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How do you stop feeling guilty about taking time to read?

How do you not feel guilty about taking time to read?

I have been reading your blog since 2009 and have recently been loving your Periscopes!! I do have a question that I hope you can answer in a blog post or on a Periscope.

How do you not feel guilty about sitting down to read? During nap (I have two girls – 2.5 and 1.5), I usually have homemaking chores to do but if I have extra time during nap, I always feel guilty sitting down to read! It always feels like there’s something else I should be doing. Any advice? -Emily

This is such a great question, Emily! I think so many moms and women struggle with making time to do things that will replenish and refresh and refuel them.

Why? Because it can feel like there are so many, many more important things you should be doing with your time.

How do you not feel guilty about taking time to read?

You Are No Good to Anyone When You’re Completely Exhausted

But here’s the thing: you are good to no one if you are exhausted. Read that sentence again and really think about it.

You are unable to be a good wife, a good mom, a good co-worker, a good friend — or whatever hats you wear right now — if you are feeling run over for dead.

When you are completely drained, completely tapped out, and completely burned out, you will not have anything worth giving to others.
How do you not feel guilty about taking time to read?

Yes, You Need to Take Time for YOU

You need to be pouring into yourself if you want to be able to pour out to others. You can’t just give and give and give without replenishing the supply and expect that you’ll be able to keep going and going and going. That’s like assuming that you can live without food or drive your car without refilling it with fuel.

We try to do it as a person, though, don’t we? And it’s usually in the name of “not having time” or that “there are so many other more important things to do”.

But if you never make time for replenishing your supply, you’ll soon have to make time because you’ll be so tapped out that you’ll be forced to.

I’ve found that I’m so much healthier, happier, and energetic when I take time to refuel my tank. And I’m also able to invest much more in my marriage and my kids, as a result.

How do you not feel guilty about taking the time to read?

How to Get Over the Guilt

When I remind myself about how important replenishing my supply is, it helps me to feel less guilt over making time for reading and other things that refuel me. But I’ve found other practical ideas that help, in addition to just giving myself a good pep talk:

#1. Budget a Time Block For It

When you make taking time to read part of your daily list of to-do’s, you’re automatically giving yourself permission to make it a priority.

#2. Make It a Reward

Tell yourself that once you’ve cleaned the bathroom, or filed those papers, or finished that work project, or folded and put away the laundry, you get to set the timer for 15 or 30 minutes and enjoy a book.

#3. Remind Yourself of the Impact

Reading is one of the best ways to grow as a person, to challenge ourselves, to grow, and to stimulate our minds. Keep this in mind when you’re trying to talk yourself out of taking time to read.

#4. Find an Accountability Partner

Ask someone to hold you accountable for taking time to refuel and refresh yourself. Maybe they can text or email you a few times per week to check in and make sure you’re making it a priority.

#5. Get Creative!

Look for creative ways to fit reading into your life. I’m always on the hunt for nooks and crannies where I can fit more reading in. Check out my posts here on how I find more time to read.

How do you not feel guilty about taking time to read?

What other advice and ideas do the rest of you have for Emily? I’d love to hear!

P.S. Watch my video from this morning on How to Make Time for You Without Feeling Guilty.

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  • Karen says:

    Speaking as someone who runs a tutoring center and works with many high schoolers…please, make the time to read if you’re at all able! My students who are the best, most curious readers almost always come from families who prioritized reading time. Read during nap time, and if your kids are old enough, try a family reading time where everyone reads their own books. You can start with just 20 minutes or half an hour, you can read aloud to each other and talk about your books afterwards, you can take family trips to the library…there are so many ways to do this. It’s so helpful for your kids’ literacy and language fluency!

    I have a 2 year old with special needs, a baby on the way and I work full-time, so I understand being too busy. But I truly believe that this is one of those family activities that’s worth the time investment!

  • Taniaq says:

    Wake up extra 30 minutes or go to be early to read. Also if you can get audio books listen while I’m doing chores. Read while your in the tub. Most importantly ask God to open opportunity for your reading. If worst comes to worst. Hire a baby sister, ask significant other, family or doing co op with friends to watch kids will help with time to do things. I budget 30 minutes each day for my self for anything I want to do. ?

  • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    I know her daughters are really young, but it’s also good to model your passion for reading in front of your children. She can set them up with a simple art project (age appropriate), busy bag or their own picture books and make it a quiet time where she can read and they can see books being read for pleasure. Might be good to do to get settled down before nap time. You can never feel guilty about spending quality, educational time with your angels!!!

  • Jennifer says:

    Reading is so important for so many reasons. This posts highlights many of those. I would offer a few other thoughts. Modeling behavior for children includes reading. Children who see Mom and Dad reading are more likely to be read to and become readers themselves. What kind of Mom do you want your children to see? Taking time to read allows parents and shows their child to pursue learning and be fufilled intellectually. Also, take time for yourself will allow you to be more content with some relaxation and enjoyment to be your best self for them.

  • linda says:

    Such a good reminder. I always feel guilty that I should be doing something else. But the truth is the list of stuff that should be done never ends. The previous comments are also right on. I think I will go home and finish reading my book tonight 🙂

    • Patricia says:

      I wholeheartedly agree that you have an obligation to yourself to take time every day and do something that gives you peace and allows you recharge. Take the time! As a mother and wife (or even simply a mother), you are meeting everyone’s needs around you. From the time the children wake up until everyone else is asleep.

      My advise is to TAKE the time.

