Finding Time to Read When You're Mothering Littles

Guest post by Johanna Hanson of My Home Tableau.

Renee here, with just a short intro: I have always been an avid reader, and reading has been so important for my personal development, intellectual and spiritual growth.

But when you are a mom with young children it's hard to find the time. I know many of you are in this same spot so I asked Johanna to share her heart and wisdom with us on this topic. 


As a mom of littles (4, 2, and 1), my days are taken up with changing diapers, passing out snacks, reading stacks of picture books, making huge messes that we call creativity, and cleaning up said messes, or pushing kids on a swing. I also try to cook somewhere in there.

There is very little time for myself. Most of the time I can't even use the bathroom without someone coming in to check where I am!

But self-education, usually in the form of reading, is highly important to me. It's a priority. And as anything in life, if something is a priority you somehow make time for it.

I don't view this as another item on a to-do list. (It's plenty long already, thank you!). I view it as a lifeline. A sanity keeper in the midst of busy days.

It reminds me that my world is bigger than a diaper explosion or another spilled bowl of soup.

Reading keeps my mind fresh and active, learning new things and learning daily about the world around me. Having young children is physically exhausting, but not necessarily intellectually stimulating. Reading provides that outlet.

Reading gives me new things to talk about with my husband and friends. My husband is very gracious, but he really doesn't need to know how many times I cleaned up the same toy in a day.

Reading also models to my children that learning is a lifelong pursuit.

And it is just enjoyable.

Reading and learning are important and even a lifeline for a mom of littles, but making it happen is another matter. I rarely have a moment in a day by myself, let alone time to get into a good book. I've had to find ways to fit it in.

Read multiple books

One thing that has helped me read more is having different books of different genres going at the same time. There are days when I am so physically exhausted by nightfall that I can't wrap my mind around anything too deep, but I can get lost in a great work of fiction or gain encouragement from a memoir.

If I know I am going to have distractions, a resource book is nice. I can learn what I want, but I don't need heavy concentration. I save the deeper reading for those times when I have a small block of time to myself.

15 minutes a day

Most of us, no matter what stage in life, can find at least fifteen minutes. It is actually amazing how much reading we can get through with just 15 minutes. Over a month and a year it adds up.

But you might find like I have, that once you have committed to 15 minutes you will benefit so much, that you'll find other times to squeeze in some reading.

How much time is not important, but committing to giving myself some time to explore my own learning goals reminds me that this is important.

Rest time

Rest time is an invaluable part of our day. My oldest rarely sleeps anymore, but we still have quiet time in the afternoon. I need it, for sure. But they need it too. They need time by themselves (they may not realize it!) to get lost in a picture book or a simple toy without the interruption of a sibling.

It is tempting to tackle my cleaning, or jump on twitter as soon as my kids go down. But I've learned that if reading is a priority, it has to happen first. Having routines in place so I know when my laundry or other cleaning is going to get done is helpful to put my mind at ease. "I'll get to that later."

As soon as my kids go down to rest, I make a cup of tea or coffee and I sit and read. Rest time is the time to get into some of my best reading. It's that respite in the middle of the day that puts out of my mind all the kid squabbles of the morning, and gives me renewed energy for the hours left in our day.

Read in multiple formats

I enjoy borrowing a variety of books from the library both on my kindle and in book format. Each is a little different and better for certain situations. Another format that I have just recently started to enjoy is the audio book. is user friendly because it keeps track of exactly where you are and allows you to take notes while you listen, but you can also borrow audio books from the library.

I like to be completely present when my children are awake, but I find that if they are sleeping and I absolutely need to accomplish household tasks, listening while I work is an enjoyable way to spend the time.

Just read

I am finally figuring out that there is no perfect time for anything. Being a mom of littles has its particular challenges, for sure. But perfect is often the enemy of the good. The perfect book, the perfectly clean house, the perfect time.

Sometimes you just have to grab the book that is closest to you, take whatever moments of silence you can get, forget about that pile of laundry for the moment, and just read.

And oh what food for my heart, soul, and mind comes from those less-than-perfect times.

Reading is not a duty for me, it's a respite. That quiet in the midst of my day of answering endless questions and caring for my family's needs.


