Whether you’re a new mother or a seasoned veteran, making time for yourself and the things you like to do is a skill, or more like a muscle that must be developed and exercised. As the famous quote says, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m just telling you it will be worth it.” So how does a busy mother make time to do something as simple as read a book when kids are around?
Depending on the age of your child, your reading time can involve them or be done when they are asleep or away. For mothers of infants and toddlers whose children are too young to read independently, take advantage of their nap times. I know for some of us, we tend to do our straightening up when our kids are asleep and for others, we may nap with our kids. If you can last without a nap, use the time to get a solid quiet hour in by yourself, curled up with a good book. Don’t beat yourself up if twenty minutes into reading you find your eyelids closing; clearly your body is in need of rest. If naptime doesn’t work, immediately after you put the kids to bed, sit down and catch up. Dishes, toys, and laundry aren’t going anywhere; if it’s waited all day, it can wait another hour. Besides, after you’ve taken a moment for yourself, you may actually find joy in cleaning up after everyone else. (Just kidding!)
If your children are of the age where they can read on their own, build reading time into your day. Like most things, kids function best with structure and routine; have a set time to read every day so they know to expect it. Discuss over breakfast what your child wants to read that day, and get them excited and looking forward to it. They may not be able to read for a full hour, so have an age appropriate expectation and a follow-up activity. Maybe they’re at the level where twenty minutes is their max. Set a timer that they can see, so they know how long they have. Once their reading time is over, reset the timer for forty minutes and have a quiet activity planned for them to do for the remainder of the hour: coloring, puzzles, quiet toys, etc. Don’t expect complete silence, but enough quiet time for you to read and your child to play independently and quietly. If your child is familiar with tablets or reads from an e-reader, load new books each week and a game for them to play after they’ve read.
If you prefer to read after the house is clean and the kids are asleep, it will require diligence on your part to get what you need done and leave yourself enough time before bed to read. If you’re an early riser, take advantage of your first waking hour and read before everyone else wakes up. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the birds singing while you snuggle up with that new book. If you’re a great multi-tasker (and what mom isn’t) and you enjoy audio books, kill two birds with one stone. Load the dishwasher and washing machine while listening to a few chapters of your current book on your phone, iPad, or computer.
Many women think that every waking moment must be spent actively parenting or focusing on their child. Balance is actually very important. Making and taking the time to care for yourself benefits you and your children, because when you’re content, usually everyone else is, too!