Here’s How I’m Finding Time to Read as a Busy Mom

I’ve spent much of my life identifying as a reader. Books hold a special place in my heart, and there are few things I consider as magical as the written word. Growing up, I even spent six years working at my local library. But somewhere along the way, I lost touch with my love of reading. Life got too busy. Too stressful. And—believe it or not—it was actually motherhood that inspired me to become a reader again. 

For me—and for many, I’m sure—my entrance into motherhood was a bit of a shock, to say the least. I couldn’t believe how exhausting and all-consuming it was. My life became overtaken with nap and feeding schedules, pediatrician appointments, cleaning, and laundry. While I had never considered myself to be the most exciting person, per se, I found myself incredibly and frustratingly bored. I loved my baby so much, but I also needed some excitement. Perhaps an escape. Just a sprinkling of pixie dust. It was then that I stumbled onto a new personal belief: If there’s one group of people who need the magic of books in their lives, it’s moms. 

We moms have a lot on our plate. Of course, the work is rewarding. But sometimes, we need a story to help us escape from the monotony that is checking items off the never-ending to-do list. Sometimes, we need a mental break from planning the family calendar. And sometimes, just sometimes, we need a spicy romance or epic fantasy novel that makes us feel alive and feminine in a way that changing diapers just doesn’t. While great in theory, I, of course, don’t have to tell those of you reading this that we moms are short on disposable time to spend on hobbies. So when does one actually make the time to read said spicy romance novel? I know for me personally it wasn’t easy finding the time when I first decided to recommit to reading. 

Finding Time to Read as a Busy Mom

A few years ago, I was reading approximately zero books per year. Finishing as many as 10 felt nearly impossible, and I wondered how to read more books. Then, the next year—even when I had a baby at home—I read 32 books. I was proud and amazed. And also, at that point, motivated. I could be a reader again! The next year (last year), I read 41, with two kids at home to boot. And this year? I’m currently on track to finish 60 before December 31. As you can see from these statistics, this progress didn’t happen overnight. I took a number of steps to set realistic reading goals and rediscover a hobby I was truly passionate about and one that was more accessible as a mom with limited time.

Here are some of the tips and tricks to help you reach your reading goals that I picked up these last several years: 

Listen to Audiobooks

I don’t care what anyone says—Audiobooks 100 percent count as books! And honestly, I think most readers would agree—if you’re consuming the content, does it really matter which form the book is taking?

Audiobooks have been a game changer for me when it comes to reaching my reading goal. Unlike a physical book that requires my complete attention to consume, I can listen to audiobooks while doing a number of the many tasks motherhood requires of me on a daily basis. I listen to these books while cooking, cleaning, and during low-intensity workouts, such as walking on the treadmill. Aside from helping me reach my reading goal, audiobooks also help make these tasks much more enjoyable and, at times, even motivate me to complete them. For example, I loathe cleaning the bathroom. But I motivate myself to get it done by promising myself I can listen to my most recent book while scrubbing the shower. 

If you’re new to the audiobook game, I can’t recommend the free Libby app enough, which is used widely across library systems. Grab your library card and follow these steps to sign up. Contact your local library if you need assistance or would like to inquire about other audiobook services that might be available to you free of charge.

Source: ColorJoy Stock

Choose Books You Actually Want to Read

That’s right—what you want to read. Not what you feel like you should read. Whether it be a nagging voice in your head that’s reminding you how you never did get around to reading Pride and Prejudice or FOMO driving you to pick up the latest romantasy trending on TikTok, stop picking up titles you’re not actually committed to. When you pick up things you’re not that interested in, you tend to read slower or put off reading altogether. I remember years ago feeling almost guilty about how much I loved YA books and kept trying to force myself into reading things that felt more “adult.” While my reading tastes have since changed, I still pick up a YA from time to time. And you know what? I feel no shame. They’re great! Let go of expectations and externally-set standards. Page turners only from here on out, folks. 

