Reading tips for a full-time working mom
As I wrote in "Motherhood—the story of a transformed reader", my essay for Daily Star Books on International Mother's Day on May 8—motherhood changed every aspect of my life that I had naively believed was robust and full-proof, including my self-imposed, semi-pretentious reading habits. What motherhood taught me was to give myself grace, unlearn everything I knew about myself as a bibliophile and embrace the empathetic reader in me. Now, as a token of this new allyship that we have formed with each other, dear reader, I shall bestow you with some unwarranted everyday tips for how to be an effective bookworm in the post-motherhood stages of your life—or any stage for that matter, we do not discriminate in this space.
Start easy, punchy (and short if necessary): And gradually build up your focus and reading prowess. There are no brownie points for picking up a flowery 800-pager that Google tells you is part of the 100-books-you-must-read-before-you die club.
Recommendation: Such a Fun Age (2019) by Kiley Reid is unassuming, beautiful and important. Kelly Reid writes about race, class, and privilege set against a solidly entertaining plotline with very relatable characters.
Ditch the blocker: There's no shame in abandoning a read that just is not doing it for you. My standard rule is now 50-70 pages maximum, and if the author has yet to make a solid case for their book, it's hasta la vista from me baby.
Read multiple mediums and genres simultaneously: Before you come at me with "I dedicate my soul to a single read at a time", hold your riot sticks and hear me out. I hear you because I used to be you, but the time and "ideal-condition" crunch attached with the insanity of motherhood has taught me that you need multiple formats of reads at your disposal to switch between whatever suits your situation and mood best at the time.
Hence, I suggest a read-kit which should include: one paperback; at least one digital format book on a device that has a battery-life longer than Queen Lizzy's reign and fits in a diaper bag; one audiobook (highly recommend Daisy Jones & The Six in that format), one non-fiction (self-development/memoir), one snappy graphic novel/book of poems or a genre-bending read of your choice (optional), and one beautiful hardcover classic you will never read and eventually place pompously on your rustic bookshelf.
Limit social media on your phone by setting up app timers: Enough said. However, share your thoughts on your reads on whichever medium you prefer. It helps you build an encouraging community.
Get yourself a LED Neck Reading Light: This is probably the most useful tip I can give you as a mommy-reader. Often the only time we get to ourselves is once our little ones have gone to bed. If you have a co-sleeper, or a partner who goes to bed earlier than you, the neck reading light is a wonderful device to keep you reading late into the night and wake up with panda-eyes. Get yourself a concealer while you are at it.
Set yourself up for a Goodreads Reading Challenge: Start conservative, and once you have picked up momentum, go hard on that challenge. I started with a goal of 12 for the whole year. I just finished my 25th (this tip may or may not have been to flex that reading stat).
Final words of wisdom: Do not be a snob and wait to make yourself cosy in your special reading nook with that insta-worthy armchair and a steaming cuppa—no one cares! Read anywhere, in any scenario, every chance you get. Happy reading!
Sarah Ismail Bari is a full-time corporate slave, overtime mom, part-time reader, and a chronic daydreamer.