How Motherhood Changed My Reading Life (For the Better)

I spent the early stages of labor on a yoga ball reading Lilac Girls. I realized even in the moment this was probably not a typical choice, but I figured I might as well finish the book while I had the chance. (Plus, losing myself in the story kept my mind off the contractions.)

When it was time to go, into my hospital bag the book went. As a school librarian and lifelong bookworm, it seemed wrong to leave it behind.

From what I’d heard about new motherhood, I was pretty sure that my life as I knew it was over—including my reading life. I would never sleep again, and there wouldn't be time to take a shower, let alone curl up with a book.

It was now or never.

My fears proved true at first. Of course, my book went untouched at the hospital (along with the essential oils that were supposed to calm me down and the birth plan that quickly went up in flames).

The early days of motherhood were a blur. My daughter and I were like mismatched dance partners when it came to nursing. We could never quite get the hang of it.

I somehow thought that I would magically come home from the hospital a wise, saintly mother figure, filled with endless patience and always knowing just what to do. (OK, I wanted to be Marmee from Little Women).

Surprise! I was still me. And the learning curve felt steep.

Without giving it much thought, I reached for the familiar: books. Holding my Kindle with one hand during round-the-clock nursing and pumping sessions, I escaped into the lighthearted, binge-worthy Crazy Rich Asians.

When my daughter fell asleep on my chest, I wrapped us both in a blanket and read The Handmaid’s Tale, savoring the feel of her little body rising and falling as I turned the pages.

Trying to connect, I read her Miss Rumphius, On the Night You Were Born, and chapters of Anne of Green Gables.

During long spring days, I realized that newborns are not the best conversationalists. A Man Called Ove kept me company and offered a new perspective as my daughter dozed.

On walks I listened to bookish podcasts like What Should I Read Next? to fill my need for a sense of connection with other readers. With my daughter strapped in her Ergo, I paced my backyard to soothe her while listening to an audiobook of The Fifth Trimester. It felt like having an older, wiser mom by my side, talking me through reentering the workforce.

On the nights I didn’t collapse on the couch with Netflix, I flipped the pages of compelling middle-grade titles like Stella by Starlight and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, books I could not wait to recommend to my students.

As it turns out, becoming a parent did not mean I had to give up my bookish identity. Reading is the perfect hobby for new motherhood for these three reasons:

  • Books are free (with a library card).
  • You can read without leaving the house or getting out of your sweatpants.
  • You don’t need a babysitter.

Sure, I could no longer go to a movie at a moment’s notice or check out the latest restaurant, but I could read. (Bonus for bookish introverts: new parenthood also means having the perfect excuse to stay in on a Saturday night and read in the bathtub.)

I devoured book after book, reading even more titles than in my pre-baby life.

I also now had the chance to see the world of children’s books through my daughter’s eyes. I watched with delight as she giggled over Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and attempted to chew Brown Bear, Brown Bear at library storytime. My heart burst watching her turn the pages of her favorite board book, Never Touch a Monster.

I brought her along to author readings, we explored bookstores together, and took board books with us wherever we went. I felt reinvigorated as a reader and excited to pass on this love to my daughter.

I even decided to start a blog, A Bookish Home, where I began to share book recommendations and ideas for creating a culture of reading in your home—from making green-eggs-and-ham for Dr. Seuss’s birthday to throwing a book-themed birthday party.

As my reading identity took on new life, I felt myself drawn back to the two heroines from my childhood who shaped me most. Like so many readers, I found in Jo March and Anne Shirley a blueprint for the kind of strong, ambitious, bookish woman I hoped to become.

What I didn’t expect was to connect with these stories and find another level of inspiration in them as a mother.

In one memorable scene from Little Women, Jo despairs over her “dreadful temper” and is surprised to hear Marmee confide, “I am angry nearly every day of my life,” but she works hard not to show it.

Even the literary mother I had put on a pedestal struggled daily. She wasn’t perfect and I certainly won’t be. But what you remember as a reader about that story—and what I hope my daughter will look back on—is a cozy family life filled with love, strong bonds, and adventures.

And books. So many books.


Laura Szaro Kopinski is a librarian, mom, and bookworm sharing recommendations and talking books on the A Bookish Home blog and podcast.

A few affiliate links are used in this post, which means at no extra cost to you, we may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through the links provided. Thanks for supporting our work!

Reading Time:

4 minutes

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. SHU

    YES! My 3rd child is turning 1 in December, and I read more this past year than ever before in my adult life!! Books are the perfect companion for those hazy baby days. And I also find literary explorations of motherhood fascinating (this year: That Kind of Mother and The Mothers fit this bill perfectly, and I’m about to start Kelly Corrigan’s Glitter and Glue).

    Reply
  2. Sarah McConnell

    I’ve has a similar experience! I was always a reader growing up, but adulthood and working full time took me out of my reading habits and I became a TV watcher instead. I started reading again when I was pregnant and nursing, and kept the habit. Now I homeschool my kids and my favorite part of our lifestyle is sharing great books with my sons!

    Reply
  3. Aimee

    I resonate with sooo much in this article!

    A. I too aspired to be Marmee (that quickly revealed itself to be a delusion, but it was a nice ideal)
    B. I also brought books to the hospital, both for me and to read to my hours old infant
    C. I read my infants Miss Rumphius, On the Night You Were Born and chapter books (for me it was the Hobbit not Anne of Green Gables)
    D. I listened to What Should I Read Next? while pushing babies in the stroller
    E. I definitely read more for fun post-kids than I did in my pre-kids life

    Thanks for writing this! I feel so seen 🙂 And I totally agree that reading is the best hobby for the mom life for all of the reasons you described.

    Reply
  4. Cassandra

    Rarely do I envy SAHMs but this post is one that makes me wish I didn’t work. I devoured books growing up, frequently rereading my favorites. Even during pregnancy I was able to get in some reading time most nights. But as soon as that baby came …. I had 6 weeks off before I went back to working 10 hour days. Fast forward 7 years and one kid later … lets just say that in 2017 I read 2 books that were not kids books and that was more than the previous 4 years combined. This year I’ve made a concentrated effort to read more for me. My goal is one a month and I’ve done well so far. Yes most of those books have been fluff, but its felt good to reclaim that part of my identity.

    Reply
  5. Terri

    Great article! I totally agree! I had a terrible sleeper so I spent countless hours reading in the car while my son napped, too afraid to move him. I used the Sleep Lady method for sleep training and spent hours sitting by the crib or sitting outside the door reading and ignoring my son while he tried to fall asleep. As he got older, I realized the perfect afternoon was sitting outside reading while my son played. He needed supervision but also space to play without me. In the early days I read fun, easy books for escape and stress relief. Now that my son is in grade school, I’m tackling harder things like working through the Pulitzer Prize list. It has been a pleasant surprise to find how easy it was to fit reading into my life as a parent.

    Reply
  6. Joy

    What heart-warming words — I feel like I’m in a cozy room, sitting by the window and reading my much-loved book. I’m a bookworm too and I love that as a mom now, I’m able to raise a reader, a mini me who also loves books and reading. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Kamsin

    Motherhood has absolutely boosted my reading life. When I was working and out and about in the world a lot more (pre-kid) I struggled to find time to read. Now I know it is ESSENTIAL to my mental health and wellbeing. I would read when my son was nursing or sleeping in my arms. Now I grab a book the minute he’s in bed for the night. And my boy loves books too. What better gift can you give to a child?! 🙂

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where Tsh shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others.
(It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)