Don’t Be Afraid to DNF

I used to be one of those people who would force myself through any book I started, even if I absolutely hated it. At that point, I had yet to experience the joy and relief that is DNF (an acronym short for “did not finish” used among bibliophiles). I used to think, “But I started it! If I don’t finish, the time I spent on this book will have been a waste.” I didn’t realize that forcing myself through something I didn’t enjoy was actually wasting more time. If you start a book and realize a few chapters in that you’re really not enjoying it, don’t hesitate to put it down. Reading goals aside, life is too short to read books you don’t like. Similarly, spare moments in motherhood are difficult to come by—don’t waste them.

Make Reading Part of Your Self-Care Routine

I read every night before bed. Every night. Sure, it helps me wind down and sleep better, but carving out that time for myself—for something I enjoy—is also a small way I prioritize and take care of myself. By making reading part of my self-care routine, I’m very deliberately making it a non-negotiable.

I’m fortunate that once my kids are in bed for the night, that’s where they stay. I’ve truly been blessed with excellent sleepers. But I recognize this is not everyone’s reality. Nighttime is my preferred time frame for reading, but it certainly doesn’t have to be yours. Choose a time of day that works best for you, whether it be listening to your audiobook on your way home from school drop-off or carving out 20 minutes to read on your lunch break. 

Steal Time as You Can

Similar to my point above, work with the time you have. As moms, we rarely have a full afternoon to commit to reading poolside with a marg in hand. Instead, we have to work with what we’ve got. Keep a book (or e-reader) in your bag to pick up while waiting at appointments. Stow one in your car to grab while waiting for your child(ren) at extracurricular pick-ups. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there—the time adds up. And time spent reading is approximately 1,000 times more fun and productive than time spent scrolling. 

Join a Book Club

This can be an actual, in-person book club that requires you to get up and leave your house (a bonus when you’re a mom), or it can be virtual. Book clubs are great because they make reading social and also add accountability. I also love having my reading horizon expanded by others in the form of a club, challenging myself to dabble in books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own.  

While it lacks the social component, one of my favorite book “clubs” is Book of the Month. I was gifted a Book of the Month subscription a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Again, I enjoyed having books put on my radar that I might not have considered otherwise. I also enjoy the challenges the app puts in place, with reading “accomplishments” digitally awarded for different categories, such as Page Pusher (given for reading and rating at least four BOTM books that are 400+ pages) or Genre Gene (awarded for rating books from at least six genres).

how to stick to reading goals
Source: Elevae Visuals

Commit to Your Goal on Paper

When it comes to setting and reaching reading goals, putting pen to paper is a critical first step. Whether it be in a planner or journal, write down exactly how many books you want to read in a given timeframe. For me, I enjoy setting an annual goal at the beginning of the year. If you prefer digital tools, Goodreads makes tracking your yearly goal fun with a progress bar and is a great resource for keeping track of which books you’ve read and which you’d like to read in the future.

Track as You Go

Once you commit to your annual goal, track your progress throughout the year. Beyond knowing whether or not you’ve achieved said goal at year-end, keeping a list as you go can be a fun way to keep yourself motivated. I personally enjoy tracking my books through Goodreads but also share the titles I’m reading on my Instagram stories. The latter has actually turned out to be a really fun channel for doing so, with friends and colleagues often sending me messages to chat about recent reads. 

Tracking helps keep me accountable but it also makes reading more social for me, which is something I’m always actively seeking out as a mom who works from home

Make Use of Your Local Library

As I’ve alluded to a few times, I love the library. I spent many hours there as a child and even more as a teen and young adult. I try to get my two toddlers to the library at least twice a month. And while this doesn’t directly influence my own reading goal, it definitely plays a part. Now that I’m frequently in the library, I’m comfortable making full use of the building’s services. And so I challenge you: Get comfortable with your local library! At the end of the day, you’ll certainly read more titles if a purchase isn’t attached to every read. There’s also a lot of fun to be had in borrowing books (no buyer’s remorse or home clutter) and gaining TBR inspiration as you’re browsing the stacks.

Start Small, Start Now

I say this gently and with encouragement: You can recommit to your love of reading right now. Pack the kids up and go to the library. Download the Goodreads app. Sign up for Audible or Libby. Read a single page. Start small—maybe you only read a handful of books this year. And that’s OK! Whether you read one or 100, I hope these hacks help make reaching your reading goal as a mother a little bit more achievable. You deserve some time away, lost in the magic of a book. 

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