. Then, if you miss it one time, don’t worry about that, either. Just jump back in the next day, or whenever you can find time to pull the book back out.
Another great option, one that parents in prior generations didn’t have as readily, is to take advantage of one of the many audiobooks available these days. As parents, a lot of our time during the day is spent cleaning things, folding things, making things, fixing things, and on and on. When you need to handle one of these tasks, make use of that time. Unless you’re doing it with your kids or talking to someone in your family, have an audio book at the ready, and listen in chunks as you move around the house with ear buds on, or on your car speakers while you’re driving. Just five to ten minutes here and there can add up fast, especially if you can listen on double-speed, a setting most apps will offer. There are plenty of for-fee apps and services, and there are free options as well. One of my favorite apps is Libby, which lets you download and listen to books from your public library at no cost.
Another suggestion is to have a family reading party! Everyone can pile in a bed or on the floor or on the couch and read their own books, but together. You can set a timer based on the age of your kids, and all of you can read for an appropriate amount of time together. Or, if your children aren’t old enough to read by themselves, they can color or look at picture books. If you have a baby, you can even read your book aloud, but do it with a more sing-song-type voice so he enjoys it. Maybe that’s not exactly ideal, but it will at least let you work through a few paragraphs. And who knows, it might even lead to a few laughs, particularly if you’re reading romance or crime genres.
I know it can be frustrating not getting to read as much as you’d like. I’m in the same boat. I have piles and piles of books I want to read, and not nearly enough time to consume them. Especially for book lovers, missing out on ample reading time is one of the many sacrifices we make when we have kids. But we don’t have to give up the habit completely. We just have to make a commitment and then be a bit creative, claiming moments when we can, and however we can.
Featured image: @alinabuzunova via Twenty20