Where do you get the time to…?

I’ve heard it said that you will find the time for the things you value.  I semi-agree.

Someone asked me, “Where do you find the time to read all those books?” after my recent post on reading.  The answer is a little complicated, and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days.

First, I have value for a WHOLE LOT of things that I cannot “find” time for, in part because my time is not wholly my own.  I have a family to attend to, and I’d be abhorrently irresponsible, remiss in my duties if I simply set about my life seeking “me time” (I hate that term, by the way).  I can’t just set off on a stroll through the woods, alongside a meandering creek, binoculars around my neck, and my Sibley guide in hand, just because I want to.  I could find the time, but if I did that, who would watch the kids?  Who would teach them?  Who would do their laundry?  Or make dinner?  Would my husband still be happy in our marriage?  Would I still be able to serve the Body of Christ, and my particular church body, with leading worship in small group?  For the children’s church?  Would I be able to say, “Yes!” to the various church-related printed matter that gets sent my way for editing?  Would I be able to contribute a wee bit to our family’s finances — by writing — if I was always pursuing the things that make only me happy?

So, sometimes, it’s a matter of priorities.  There are many things I value and would adore to spend more time doing, but other responsibilities trump them.  And, there are some things that I absolutely adore, but if I do them, the activity devoted to them precludes my availability to do something else.  You can’t always get what you want, even if what you want is a good thing.

For me, I have struggled long and hard with not being such an idealist.  Being an “idealist” may sound lovely, but if you’re an idealist of my tendencies, it’s not so great.  I spend too much effort pining for “If only…” and “I remember when…” and that’s truly not helpful.  In years past, and to some extent, even now, I can easily become immobilized by my idealism.  I know the best way, the right way;  I remember when the situation for “x” pursuit was much more ideal;  I see, way too easily, the roadblocks that present themselves, rendering a situation much less-than-ideal.  I wish for things to be much better than they are, rather than attacking what’s on my plate right now.   Thus, I do nothing, rather than doing it halfway.

And, that brings up another point.  I love my mother so dearly, but something that has long frustrated me about her outlook on life, is that she looks at her plate, and with a resigned sigh, remarks, in the Christian way of how she’s fated to eat everything on it, “Well, I guess that’s just what God has given to me, and I need to be thankful for this, and deal with it.”  That can be GREAT, in some instances:  She always makes the best out of what she has.  But, on the other hand, I’ve seen her eat things on her plate that really should be relegated to the garbage bin.  Metaphorically, of course.  Well, not even metaphorically!  I grew up thinking mothers liked burnt toast.

I don’t know if this is tracking, but what I’m trying to do is find the balance between taking everything in life as it presents itself –the good and the bad — and the idealism that can envision a much, much, much better present, as well as future.

Idealism can also lead me to a dark place of discontentment.  Instead of “self help” or “inspirational” books (or people) inspiring me, they almost invariably seem to bring to me to a painful realization of how not great something is in my life, how not great I am, how less-than-ideal I am.  And, rather than that bringing my thoughts to a loftier place of aiming for what’s better, it discourages me about where I currently am.

Though, sometimes, discouraged or not, I know I have to pull up my boots with those proverbial bootstraps and change.  But, that’s another topic.  Sort of.

Into all of the semi-confusion above enters my love of books, though the same could be said for MANY pursuits I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy, at a now-modified pace):  playing guitar; hiking (or just walking); writing; birding; spending time with friends — especially conversing, one on one, in the dim corner of a small coffee shop; listening to music (recorded or live); having devotional time with my Savior, et al.

When I was a child, I was a voracious reader.  VORACIOUS.  I read just about everything I could get my hands on, which was usually at least a book per day.  My mom took us to the library weekly, and our limit, per child, per trip, was six books.  I always finished mine, almost always before the date arrived for our next trip, and usually helped myself to my older brother’s stack…  That stuck with me through my college years, and into the time before I was married.

After marriage — though this sounds ridiculous — one of the toughest things I had to adjust to was my new lack of time for reading.  I was used to curling up, virtually every evening, with my current novel.  My hubby watched TV in the evening.  I was aghast.

