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What Happens To Your Reading When You Have a Baby

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Jeremy Anderberg

Staff Writer

Jeremy writes and edits for The Art of Manliness during the day. By night he writes a little more, reads a lot more, and endlessly watches How I Met Your Mother with his wife, Jane. Follow him on Twitter: @JeremyAnderberg

Once upon a time, I read for at least a few hours a day. Honest to goodness.

Then, my wife and I had a baby. (Mainly my wife, but you get the idea.)

I used to think that I needed that time for reading. As an introvert, I would whither and die without it, like the plants in our sunroom that have been long neglected of water.

But then this little miracle of a human arrived. And although you know your priorities change when the LO (internet mom-speak for “Little One” — it’s a confusing world) arrives, the reality of it is quite striking.

All of a sudden, the things that I thought I needed weren’t so important. Sure, I cherish my reading times, but even though they’re fewer and far-er between, I honestly just don’t care.

And in fact, the reading time that I do have feels all the more magical. Like it’s a gift from the gods that has been bestowed upon in reward for getting the LO to sleep (even if it’s just for 5 minutes).

Here are a few more specific observations of what happens to reading time when there’s a newborn in the house:

Reading in the middle of the night — quite literally — becomes totally normal, and even, dare I say, looked forward to. While my wife handles breastfeeding in the middle of the night, I get to comfort our little boy when he screams after that part has been taken care of. We sit in the rocking chair, with the boppy holding him up (I would pay the inventor of that thing so many dollars as a thank you — oh wait, I already did when it was bought), and I can read a book while he lays with his eyes wide open, seemingly bored out of his mind. Although this middle of the night book-reading may be slightly incoherent, it still feels enormously productive. I’m not missing out on sleep, I’m in fact getting in hours of reading time! And truthfully, as he wakes up less during the night (we’re about 8 weeks in), I find myself a little bit sad to see that time disappear. Am I crazy? So be it.

Reading on your phone becomes a joy. I wasn’t a phone-reading fellow before the baby bomb struck our household. In the time BG (before Graham), I had been switching over to more and more paper-book reading. I don’t know why, but that’s what was happening. In the time AG (after Graham), my phone has become my reading nook. It travels with me, with Kindle and Oyster apps ready for action, housing thousands and thousands of books at the ready. I thought the screen would be too small for me to really enjoy; boy was I wrong. When necessity calls, anything with words and story will answer, even if it’s on a 5-inch screen.

Reading becomes a kind of game, and you discover the various and many minutes in the day that can be filled with books. Four minutes for the French press to marinate? Reading a book. Sittin’ on the john for 10 minutes? Reading a book. Waiting for water to boil for your pasta dinner? Reading a book. Your baby takes a 5-minute nap before waking up screaming? Reading a book.

There are so many 5-minute-or-less chunks of time throughout the day that most often get wasted on Candy Crush and blog-reading. Screw that. Since having this baby in our life, that time is devoted to good old fashioned book-readin’. You’d think it would be impossible to make any progress, and honestly, sometimes it feels like it. But sure enough, you’re 75% through your book (currently for me it’s The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck), and you’re looking at the home stretch. Books. Will. Get. Read. Just gotta have patience, fellow parents!

You still make time for what’s important to you. Both Rachel and Amanda have mentioned this, but it seems like it bears repeating. (Please read “Have Babies, Keep Reading” and “How to Read After You Have Babies.”). If reading is truly important to you, you’ll find time for it. Yes, I’ve noticed that my reading time has dipped since having a baby. Rather significantly, actually. But isn’t that okay? I’m more discerning than I used to be, which means I’m far less likely to read things that don’t interest or challenge me. I used to read to kill time, frankly. When you work from home, you have more than the Average Joe. With baby, I’ve noticed that while my reading time has decreased, my reading quality has increased. I’m diving into things that I truly enjoy. It also tells me that time with my child has become more important than my hobbies, which is probably — no, definitely — a good thing!

While your reading changes when a newborn joins the family, it doesn’t have to go away. And in fact, those changes can shape your reading life for years and years to come. I’ve discovered that the medium and the amount of time I have don’t matter nearly as much as I used to believe. Also, you can function on far less sleep than you realize. I promise.