Moms who read.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


I've recently stopped asking this question at play dates with other moms:

"What are you reading?"

Because too often, I'm met with blank stares and vague descriptions of "that one book on my night stand... I can't remember who it's by." What was meant to be a friendly conversation starter ends awkwardly and I feel badly for asking (though I'd really love to know).

It leads me to believe that many young moms aren't reading, and let me say, I completely understand. Our days are packed to the brim and often by the end, I'm falling into bed and asleep within minutes. Our lives with little ones are demanding and often overstimulating, and we don't have one more brain cell open for input. So our conversations as moms revolve around little else than who's potty training, who got the least amount of sleep last night, and which playgrounds are most stroller-friendly. And, to be honest, I think we can do better. We can have deeper, more meaningful, more edifying conversations as mothers. And I believe it starts with something as simple as reading.

I'll admit up front, I'm a bit of a bibliophile. I spend much of my free time and extra money on great books, simply because I love them. I love the more well-rounded person I am after reading them. When feeding myself with great words, I am apt to use them in conversation. I'm more likely to think deeply. I feel fulfilled outside of my all-consuming role as a mother, and that's healthy - especially for my kids. I'm finding as a homeschool mom who is around her children 24/7 (unless I'm working at the hospital, which is obviously not a break), it's imperative that I invest in myself. More than just for me, it takes pressure off of my kids that my entire world revolves around them. No one should bear that kind of weight. (For more on this topic, see this really helpful article on Charlotte Mason's concept of "Mother Culture".) Reading for myself also models to my children that learning and growing as a person is important to me even though I'm not in school anymore. I pray they develop a lifelong love of learning. There's little more powerful in this world than a passionate curiosity.

The homeschool curriculum we've chosen for this year includes dozens of books that we read aloud as a family, and I'm beginning to believe that our time spent reading together will be one of my very favorite memories of young motherhood. Just in the past 5 weeks, we've hidden in a boxcar with orphaned children. We've dived into the deep waters off of coastal Florida and swam with dolphins. And right now, we're on a ship with Doctor Doolittle and his host of talking animals, sailing back to England. These adventures - all while cozied up on the couch together - are priceless to us. But beyond reading just for our kids, we should be reading for ourselves.

So in honor of National Read a Book Day today, where do we begin? When can we possibly have time or space for reading?

I'd like to make a few suggestions:

Get up early. I know, I know. You've already heard this but it's just so hard, especially with kids who still don't sleep through the night. But setting my alarm for just 45 minutes before I expect my earliest risers makes all the difference in my day. I'm able to shower, get ready, and spend time in the Word. Even if it's only 10 minutes (but hopefully longer) of praying and journaling and meditating on a verse or two, by the time my kids come bouncing down the stairs, I've filled my mind with truth that I can hold onto for the rest of the day. Or at least until nap time when I can pick it back up.

Read during rest time. There are always things we can be doing during kids' naps (laundry, dinner prep, scrolling through social media). But many of those things can wait or be done better if we take time for ourselves first. When I feel overwhelmed, it's easy to think, "I just need a day off." But not only is that not very realistic, it may not be as refreshing as I'd hoped. I might get a mani/pedi and head back home, only to re-enter chaos just as unprepared and overwhelmed as I left it. Instead, choosing to fill your mind by reading for just 20 minutes (without other auditory input from little ones) may be just as refreshing. For me, it's more effective self-care than just about anything else. Don't take my word for it. Give it a try.

Try audio books. I love listening to audio books or podcasts while I'm in the shower or getting ready in the morning or folding laundry, or even on my way home from work. Even 15 minutes can be such a delight.

Reserve books from the library. I know when I take all 3 kids to the library, it's nearly impossible to scan the shelves for a book for myself without someone having a meltdown. So reserve them in advance and have them ready to pick up. It's probably easier than you think.

Here are a few favorite books that I've read this year and would recommend:

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence - Short and packed with practical wisdom. A perfect companion to devotional time.

Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult - A fascinating fictional story that deals with race relations in modern America. It is painful to read at times, but has a redemptive ending.

Seated with Christ by Heather Holleman - I read this one with a group of pastors' wives at our church and I have referenced it so many times in my personal Bible study. So encouraging and insightful.

Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie - Encouragement for the homeschooling mom - especially helpful for those just starting out (like me).

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins - More encouragement from the homeschooling mom from a believer's perspective (and mom of 9 who has been there, done all of it!). Loved this.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom - It had been 20 years or more since I'd read this, and my sister suggested it. How powerful! The story tells of God's faithfulness in the deepest imaginable suffering and also how beautifully He used a Dutch watchmaker and his family for His glory.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance - A fascinating story of a "hillbilly" who goes on to pursue higher education. Very well written.

Educated by Tara Westover - I'm currently in the middle of this - the story of a girl who grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon family that not only keeps her out of public school, but doesn't homeschool her either. Amazingly, she ends up with a PhD from Cambridge. Beautifully written and an incredible story.

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