Add that to my new responsibilities of keeping house and treading the tumultuous waters of a new marriage, so books went out the window.  When I was pregnant with my firstborn, and not working, I read more books during that time than I had in the previous two years of my marriage.  After that, babies took over.

It wasn’t really until about four years ago when I started reading again, in earnest.  In other words, I spent a good eight nor nine years saying to myself, “Well, I guess I just can’t read.”  Because of my habit and preference, in my mind, I had to have chunks of uninterrupted time during which I could devote all of my attention to the tome in my hands. I didn’t have multiple hours of spare “me” time.  Thus, I read very little during that era.  Any reading I was able to accomplish was done with a chip on my shoulder, about how much I “couldn’t” read.  I satisfied myself with the many delightful children’s and young adult books I read to and with my children, whilst homeschooling.  There have been MANY good books we’ve discovered as read-alouds, but I almost never read books of my own choosing, for my own pleasure or benefit.

The book that started my reintroduction to reading

It wasn’t until my dear friend Kathy invited me to attend a book club hosted by a friend of hers, way across the Valley, whose “assignment” was Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  I so enjoyed that book, my time with Kathy during our drive, the book club itself (though that was my lone foray into that particular group), the rediscovery of reading…  Well, that experience generated a new pursuit:  figuring out how I could squeeze the rest of McCall Smith’s books into my brain, by hook or by crook.  Well, not by any means.  But, I was delighted to discover that, while I still could not plop myself down into a comfy spot for hours on end, delving deeply into the novel, abandoning all else, what I could do was:

  • Pick up a book while nursing my baby, instead of flicking on the TV.
  • Read a chapter or two after everyone else had gone to bed.
  • Bring a book to a doctor appointment, rather than planning on reading the magazines on hand.
  • Bring a book to a child’s sports practice.
  • Bring a book to read while my children were at the park.
  • Read a bit while sitting on the closed toilet, keeping my youngest company while s/he bathed.
  • Reward myself with a short time of reading when the to-do list had been successfully tackled, in those few minutes remaining before I started dinner.
  • Even bring a book into the bathroom (something I had NEVER done, previously).

In other words, rather than just say, “I’ll never get two, three, four hours straight in order to really read,” I discovered that could say, “Well, here’s ten or twenty minutes into which I can squeeze a chapter.”

So, rather than consuming a book in a day or two, I now savor it a sip or two at a time, taking usually between one and three weeks to complete a book.  In that manner, I am able to get 25-ish books completed, yearly, that would previously have gone unread, because of my “inability” — my lack of time — to read.

I’ve always had a value for reading, but I had to toss out the ideal — my experience, habit, and preference — in order to find a new way to accommodate a book or twenty-five.

And that is how a woman, wife to her husband of 17 years, and a homeschooling mother of five, who makes dinner from scratch nearly every night of the year, whose home is tolerably clean, and who has multiple responsibilities at church, and some dear friends, finds time to read.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 10, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I am a natural childbirth advocate and an erstwhile birthing class instructor. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on February 7, 2011, in Books I'm Reading, Character Development, Christian Living, Guitar, Homeschooling, Housework, Introspective Musings, Library, Loving Nature!, Marriage, Missions and ministry, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Good for you 🙂 at present my main reading consists of articles on the computer, or children’s books (23 month old son), but I have hope! I miss it so…

    • You should try!! Just get a book… buy it, or get it from the library… one you’ve been saying, “I should read…” and try squeezing it into your day! My youngest is 27 months old, and it really is surprising how much I’ve been able to read in the last year.

  2. So interesting! I totally could have written much of this post. After I got married and started having babies I just didn’t have time to read. Or so I thought. In the last few years I’ve started making reading more a priority. Just having that book in my purse or next to my bed helps. It may take me longer than it used to to finish a book, because I have to read just a few chapters or a few pages at a time inbetween other things, but I am reading more! And I LOVE IT!

    Another thought…..unfortunately (and you realize I’m pointing to myself here and not just casting judgement on the rest of the mommy bloggers) we say we don’t have time to read books, but somehow fit in about a dozen blogs that are in our blogfeed! I guess if reading literature were a real priority, we’d read less blogs and more books! Or at the very least stop whining about not having time to read.

