I stopped reading fiction books because they are a waste of time.
At least that’s the [only] (fabricated) story I have been telling myself for about the last seven years (and probably longer).
Not for a day more, though, and here's why --
I've come to recognize and value the extreme importance of intention and presence for as me as a mother, wife, woman, and just as a human being.
Day after day (after day, after day, after day) I feel bogged down by the weight that is me trying to be all things to all people.
Women with kids these days are expected to be --
The. List. Goes. On. (AND ON. AND ON.)
I’m a thirty-two-year-old wife and mother of three young kids, and I am a writer.
Damn, it feels good to say that.
I'm also the homeroom mom for two of my children's classes.
At present, I'm working on putting a book together, continuing to build my brand and writing articles weekly to stay relevant and keep my audience engaged.
And, oh yeah, actually being present for my kids and transporting them all over Timbuktu for their various activities and commitments.
Before I started writing, I was a SAHM, and before that, I was a preschool teacher, a domestic legal assistant, and a therapeutic foster care case manager.
I’m a law school dropout who went to a small Catholic college, and a private high school where I did well academically and dominated varsity soccer since the 6th grade.
I am no stranger to being busy.
I am no stranger to effort.
I am no stranger to being pushed.
I am no stranger to pushing myself.
But what is the benefit of all of that grit if it lends me to feel as though I can't find five, ten, or even twenty minutes or more to pick up a mere book solely for pleasure and enjoyment?
I'm not exactly sure when I stopped reading creative works, but I'd approximate it to be around 2011, after the birth of my first daughter.
Since then, I've read, and I've even read a lot, but only informative and betterment type books on parenting, marriage and the holy grail of self-improvement. And, of course, I read my kids books with them.
But, deliberately and leisurely reading an adult fiction book?
Since I was a very young girl, becoming a wife and a mother was all I ever wanted and ever since I achieved those goals, I've felt it my obligation and blessed duty to figure out how to do it "right" and how to excel in those areas even if it leaves me little (or no) time to experience the authentic, semi-nonsensical joy that comes from reading a work of fiction.
For the past many years, I have resigned myself to senselessly believe that time spent reading fiction would be a waste of my precious, albeit minimal, personal time.
And, because I've unintentionally been exhaustedly rocking this halfwit way of thinking, I've instead pissed away those ungodly numerous and irreplaceable hours on my phone checking social media instead.
But, that's coming to an end.
I recently read and shared a New York Times article on my Facebook page, by and about Kevin Roose, a tech columnist, who (paraphrasing the title here) ditched his phone and unbroke his brain.
It was a perfect read for me, and though I'm not planning a radical digital detox of my own anytime soon, I am recommitting (yes, I've vowed this before) myself to PUT DOWN THE PHONE AND PICK UP A FICTION BOOK -- at least when my kids are sleeping.
If my kids are awake, then I will put down my phone and pick them up for a giant squeeze hug.
I want and need to be more intentional about my life.
I want and need to more considerate and deliberate with my choices.
I want and need to be busy only if the busy is fulfilling me directly or indirectly by creating contentment for those I love.
I want and need to read fiction books because they thrill and delight me, but, also because, as American author, Ann Patchett, put it, "it is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings."
Children's author of our family's beloved 'Mercy Watson' books, Kate DiCamillo, is quoted as saying "Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, or a duty. It should be offered as a gift."
I think this is true for us adults, too.
Listen up, mamas -- Don't for another day let your living and nonliving chores and duties steal from you the gift that is the pleasure of reading for happiness.
Your happiness IS growth, and if you take the nominal amount of downtime you have to look inside the cabinets of your dusty bookshelf, and then inside the pages of your favorite fiction works, I promise you won't regret it.
Kind of frighteningly, mothers can become hyper-focused and almost negatively obsessed with our many roles as wives, caretakers, workers, friends, volunteers and so on, that we forget the vital responsibility we have to ourselves to dream with our eyes open and fiction books help us do that.
What a great thing that is to model for our children.
"Especially in a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, LITERATURE is freedom." - Susan Sontag
Read on, mamas.
I sure will be.