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.
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!