Real-Life Ways to Read More When You Have Young Children at Home


It IS possible to find time to read for fun…even when you have young children at home! Here’s how to read more as a mom, with a look at exactly how I fit reading time into my day as a busy mom. See if any of these reading tips will work for you!

Woman reading in bed

Make more time for reading as a busy mom

Moms of young kids, do you ever feel like you’re not being true to yourself because you don’t read enough? Books and reading are a part of your identity, yet you’re so busy with daily life that you can barely manage to start a book–let alone finish one.

It’s not that you don’t want to read. You do! There are so many promising books that cross your radar…for book club, or that one health book your sister is reading, or a book recommended by a podcaster/author/celebrity you follow. They sound nice, but how on earth will you ever find the time?

When you have a young family, your people have a lot of very hands-on needs you need to tend to, often around the clock. And as a mom, it is really hard to find time to read for pleasure.

Hard. But not impossible.

I used to be the mom of young kids who doesn’t read. Now I’m the mom of young kids who does. What it all boiled down to was me realizing that reading for pleasure is one of those things that won’t happen easily unless I’m intentional about it. The same exact thing is true for healthy eating or decluttering your stuff. If we want to implement any positive habit into our already-busy lives, we have to do it on purpose.

The Literary Medicine Cabinet eBook CoverFor a lovely, short eBook on reading as a form of self care, check out The Literary Medicine Cabinet by Haley Stewart. She includes some excellent reading suggestions and lists, too!

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Finding Time to Read As a Busy Mom

Let me use myself as a case study to show you some non-hypothetical ways that you can fit reading into your life, even if you’re busy.

I have two boys at home: a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. In March, we’ll be adding a baby girl to our family (we just found that out yesterday!!) My children are home with me all day, and besides caring for them and our home, I have my own business as a blogger and virtual assistant. On average, I read about a book per week. I’d like to read more, and I often fantasize about going on “reading retreats,” which is a vacation where you basically just read the entire time, punctuated by occasional walks (to think about what you just read!) But I think one book a week is pretty good, and I’ll take it.

Here’s when I find time to read, as a mom of young kids

First thing in the morning:

In the mornings, my four-year-old son is supposed to stay in his room to read or play until I come to get him. This allows time for me to sleep, if my pregnancy symptoms have kept me up at night. But if my body won’t let me sleep in, or if I’m already well rested, I read a chapter or two in bed before I start the day. I love starting a morning this way!

Mid morning:

When my one-year-old naps in the morning, I read a chapter book to my older son as part of our “school.” This isn’t my personal reading, of course, but it’s an important way that books are a part of our family’s daily life. So far, we’ve enjoyed books like The Wizard of Oz, On the Banks of Plum Creek, The Happy Hollisters, and others. Eventually we’ll work our way through this whole list of classic read-alouds.

During meal prep or cleanup:

Although I prefer physical books, I plan to always have an audiobook going for times when I can multitask. I’ve been slowly working my way through the free Librivox recording of Anna Karenina when I cook supper. This is a great way to get through a couple of chunky classics each year so that I don’t slow down my regular reading pace. (Sometimes one doesn’t feel very motivated to heft a huge classic in the evenings!)

After supper:

For several reasons, my husband and I have made it a family practice to get our children in bed on the early side. By 7:30, both boys are usually tucked in and hopefully sleeping! We went through a period when we watched a lot of Netflix in the evenings, but now my default is to pick up my book instead. Initially when I started reading more in the evenings I would get drowsy after about 30 minutes. It was maddening. I’d have to get on my laptop if I wanted to stay awake past 8:30!

But interestingly, it seems that I’ve now trained my body to stay awake during reading time. If I have sleep debt I’ll still sometimes need to close the book early and head to bed, but in general my body is used to the routine of reading for an hour or more. So if you’re falling asleep when you try to read, don’t give up! Go to bed when your body tells you to, but try reading again the next night. If you keep up with nightly reading–and you don’t accumulate sleep debt–you may eventually find that you’re able to stay awake when you read.

Middle of the night:

This is not my preferred time to read, not at all. But there have been times during nursing and pregnancy that I can’t sleep. When these occur, I don’t get in front of a screen (the blue light can further skewer your sleep). Instead, I make chamomile tea and read for a bit before trying for bed again.

Saturday or Sunday mornings:

Sometimes you just have to announce to your children that you’re going to read, and then you do it. On Saturday or Sunday mornings where it makes sense for our day’s plans, I sit in the living room, sip my coffee, and read my book! I tell my older son that he can sit with me and read his own book at the same time. I find him a couple of options he hasn’t read in awhile so that his interest will be higher. He doesn’t have to read while I’m reading, but I make it clear that Mommy is going to have special reading time, and I’d love for him to join me with his own book.

Choosing a book off a shelf

Sunday afternoons:

Normally during the afternoons or kids’ naptimes I’m working on my laptop. But on Sunday I read. Do you know how indulgent this feels? To read in the middle of the day instead of working or cleaning? It’s glorious. It’s self care. It’s Sabbath rest.

On road trips and vacations:

A few times a year, I get the exquisite privilege of high-velocity reading time, a.k.a family trips. I read in the car while my husband drives (he listens to podcasts and audiobooks) and my son does car activities or listens to his own audiobook. When we get to our destination, I read during times I normally wouldn’t, because I’ve arranged things so that I don’t have to work during vacation. I used to be dumb and let work bleed into vacation time, but now I’m very intentional about keeping boundaries, or even leaving my laptop behind when I can swing it.

Bonus pockets of reading time:

There’s lots of these, if you pay attention. If you read in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, or in the car while your husband runs into the store for a quick item, or at the pizza place when your order is late…you end up reading quite a bit!

So there you have it. This is when I find time to read as a mom of young kids. When I follow these daily, weekly, or yearly reading patterns, and tally up my reading log at the end of the year, I’m always amazed to see how all this time adds up. I really do have time to start and finish books!

Do you have some input on how to find time to read? If you’re a parent who reads, tell other Tea and Ink Society readers what tips you have for reading more! If you’re an empty nester, what reading advice would you give to young moms from your own past experience?

Helping Parents Find Time to Read

These posts at Tea and Ink Society have more ideas for finding time to read as a busy mother or dad:

Real-Life Ways to Read More When You Have Young Children at Home

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  1. When I was a young mother, I also read in waiting rooms and othe times that I could fit it in. There were a lot of long years when I didn’t read much at all, maybe a few minutes at bedtime. After I graduated from pharmacy school at 39, my girls were nearly high-school age, so I rediscovered my love of reading for pleasure. Now that I have retired, I spend my afternoons in my reading corner, w/ a book. I also read at bedtime. It is such a luxury, reading all I want!

  2. I never thought about training my body to stay awake while reading. I think I’ve done that though! I always read during my lunch hour at work and so many people comment that they’d just fall asleep if they tried that. Honestly though, it doesn’t make me tired at all!

    1. Falling asleep over lunch AND a book? Goodness. I do think you get trained, though. Just like if you’re learning to run, you feel horrible at first but after you make running a habit it actually feels good and it’s something you look forward to.

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