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9 Ways Being A Parent Has Changed the Way I Read

A.J. O'Connell

Staff Writer

A.J. O’Connell is the author of two published novellas: Beware the Hawk and The Eagle & The Arrow. All she’s ever wanted to do in life is read and write books, and so, is constantly writing at least one novel. She holds an MFA in creative fiction, but despite the best efforts of her teachers at Fairfield University's low-residency program, remains a huge dork for sci-fi, fantasy and comic books. She is a journalist and has taught journalism to college students. She blogs about feminism, the writing life, and whatever else comes into her head at Blog: A.J. O'Connell Twitter: @ann_oconnell

When I became a parent a few years ago, I knew my life would change. But I wasn’t, somehow, including my reading life in that. Reading had always been an important part of my life and despite comments like “Oh, you’re having a baby? You’ll never read again!” I assumed it always would be.

After all, my reading life survived when I went to college, and each time I moved or my life changed in some way.

Parenthood has been a little different, though. Books are still a big part of my life, but my reading life has evolved much more than it did during other life changes, and in ways I hadn’t expected. Some of those changes aren’t great (reading a novel two sentences at a time is not my favorite thing) but some are pretty awesome (I only have the energy to read books that excite me right now).

I am not the first Rioter to write about this; Amanda wrote a pretty excellent post a few years ago (that post got me through my son’s infancy without feeling too much guilt about my long reading slumps.)

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about reading while parenting.

It’s all right not to have Reading Days

I get jealous of the child-free Rioters sometimes, especially when they’re talking about curling up in a comfy place on a day off and binging on a book for hours on end (usually while snacking!). That’s not a thing I’ll be able to do for a while. Even if I get the time to do it, I rarely have the focus I need to get deep into a book for a full day. But that’s okay — as my child has gotten older, I’ve felt some of my focus returning. Some day, he’s going to want to go over to his friends’ houses, and on those days, I will curl up on the couch with a book. Until then…

I live for waiting rooms and hair appointments

As a person with trichotillomania, I’ve spent my whole life fearing and avoiding the salon. NO MORE. My anxiety about the hairdresser seeing my bald spots is completely outweighed by my need to read this awesome book, thank you very much. And I am delighted when my doctor keeps me waiting forever because that means I’m totally finishing this chapter.

Having your book on all your devices is a beautiful thing

Remember when everyone was all up in arms about ebooks? Me neither –  ebooks are a beautiful thing. The Kindle app is my favorite thing ever. If I leave my Kindle home, I can read whatever I was reading at home, on my phone, wherever I am. In fact, once, I had a book on my Kindle and in hard copy. It was glorious! I read that book in record time simply because it was everywhere: my phone, my tablet, my Kindle, my nightstand.

I will trade sleep for reading time and vice versa

My favorite reading time is before I go to sleep at night, even though I go to bed ridiculously late now. If I’ve got a good book, I will choose to give up sleep. I mean, I can sleep when I’m dead, but this book can’t wait. That said, if I don’t have a book I’m wild about, sleep wins and I will give up my reading time for the day.

Sometimes my reading slumps are long, and there’s no point in feeling guilty about it

I have gone months at a time without reading a novel. I used to be embarassed about this, but I recently decided that life is too freaking short. If I can’t find a book that excites me, I’m not going to force myself to read just so I can say I’m reading. An exciting book will come along soon enough. They always do. And in the meantime, there are other options.

Short fiction is my friend

I never read enough short fiction before I was a parent. But now, short stories and novellas from genre publishers like are best thing ever when I can’t get into a novel. Sometimes I can only digest a little fiction at a time, and If I’m coming out of a slump, I want to read fiction that’s a) short and b) about something I like, like elves, the Elder Gods, or Mars.

Sometimes I read nothing but comics

They are short. They are colorful. There are pictures, and although sometimes a book is purely a guilty pleasure (Gwenpool!) other books have pretty great writing (Papergirls). Also, my toddler likes reading over my shoulder and he’s a big fan of Thor. She’s one of his besties. I had to cancel Saga though, because…

I can’t read about families being torn apart right now. Or kids in danger.

I tried to force myself to read Saga when my son was born because I thought reading about a new family would be inspiring, and it seemed cool to read a book with a baby aging in real-time. I was all excited for Hazel to grow up with my son. I couldn’t do it. The story was too much stress at an already-stressful time. Maybe I will be able to read it someday, but I am not there yet.

You know what else I love about reading on devices?

Thanks to the camera in my tablet I literally have eyes in the back of my head.

I see you, buster.

What about you guys?

If you’re a parent, how have kids changed the way you read?
If you’re not a parent, what life events have changed your reading life?