Do you know what I miss? Reading.
Of all the things that got inevitably pushed to one side when our second baby arrived – nights out, watching any other channel than CBeebies (or occasionally Milkshake on Channel 5, just to spice things up), painting my nails, eating hot meals – it was sitting quietly, with a book, that I missed the most.
But Megan, what about when the kids are asleep in bed? I hear you ask. First of all: ha. And second of all: if I got anywhere near a book of an evening, in the early days of baby number two, I promptly fell asleep. Not even a sentence in.
Reading, to me, is life. But it took me three months to get through one book this year. Three MONTHS! A medium-sized book normally takes me three days. It’s depressing.
So in case, like me, you are a parent currently starved of time in which to read a book that isn’t about cunning ladybirds or bears whose hats have gone missing, I give you this:
Six Ways to Read Actual Grown-up Books Around Small Children
1. Where Possible, Escape to the Toilet
I forgot about that, actually – the other thing I really miss is being able to have a wee in peace. Remember that? Weeing without an audience? Anyway, when my other half is at work, this tactic won’t work. But when he’s home? All bets are off. My husband and I are in silent competition about how long we can get away with sitting on the loo for whilst the other is in charge of the children. We’ve never spoken about it, you understand. It’s just a thing. All I’m saying is, I wouldn’t judge you if you pretended to need a wee but you were actually just perched on the edge of the bath reading behind a locked door.
Who needs two hands to cook tea? Not me. Whatever it is you do to keep your kids occupied while you cook – do it. And then do the stirring one-handed. (IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE – do not attempt to do this whilst chopping up vegetables, it will go wrong.)
3. Pretend to take longer to get ready than you actually do
This is similar to tactic #2. Basically, if you can do something one handed, the other hand could be holding a book. Extra note: hairbrushes make a handy prop for keeping books open! Also, whose husband needs to know that blow-drying hair actually takes five minutes and not fifteen? No-one’s husband, that’s who.
4. Do a dramatic reading for your small baby
I wouldn’t necessarily read my own books aloud to my daughter, who can both process and repeat words quite competently, but the baby doesn’t have a clue what we’re saying to him, as long as we say it in a cheerful and engaging tone. You get to enjoy something interesting and feel like a good parent for reading to your child, at the same time! Bonus points for reading a thriller in the same voice that you use to read The Gruffalo.
5. Build ‘snuggling time’ into the routine
Every child needs wind down time, right? Sometimes, all you can do with a bored preschooler and an irritable hungry baby is stick on an episode (or two, or three) of Go Jetters and pile on the sofa together. Baby gets fed, toddler gets entertained, Mum gets to finish her chapter. I justify this by telling myself it’s better than staring at my phone (not that I do too much of that or anything). Kindles are the best invention ever for bottle feeding mums. No handed reading!
6. Let your kids play
Do you know what else kids need sometimes? Unstructured play. Without grown-up interference. The moments where both my children are happily occupied with toys, at the same time, without needing me, are so rare that I feel they should be celebrated, and cherished – and, on the moments where I don’t desperately need to do something, I sit cross-legged on the floor and read. There’s something nice about deliberately choosing to be unproductive. Just for a little while.
Do you have any tactics for trying to fit in reading (or things that you enjoy, in general!) while your children are really young? Let me know!
Hi! I’m Meg – wife to Chris, mother to our three year old daughter and five month old son. I am a writer, bookworm, Christian, feminist, and sleep enthusiast!
Image credit: Megan Bidmead