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If I was known for anything (um, probably not) in school, it was for never going without a book. I read during the break. I read on the bus. I read every time I could get away with it. I garnered a ridiculous amount of extra credit based on reading for pleasure. Like many people who didn’t fit into the environment they grew up in, I feel that books saved me. Unsurprisingly, being “a reader” became part of my identity.

Last year I found out that I was pregnant right before the first closure of the coronavirus. Along with all of the regular pregnancy worries (and the extra ones created by being pregnant during a global pandemic), I also worried about what would become of my reading life. I felt as ready as anyone could feel to be a mother, but what about my books?

Who do you Think You Are?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I’m still new to this area. I have one child and he is five months old. I am not claiming to be an expert on parenting. My son was born in late 2020, which means we didn’t have any visitors during his newborn period. I have a dedicated partner, which I hope for anyone who chooses to parent with someone else, but I know this isn’t always the case. Babies are individuals, so what worked for me may not work for others.

I’m writing this because I’ve seen many articles and memes about parents that came up with the idea that if you want to be a good mom, you will never again have time to do the things you love as fact. Unsurprisingly, I saw nothing to suggest that fathers should give up their hobbies in order to raise their children. (I also recognize that there are all kinds of families, and some may not include people who identify themselves as “mothers” or “fathers,” but this content is almost always about “mothers” specifically, however you choose to to define the role.)

I also want to say that if you have a new baby and you don’t feel like reading right now, it’s okay! Perhaps you’d prefer to spend your precious free time in other ways. (Sleep maybe?) There are no goalkeepers. You can still consider yourself a reader. Books will always be there when you are ready to return to them.

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OK, OK … but what about reading?

I could read with an infant. I can tell you that your reading life will certainly be different, but it won’t go away completely. Newborns sleep a lot, and in the beginning they will likely spend a lot of time sleeping on you. If you’re breastfeeding or breastfeeding, you can become one of those wizards who can multitask while feeding your child. When I was on maternity leave, my son had time at the gym every day where I snuck in on a few pages, which was good for both of us.

Good reading time is still within your reach. The amount of your reading time may be out of your control, but it’s not a race unless you try to finish something before it automatically returns to the library. I did a couple of things three or four times and it annoyed me that it annoys me so no one needs to hear that anymore than I do now. It’s not a race.

The good news

In some ways, my reading life has actually improved since I became a parent. I’ve found that I am more intentional with what I read because my time is limited. I tend to stop reading something that is no longer important to me. I want to say that I’ve done better reading in short periods of time than scrolling through Twitter. I’m still working on that.

I gave up my attempt to create a Bookstagram account for the time being, but eventually came to Vita Nostra, which is not particularly easy to read. I’m not doing a reading challenge this year, but I took part in Stephen King virtual trivia with my library. I can still attend literary events online thanks to the pandemic that has literally made everything else difficult to have a baby.

It also helped with re-reading. It just felt good to visit Tamora Pierce again. Tortall was still there, even if everything felt different in my life and my body. It was also easier to jump in when I was a day or two away from my book. Right now, I can basically read anything I want to the baby because he doesn’t have an opinion yet. I rediscovered a few old favorites. It’s not the 24 hour readathon, but it is something.

Your supply list

E-books are easier to read with one hand, and a phone fits more comfortably in one hand than a Kindle or tablet. However, your phone also has social media, so it’s a double-edged sword. I would also be very honest with myself about my TBR list. This may not be the time to tackle War and Peace or anything else with a large number of characters. I’ve mostly read comedic essays and books for young adults for the past few months.

Try an audiobook if you’ve never heard one before. Highly recommend Barack Obama’s A Promised Land for a walk around your home with a baby. His voice was familiar and therefore comforting for the first few weeks at home when everything else was new.

Having a baby is an adjustment to every part of your life, but it was comforting to have a constant to return to. For me, as in every other transition phase of my life so far, it was reading. Being a new mom during a pandemic was tough. Books saved me again.