When I was pregnant people always told me I would have no time for reading once my child was born.
‘Haha!’ They would gloat ‘You’ll be too exhausted. You’ll be too busy. You’ll be too emotional. You’ll be too engrossed watching them sleep. You’ll start watching Grey’s Anatomy so you can obsess over romantic crises and medical mishaps because your poor widdle Mummy brain won’t be able to do anything else.’
I hated it. And in my expectant new parent state I didn’t know what to expect so I kind of believed it.
One of my earliest memories is my mother reading James and The Giant Peach to my older sister and me. I remember the day my sister stormed into my bedroom at bedtime demanding I learn to read in my head; a revolutionary idea that changed my life. I remember the library visits multiple times a week. I remember the librarians, and I remember that they got to know us. I remember how they helped us to choose new books as we grew into the older reading sections of the library. I remember getting to go to a bookstore and choosing a book for myself, My Friend Flicka, to take on holiday. I remember reading crappy books like the Babysitter’s Club, and great books like Charlotte’s Web and A Wizard of Earthsea. I remember my mother handing me Pride and Prejudice from her bookshelf, telling me how wonderfully Jane Austen crafted sentences. I remember the hours I have spent in second hand bookstores building a collection that has travelled around the world with me.
So when people told me I wouldn’t have time to read, I wonder if they realise they were telling me I would lose something so important to me, something that is part of my sense of self.
It was bullshit.
My family knew me well, and for my birthday, just two weeks after my son was born I was given a kindle. I could hold it and feed at the same time! And say what you like about Amazon being an evil monopoly that treat authors badly (I’m sorry Margaret Atwood!), and a massive money pit (pro tip # read free classics. Luckily I like a good Victorian novel) to me, at that point in my life it was a sanity saver.
I know a lot of people don’t read a lot when they have small children. That’s fine. I’d never judge that. I understand being tired and exhausted and the words swimming on the page in front of you. Sometimes I am too tired to read for long. I find however, ten minutes reading in bed, maybe with a piece of chocolate (ok, pieces) ends the day on a good note. It gives my brain a chance to relax. To step back from all the cares and worries of the day. I find a place that is bigger than the world of a story, space that is bigger than the gaps between the text. It is somewhere that belongs to just me.
I hate to say it. It’s Me-time.
Parents (let’s be honest here – mothers) are constantly told the importance of me-time. The world veers between telling us we should be completely fulfilled with the joys of raising children. Oh, how I love endless piles of washing! Oh how I enjoy picking duplo off the floor! Oh the cooking as I balance a toddler on my hip! Or telling us we need to squeeze in some time for ourselves. And that last bit – it’s actually true.
As much as the phrase ‘me-time’ makes me cringe it is important to not get completely subsumed by family life. Whether it is going to the gym or running, a sewing project, a *cough* blog, or a monthly night out, whatever, it is important. It’s unfair to go around expecting people to give every moment of their life to their families. It is unfair to new mothers to joke about how their life is over, they can never have anything for themselves ever again. No seriously. It is really unkind. It is also healthy for our children to learn that we have interests of our own.
The metaphorical Room of my Own might feel quite far away, spending all day with a 13month old in 74m² apartment. My night time reading is somewhat liable to be interrupted by crying or a pre-schooler who wants the potty and is not able to wait while I just finish my paragraph. But, sometimes when my son is at daycare, and my daughter has a nap, I ignore the washing, the dishes, the duplo, and I sit and write or read. For a long time people told me I should try and sleep, but I would just lie in bed awake, thinking about how sleep deprived I was. But, a book, words on a page. They too refresh me, nourish me. I can lose myself and find my thoughts.