    • I had the same thought. I do love reading other’s ideas. But have recently started reading actual books again. I have Nook envy right now.

      • Nnnnooooo! No Nook for me! Ever! I’ve already told my husband, “Don’t ever buy one for me.” I adore the page. Also, studies have been done that show that people retain SO MUCH LITTLER information when reading on electronic devices, because the brain takes wee pictures of a page to help us recall it to memory. Have you ever done that with your Bible? You can’t remember the exact location of a verse, but you think, “Oh, it’s a few pages down from that one page my toddler ripped, and over a bit from that note I wrote last year during Sunday’s message…” You can’t do that with an electronic reader. Your brain can’t catalog the info the same way.

        • I’m with ya. I cannot get into reading books on electronic devices. Reading (like drinking wine, riding bikes, picnics) is partly about the romance of the printed page to me. I can’t read books online. (Or drink wine with screw tops, ride an exercise bike or eat drive-thru food.)

          I’m not wired that way, I guess.

    • Yes! Blog readers, or Facebook, or whatever. Or the newspaper. I love reading the newspaper, but for me, that was the thing that had to “give” in the last year or so. I went down to Weds & Sunday only (Weds for the food ads, Sun for the coupons), and *maybe* get them read, partially. I used to read the paper every morning! I’m not saying the paper is a bad read, but I couldn’t do books AND Facebook AND other blogs, and that was the thing that had to give.

  3. Karen, the topic of this blog post was the inspiration of my name for my site! I asked a friend, “Where do you find the time to read?” She replied, “Ang, you find time for the things you love.” It stuck with me. The things I most endeavor to make times for are my family and friends, my love of reading, and the care and upkeep of our home.

    Great post. Great reminder for anyone who is whining that they don’t have time for something.

  4. I had to laugh when I read your list of when you find time to read, because it’s almost exactly the same as mine… Although, I do have to say that very often I have a VERY hard time limiting myself to one or two chapters before bed. I can’t count the number of nights that I’ve stayed up waaaaaay too late reading, only to regret it (well, sort of, but not enough to learn from it) when Felix wakes up at 4 or 5 to nurse. (And neither of my kids are old enough to play sports yet).

  5. I usually keep a book in my car. I’m perpetually, ridiculously early (30 mins. more or less) to appointments,etc. so instead of walking in early I sit in my car and read until I’m respectfully early (5 to 10 minutes). I get most of my “because I want to read it” books read this way (along with the occasional “because I have to read it” books).

  6. I was just thinking about this very thing! How I’ve had to “retrain” the brain to think about things, and write things, and read things, in small snatches here or there. i just discovered the reading-while-child-bathes thing.

  7. I read all the time when I was a kid. Even the back of the shampoo and lysol bottles. When the summer reading program came around I was usually done with all the goals within a couple of weeks.
    Now it has slowed down, but still love it. I am going to look for the book that you mentioned.

  8. I do those exact same things to fit in reading time! I will even read sometimes in the kitchen while i wait for water to boil. When I was still supervising the littles’ baths (they’re bigger boys now, and so my husband supervises for their modesty’s sake, and to give me a break), I used to take a book with me and sit on the bathroom floor, and keep one eye on the book, one eye on the toddler.

    I even sometimes bring a book in the car and read at long red lights. Or while I’m waiting for a train at the train tracks. My kids have started to adopt the habit of bringing a book when they leave the house. I don’t even mind if they read in the restaurant while we’re waiting for food, that’s something I did as a child; my mother hated it because she saw it as anti social. I don’t.

    • At red lights?? Hahahaha! You’ve topped me there, for certain. I have been known to text during red lights, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book. Trains, I could see…

      My mom had a “no books at the table” rule, too. I have adopted that, myself, but more for the fact that my kids cannot eat cleanly, and food and greasy smudges end up all over the pages.

      • No books or toys or anything brought to the table for meals, for the same reason, Karen. My kids eat soooo messy. Scarcely a meal goes by that we don’t have something spilled. Way to dangerous to bring reading material to the table!

        (With the exception of Mommy. I sometimes read to the kids while they eat.)

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