Our days are long. Sometimes our nights are too. There is no end to the whining, meal prep, toy messes, and laundry. Whether reporting to a job site, working from home, or being a full-time stay-at-home mom, life is quite simply exhausting. Not that we mommies would trade our tiny tyrants for anything in the world. But a whole day to our self to sleep in, eat junk food, binge-watch Silicon Valley, and read that great novel we got for Christmas (yes it may have been that long since we’ve had the time to relax and read), would be utter bliss.
I’m a mom to one very smart and active two-year-old boy. Before he was born, I read book after book after book after book, while my husband played video games to his heart’s content. We both revelled in our freedom.
Then when our little man was born, the world shifted. Our world, at least. Trips to the bookstore were replaced with trips to Babies R Us. A Game of Thrones gave way to What to Expect The First Year. And then reading slipped away from me entirely, an all-but-forgotten pleasant memory akin to a childhood friend who you lost touch with but remember fondly in your dreams. Between constant breast-feeding, running a business from home, surviving on 3-5 hours of sleep a night, and simply trying to learn how to be a mom, I was mentally exhausted and made a subconscious choice to let reading go.
Once I developed a routine of sorts and started to become used to this new way of life, I sought distraction and mild intellectual engagement in Downton Abbey, couponing for and hoarding baby supplies (nesting is definitely a real thing), and attempting to learn to cook (I use both attempt and cook very loosely here). I absolutely fell so hard in love with my son, but something felt a bit off, a little hollow, if you will, in my personal life.
It wasn’t until about a year later when several of my former colleagues got our long-postponed book club in motion that I even realized that I had stopped reading literature. With the excitement of getting out of the house, meeting with fellow bibliophiles, and exploring the great new titles in contemporary fiction, I felt a return to myself. I started reading more (and not just book club selections), picked back up on writing free-verse poetry, fiction, and editorial pieces, and felt an overwhelming sense of fulfilment in the process. I had emerged from the comfortable confines of my mommy cocoon a new woman, one unwilling to accept that it is impossible to have it all, in both one’s personal and professional life.
New, and not so new, moms may be reading this and thinking, “Yeah. That’s nice and all but what about your kid? Where did the extra time come from to do all this reading and writing?” The answer? It was always there. I just had to discover it for myself. I read nearly every night before I go to sleep, after little man is snoozing away. And if he gets up in the middle of the night, a much less frequent occurrence now that he is a toddler, I grab my e-reader, light setting on low. and lay with him, reading away while he drifts back to sleep. My son also has a proclivity for the written word, so he likes to sit with stacks and stacks of his own books, analyzing the pictures and deciphering the words to his liking, occasionally passing one to me to read aloud, while I sit next to him clacking away at yet another “first chapter” of a YA novel in the works.
Reading enhances our understanding of the world around us, all while helping us achieve a deeper knowledge of self. It is simultaneously personal and social, inviting discourse on the widest range of topics, within our own minds and with fellow readers. No matter the subject or style, literature is a catalyst for gaining knowledge and perspective and is necessary for our growth. We want the best for our littles and we sacrifice daily to ensure that they get exactly that. Having a happy, fulfilled mother with a creative outlet and a positive, enlightened worldview will benefit and shape them to be the freethinkers, writers, and readers we are raising them to become.