“She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” Annie Dillard
I’ve never really been a reader. I used to blame it on college. Ya know, a little PTSD from four years of forced reading. Nursing school left me with quite an educational hangover that carried well into my adult years.
That excuse began to wane as time went by. Eventually, I was able to replace it with the mother of all excuses, motherhood.
That card gets me out of everything from showering and eating well, to self-care, personal improvement, and at times, proper social etiquette. It’s this thing we call #momlife, but I can’t help but question if I lean a little too heavily on this crutch at times.
Don’t get upset. Hear me out.
It’s a noble, loving and generous cause, to put our children’s needs above our own. But what happens when we have nothing left to give? When we first become moms, I think that fight or flight sets in…that do or die mentality. It’s go time. We repeatedly sacrifice ourselves on the altar of motherhood. We just keep moving, fighting, feeding and doing.
When I finaly stopped and reassessed what I had become, I wasn’t pleased. I had grown into this worry-prone, self-reliant, unteachable, over-doer.
My “over-doing” was assisting in keeping my children fed and alive, but it wasn’t modeling how to truly live.
Neglecting ourselves doesn’t pay off in the long run. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to model what it means to be teachable, curious, brave and enough. They need to see us taking care of ourselves.
Protect the Asset
Greg McKeown talks about what it means to “protect the asset,” in his book Essentialism. He says,
“The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution.”
That really stuck with me. Protect the asset.
Remembering to protect my body by making healthy choices and avoiding risky behavior comes naturally to me, but protecting my mind seems to end up on the back burner. The consequences always seem insignificant until they accumulate. It’s then that I begin to feel suffocated and insignificant. I grow more and more overwhelmed until each step I take is an attempt to just survive rather than thrive.
While there are many different ways we can work to make self-care more of a priority, I think developing a habit of reading has reaped the biggest reward in my life.
How to Become a Reader
With every new book, my thirst for reading grows. I’d love to share with you how I made the transition from non-reader to reader while still at home with a toddler. I’m proof it can be done! I only wish I had done it sooner.
1. Read With Intention
While fiction is wonderful, and I’ve got a couple of “must read” fiction books on my list this year, I think it’s important that we read books that offer opportunity for growth.
Choose to read books that challenge your ideas, call you to higher levels or offer a unique perspective at life. Let this self-care habit have a long term impact by choosing books that edify.
2. Realistic Goal
I went from having read one book two years ago, to reading eighteen books last year. It’s not a number that makes your jaw drop, but it’s not the number that matters.
Your goal should not be to read a certain number of books. Make your goal to simply change your habits and achieve some personal growth.
Small changes in insignificant habits will compound over time, leaving you with new, bigger habits and an ever-growing love of reading.
3. Read in the crack time
If all the stars have to align in order for you to be able to dive into a book, you will never finish one. In fact, you’ll never finish anything that way, especially while raising small children.
“The enemy of finished is perfect.”
Even right now as I type this I am standing in the kitchen while my kids are eating lunch. My daughter just interrupted my thought with, “Mom can I not eat the crust?” She’s waiting, patiently, until I finish typing this sentence before I answer her, and then I will continue on to my next thought…that’s called the “crack-time.” (For the record, she had to eat the crust).
That’s often how I write and that’s typically how I read. In the crack-time. The small slivers of time in between engaging with my little humans.
Stephen King says, in his book, On Writing,
“The trick is to teach yourself to read in small slips as well as long swallows.”
I jump on any little opportunity that presents itself. Which leads to my next point…
4. Always carry a book with you!
This is why I’m usually reading two-three books at a time. I leave one in my car, one in my computer bag and another next to the couch. This will allow you to be able to read while in the car-pool pick up lane, waiting for violin lessons to end and better utilize those eight silent minutes you have before they call your name at the dentist office.
I started this habit in an effort to stop mindlessly scrolling through my iPhone during that crack time. This little strategy has seriously helped me cut back on my screen time as well as grow my book list.
5. Join a Book Club or Find a Reading Buddy.
I love book clubs. If you can’t find a book club, start a book club! It can have as few as two members. It doesn’t even have to physically meet up if that’s not possible right now. Find a friend and dive into a new book together.
Book clubs provide accountability to finish books, as well as offer unique perspectives on the same information. I love discussing books with other people because their favorite take-aways are often different than mine. It’s almost like reading the book twice!
6. Listen to Your Books
While I’m guilty of having had referred to Audible as “cheating,” I now take that back.
Listening to books allows you to take advantage of some precious opportunities like exercising, folding laundry, showering, baking and driving. You can grow your book list and make those chores work for you.
7. Give and Receive Book Recommendations
I picked up reading again after an acquaintance, now turned friend, inspired me by sharing some books she was loving at the time. Without her sharing, I may have never started reading again. Who knows?
Book recommendations have become my most favorite conversation topic. I love hearing about what people are learning and the books that inspired those new ideas. I also love hearing how my recommendations have impacted others.
When we share what we are learning it positively reinforces our new habits and stokes the flames of teachability.
Taking the time to develop a habit of reading not only positively impacts us, the benefits flow down to our children.
In order to cultivate in our children curious, teachable, investigative, ever-growing, imaginative and ambitious minds, we need to walk the walk. Our kids learn so much more about what is valuable by watching how we live rather than listening to what we say. If we want to raise readers, we need to be moms who read!
Let’s raise our kids to protect the asset by doing so ourselves!
For more inspiration
Declutter Your Life
It’s time to stop managing our families and start leading them!
2 years ago I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I had no capacity to mom on purpose.
Living with less has gifted me time, space and some much needed perspective of what truly matters most. Below is the link to my FREE Beginner’s Declutter Like a Minimalist Guidebook. It takes a deeper look at the 7 Steps to getting started highlighted in my popular post, Declutter Like a Minimalist.