Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I don't "have time" to read (so here's what I do)

I love to read books. Fiction or non-fiction, memoirs or novels; I'll pick it up. I've been going through stacks of books this summer, and I even just managed to finish Elizabeth Gaskell's lengthy, wonderful novel Wives and Daughters. I blog about books frequently, I'm always eager to talk about literature, and I read for several hours each month. 
I recently realized that I should be actively making a dent in my "to read" list
-as opposed to simply picking up whatever looks intriguing on the library's shelf-
so I've been requesting books through inter-library loan and naturally, many of them came in at once. 
This all might make you think: Wow, she has so much time to read! 

I honestly wouldn't blame you for having this thought; it seems like a fairly logical assumption to make. Yet, even though I stay at home instead of working an office job, time allotted to "reading for fun" doesn't just magically happen.

I know that some people assume that life is fairly boring and uneventful for stay-at-home moms, but let me assure you that this is not the truth in my life. Not only do I have a very energetic toddler (who continually wants me to play with him) to care for, but I have an almost equally-as-active baby kicking away in my belly. I also have housework to do, meals to plan (and make), e-mails to respond to, writing projects to work on...and the list goes on. It's incredible how small things pile up and form a very full day, not to mention the mental load that  comes along with all this! In this whole pile of daily events, nowhere does "reading time" spontaneously materialize.  

When I was a kid, I remember the stretches of time when my schoolwork was completed. As a homeschooled kid who had a fairly unstructured-and quite delightful-education, hours each day were spent playing outside, visiting the library, or curling up with books. The time to read just happened, and I read books accordingly. Even when I began attending brick-and-mortar schools as a teenager, this reality still played out during the summertime months. Lazy hours spent with good books were my delight and joy. But then I went to college, where I joined in a common refrain of I love to read, but I'm a busy student and I just don't have time! Amid classes, homework (which included much reading material), extra-curricular activities, ministries, and time for friends, the concept of reading "for fun" seemed unrealistic. While this was a sad reality, it was also accepted as normal.

What changed my belief in this all-too-common narrative? Marriage. 

When I embarked on the epic adventure of married life halfway through college, I realized an important truth: We have the power to choose how our time is spent. Prior to marriage, I was very involved in different aspects of life and ministries on campus. When I got married, though, I stepped away from many things. I realized that marriage is my vocation, so while it was important for me to participate in campus life, I also needed to prioritize time to cultivate a deep relationship with my husband. As I became pickier about what activities I participated in, I noticed that suddenly, I had time I could spend playing chess with my husband or going on adventures with him. I also realized that if I can make time for my husband, I can also make time to read. And so, reading "for fun" re-entered my life, and I haven't stopped reading ever since. 

There are many great ideas out there that detail how to work "reading time" into a busy life, but I honestly think that working towards a mindset shift is the most important step we can take. Even though we may sometimes feel like rodents compelled to run on hamster wheels, we need to realize that we have the ability to slow ourselves down even when life is spinning out of control. In her book, Off the Clock: Feeling Less Busy While Getting More Done, Laura Vanderkam writes:
"But here's something we do all have: 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. Whatever our constraints-our own or those that come from caring for others-but tending our gardens, we come closer, day by day, to building the lives we want in the time we've got. Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices lead to freedom, whatever one's plot of earth looks like. It is easy to fall into false narratives of time poverty, but choosing to change your story from "I'm too busy" to "I have time for what matters to me" can make you see possibilities. In time, such possibilities can make any garden bloom." 
I don't "have time" to read, so I make choices that create time for reading. There are a number of practical strategies I use to create "reading time," (which I can discuss more sometime) but it really all has to begin with this realization: We can choose to make time for what is important to us.  

***For further reading on this topic, I recommend checking out Kirby's post about why reading as busy adults is important. 


  1. I loved this post!!! Reading is one of my favorite activities and yet, I don't find much time for it. This post was a great reminder for me.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Elisabeth! I hope you are able to make some time to curl up with a good book in the near future :)

  2. I agree with all of this! Many people assume I sit around and read all day and do nothing as a SAHM. Ha! I wish, though! I just find the time, and often that means watching less TV or getting in bed earlier so I can read for a bit.