Thoughts on Reading with Mommy Brain

I’ve always enjoyed reading. In elementary school, the librarian held books behind her desk for me that she knew I would like. I often read under my desk when I was bored in class. I stayed up late reading by the light of my night-light to finish books that I couldn’t put down.

As a newlywed with a busy working husband, I spent hours reading through many of the classics that I didn’t get to read in high school. I studied sewing, craft, and cooking books to develop my homemaking skills. I read a lot of books related to my psychology degree while I was finishing that. When I found out we were expecting, I read tons of parenting and nutrition books. And I have always enjoyed supplementing my Bible reading with theology and devotional books.

Thoughts on Reading with Mommy Brain | One Radiant Home

At some point during the last 2 pregnancies, my ability to read went away. It sounds strange, I know. You can’t explain it unless you’ve been there. I would read the same thing a dozen times and still walk away not knowing what I had read. In late pregnancy and the newborn days some of it may have been related to lack of sleep, but I know that wasn’t all of it. I had plenty of creative energy. I even started my sewing pattern business to keep myself challenged in other ways. But reading just seemed hard.

Even a year after the last baby was born and I was feeling mostly “normal” again, my ability to read anything more than a blog post was still gone. It’s not that I didn’t try to read books during that time, but I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t really process anything I read. A few months ago (at least 18 months removed from pregnancy), I decided that I had to do something. I missed reading.

My lack of reading was affecting my spiritual growth and my relationship with Shawn. We enjoy conversations about the books we are reading, the spiritual implications of the thoughts presented, and the assumptions that drive the authors. But we missed that intellectual aspect of our relationship too. We missed having more to talk about than what we did that day or what the kids were learning (and not learning!). We talked about circumstances, but not very much about ideas. For us, those conversations are essential. They build a closeness, a feeling of oneness, that is vital to the strength of our marriage.

My lack of reading was also effecting my writing. I wasn’t feeding my deeper thoughts and have struggled to write anything more than family updates. How can I share anything worth reading if I’m not feeding myself with thought-provoking material? How can I write what I’m learning if I walk away from my Bible reading grasping for just a tiny bit of understanding and application?

I needed to read again.

So, I came across an article, which I can’t even remember now. I know I’ve seen several similar articles though, talking about how technology and reading quickly on our phones and computers has affected our “deep reading” ability. Our brains need to practice deep reading skills or they begin to forget those pathways. I realized then that my “mommy brain” problem was probably gone, but that it had been replaced by the brain laziness that comes when it’s not challenged with deep reading.

I decided to try to reconnect those pathways by pushing myself to “read deeply,” but I chose a book that I knew I would enjoy. I love the BBC miniseries North & South, but I had never read the book. I thought it was a good choice because I was familiar with the story, but the writing was more complex and required some thought. I ended up finishing it in about a week.

I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but for me, that was all it took. My brain kicked back into to gear and I started devouring books again. When I did some planning for the new year, I made a long book list. (There are always tons of great “the best books I’ve read this year” blog posts at the end of the year, which are great for ideas and book reviews.) I wanted to be reading intentionally. I’m using the list as a guide, but I’m also reading other books that come up and seem helpful.

I’ve read around 15 books already this year on a variety of topics. For each book, I’ve written a few thoughts—sometimes just a few sentences and sometimes a lot more—about what I’ve learned and my general thoughts about the books. There are a couple that I really loved, books that will stick with me and give me much more to write about and think through.

I hope to share some of my thoughts about the best ones soon. In addition, I have some other thoughts to write again, so I’m thankful that the Lord has restored my “deep reading” ability and my desire to think hard and write more.

Praising the Lord for restoring my ability to read deeply, and praying that my thoughts will be an encouragement to those that read them!

I know from talking with other friends that I’m not the only one that has struggled with this after having babies. What about you? Are you feeling stuck like I was, or have you found a way to “snap out of it” somehow? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Linking to: Raising Homemakers, My Joy-Filled LifeLadies Collective, Women with Intention

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10 Responses to Thoughts on Reading with Mommy Brain

  1. Joy says:

    I know I’ve found it hard to psych myself up to reading more than textbooks due to brain overload in college, but if I just get started on a book that interests me I can engage pretty quickly. It’s a great diversion and stimulation to life! I noticed a couple Janet & Geoff Benge books in your stack. I read quite a few of those (including those two) growing up, and George Muller was definitely my favorite in that series.

    • Sara says:

      Yes, the missionary books are ones that we are reading as a family. At least 3 of the books in my 15 are family read-alouds…George Muller is on our school reading list for later this year.

  2. I hear you on the mummy brain and reading. I’m an avid reader also {my degree was in English and History} and especially after my son when I had postnatal-anxiety, I really struggled to read. Thankfully, I am back into the swing of things. Currently, I am reading Pride and Prejudice {enjoying it like never before} and The Cross of Christ by John Stott {one of those thick theological tomes but which is amazing!}. I love your stack of books – great titles! I loved Carolyn MacCulley’s one – have you read her latest about women and work? Really good!

    • Sara says:

      Both great books! Thanks for sharing! As many times as I have seen the movie, I don’t believe I have read Pride & Prejudice. I might have to add that to my ever growing list 🙂 Also, I didn’t realize Carolyn McCulley had a new book. I’ll have to check it out. I read Radical Womanhood a few years ago, but picked it up again because the topic is something that comes up in conversation often. Her examination of feminism and how we should respond to it is excellent, so I’m glad I read it again!

  3. Emily says:

    Oh, mom brain…

    I, too, read so much as a kid. I loved when a book was so good that I read late into the night. Or I would wake up on a Saturday morning & read before getting out of bed! Ha! The lazy days of reading in bed in the morning are so gone 🙂

    I’m happy that you got it back so quickly! Is that The Hiding Place in the picture? So good.

    • Sara says:

      Unless you wake up at 4 am, right? 🙂 We did read the biography of Corrie Ten Boom. It’s not her autobiography but this is a great family read-aloud version!

  4. I have the exact same problem right now but it never occurred to me that it could last past having kids. I really need to restore my deep reading ability. I LOVED getting lost in a book and miss that feeling. Thanks so much for the tips and inspiration!

    Thanks for sharing this post over at the Ladies Collective Linkup! Sure hope you’ll be back this Wednesday to share what else you’ve been working on!

    Stephanie @

  5. I feel you on this one. I have four kids and was easily distracted before I even had kids. What has really got me reading more is writing fiction. I’m not sure why, but sitting and writing out deep characters, plots, and thinking through storylines has got me fired up for reading all over again.

  6. Jenny says:

    Are you my long lost sister?!? 🙂 Our degrees are the same, we read the same types of books and we both suffered from this mommy brain problem! I also have felt where I quit growing when I quit reading as much as I used to. I’ve been trying to incorporate reading into our evening routine with the kids to get them to not only love books but to make time to read as well. Thanks for linking up at Women With Intention Wednesdays! 🙂 Jenny

    • Sara says:

      Thanks for commenting Jenny! I meet a lot of new friends through my sewing blog, but rarely find “kindred spirits” (We watched Anne of Green Gables yesterday…) through this blog. My 2 kids that can read always have their noses in books! Somehow we managed to teach them that it was important. The little ones “read” just because everyone else is. I do feel like I’m growing a lot more now that I have things to think about. I hope you are able to make more time to read yourself. I’m reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson right now and it’s excellent! Email anytime if you want to talk books!