Thank you so much Johanna for sharing this with us. I was nodding my head a lot, especially about having house routines that let you enjoy moments of rest. 

How do you make time for reading in your life?

That audible link is an affiliate. We love audible and have a monthly membership.

14 November 12


I agree wholeheartedly. I

I agree wholeheartedly. I only have 1 little, but I've read more than 135 books so far this year - because I make time for it. :)

When people ask me what my secret is, my answers are much the same as Johanna's, with a particular emphasis on the audiobooks. Of those 135ish books, more than 30 have been audio books. And I feel like a super-mom when I've gotten to "read" a book and have folded laundry/cleaned floors/etc simultaneously!

I love reading, too (past

I love reading, too (past English major over here!) and make a lot of time for it. This probably won't surprise many of the hard-core readers here, but I already have my 35+ book list for 2013 ready to go!
I also read about an hour a day, but almost never altogether. I have two small children (5 & 3), and it happens throughout the day, as they are engaged in play, during their 2 1/2 hour quiet time, and also at night after their bedtime. I try to squeeze in some reading while they are playing around me, simply because I think it's also a good thing for them to see how much I read and enjoy it. I want them to think that reading as an adult is just as normal as reading 50 kids' books in one day is for them!
Thanks for your encouragement in this.
Sarah M

I also try to take a book

I also try to take a book with me when traveling to and from different places. While I wait to pick up my older kids from school, at the doctor/dentist office, hair dresser, etc. You can always get in a few minutes here and there like that. So you aren't sitting around wasting time or just mindlessly flipping through magazines. I also try to read 10 minutes before I go to sleep. It normally turns into more than 10 though. I too have several books going at once. I thought that was a bad thing! But I see your reasoning behind that and it makes sense to me:)

We are huge readers but have

We are huge readers but have only recently begun using kindles after getting them for a big trip. I have mixed feelings about them. I can't glance to my husband, see what he is reading, and chat about it quite as naturally. More importantly, my children don't see us reading physical books and assume that if we are on electronics it is ok for them. Suddenly we are staring at kindles and they are staring at ipods (my kids are teens). They don't associate electronics with reading. So, for our family, we keep the kindle reading for times when the kids aren't around. I wonder how this will change with younger families whose children grow up with ebooks. It may not be such an issue as it is with us!

This is interesting Sarah. My

This is interesting Sarah. My husband has always read on the computer - mostly short articles and tech-type stuff. So computer reading has been part of our life for a long time, only now with Kindles and iPads it's much easier. Damien does all his computer reading now on the iPad, a much welcome change for him. 
We view electronics as tools, tools that are sometimes used as toys, but mostly tools. Tools for research, tools for writing, tools for drawing, tools for finding out information, and tools for reading. 
Interesting the different perspective on electronic reading. 

I end up reading a lot at

I end up reading a lot at night. I make it a point to read as often as I can when my kids are awake. Often, that means reading whatever I am reading to my kids. In the past year they have listened to a lot of Jane Austen and CS Lewis, as well as other books. If they are interested, that is fine, if not they can go and play. I think it is important for the kids to see me reading, and for me to read anything I can to them. I want them to have the same passion for reading (and learning!) that I do.

Great blog post. I have

Great blog post. I have three kids that require most ofmy time and energy when schooling. However, I find that in the evenings, I read to unwind. Sometimes, I stay up way to late, but this time allows me to grow and feel human again. Also, my oldest is an avid reader and asks so many questions. I have to read to keep up!
Thanks for the post,

I agree with your post

I agree with your post completely. Reading is such a reprieve for me, and it allows me to feel adult in my child-dominated day. I have quiet time, where I make reading a priority. I've also used 15 minute spurts in the day with my kids, where I tell them to all go find a stack of books to read while I read my book. Different formats help, and I like the option of a Kindle when I'm traveling, too. Great post, Johanna!

"But perfect is often the

"But perfect is often the enemy of the good."...loved this! I'm {slowly} learning I don't have to wait for the perfect situation/scenario but just do my best to grab a few minutes to read when I can. Enjoyed reading your practical tips, Johanna!


[...] my life as a mom that I haven't had a lot of time to "study" but I've always been reading and learning. And when the seasons shift and there is time for study, or when the circumstance [...]

Add new comment