  • Renee says:

    I absolutely love to read. I recently felt guilty for reading so much, and I was sharing that with one of my dear friends. I read my Bible with my husband in the morning, we have our devotions first thing in the morning, together before he goes to work, we do that for 30 minutes. Then we he goes to work, I do my thing, I do my “chores” (as I call them), then if I get any down time, I will pick up a book to read. I love to read non-fiction books, or devotionals. But as I was sharing the guilt I was having with my dear friend, she shared that her Mom will only read a book after she has read a chapter in the Bible. For example, if she reads 2 chapters in her Bible, then she will read 2 chapters of the book of her choice. Or if she reads 4 chapters in the Bible, she will read 4 chapters of the book of her choice, and so on. I thought that was a great idea, and maybe that could be something that might work for someone. I haven’t tried that yet. She just told me that this past weekend. It’s not that I wasn’t reading something bad, but maybe I was taking too much time away from reading God’s word.

  • jennifer says:

    I have never, ever felt guilty about reading. There was a season that I read very little, but I have read over 50 books this year. I fit it in wherever it works-this summer, my son had swim team practice. That was 45 minutes x5 days a week! I have the Kindle app on my phone so am able to squeeze in a few extra minutes here and there when I am out and about.

    I’m hopeful that by being so open about my reading, my 9 year old will not feel it is such a burden. I want him to enjoy reading also and the best way for him to even read more is to lead by example.

    • Patricia says:

      When my son was younger, we used to go to bookstores and such. On day as we were walking up to the bookstore he said, “I love the smell of books”.
      I laughed very hard. It was so cute. He was so serious. But I realized I was teaching him something wonderful through my example. He is highly intellegent and now when he takes an interest in a subject he reads and self-teaches himself everything there is on the subject.
      Kids copy the parents. So read without guilt. Especially the Bible.

  • Melinda says:

    Audiobooks…I like to listen to them when I lay down to take a quick 20 minute nap and if I don’t fall asleep then I got to listen to something interesting or when I’m cleaning it takes my mind off the task. But my kids are older now and when my kids were your children’s ages I barely ever found time to read and I found it horribly frustrating even to try, I would keep getting interrupted and loose my temper…so I accepted that I wouldn’t get a whole lot of time to read for a short season 🙂 Now that my children are 11, 8 and 5 we have scheduled reading time everyday…all of us 🙂

    • Julie C says:

      Yes, audio books while doing other tasks (especially during the children’s quiet/study time) is a great way to fill your tank while getting essential tasks done!

  • Florence says:

    Read in short bits of time as frequently as you can. At this season of your life, a solid hour to read probably isn’t going to happen. But 5-10 minutes several times a day is more likely. Also audio books while doing housework works sometimes. You want your children to see that you read and find pleasure in it.

  • Heather says:

    Instead of feeling guilty about taking time to read maybe we should feel guilty about NOT taking time to read. Except that I don’t advocate more guilt- many people have too much already.
    Really, I just mean that reading should be a priority in our lives. Cut out cleaning or something else. Let the kids see us reading. Go the library frequently for ourselves and the kids. Reading is like brain exercise.

  • Denise says:

    Credit Diana Gabaldon (possibly paraphrased): ” if woman’s work is never done, does it really matter what’s not getting done right now? ” as she drank her tea. Housework is very loyal. It will always be there.

  • Amanda says:

    As someone else already commented, I think it is safe to feel guilty about NOT reading…Especially with having young children. There are always going to be chores to do, no matter how much you time you spend doing them. Children are only going to be young for a little while and one of the best ways to teach them is by example. So it’s important to SHOW them how important reading is at a young age. Let them see you read, let them look at picture books, read to them often.

  • Diana says:

    I think I need encouragement to do housekeeping chores during nap instead of reading! Ha ha 🙂 Seriously, though, way to go on being diligent enough to clean during naptime. That’s not easy, and I’m sure you’re proud of your work when you’re done! 🙂

    Don’t be afraid to read your books out loud to your kids, even though they’re young. When my son was around 2.5 I had a book I needed to finish because it needed to be returned to its owner asap. It was an adventure story and so I just read it out loud to him. Although the plot was waaaay beyond his years he started picking up on characters’ names and seemed to truly enjoy our extended reading times for those few days!

  • JG says:

    Crystal, thank you for encouraging people to read!

    I am a college professor that teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. As a professional writing teacher, I echo what others have said in previous comments: if you read, you are a model for your children and children who practice reading and read for pleasure always have an easier time in school and higher education, regardless of trade or profession.

    The other main reason I would encourage people to find time to read would be to gain information and fuel for imagination. You never know what you will discover while reading and how that information may enrich your life. My friends who don’t read are always impressed but how much “stuff” I know but rarely believe me when I tell them that most of it is knowledge I picked up just through the process of reading.

    • Tina says:

      What perfect timing for me for this post!! I LOVE LOVE to read and at the start of the summer I had a whole stack to read, and work took over more and more over the past few years. I found a job I truly enjoyed, thought I had a great boss, etc, etc., and I have worked myself to the point of exhaustion over the past few years, neglecting my family friends and MYSELF, and now I find myself literally sick from exhaustion and stress. And In the end, to learn that the employer really does not care about YOU and when things go wrong and will use YOU as a scapegoat to try to fire when they haven’t done their job. So now I find myself in a very touch situation where I having to set large boundaries and stick up for myself. Needless to say, it’s awful and I have learned a HUGE lesson. I took a day off yesterday and realized what I have neglected in my life and what I need to start changing and what I Need to start doing for myself and building those relationships again and READING AGAIN!! I have also been wanting to start a blog and have finally found a web designer who I can work with, so now I am considering this my part time “job” as this is something I want to do for myself and also give me a different focus to get my mind off the work stuff for now until things are settled at work to see what direction that is going to go. NO MORE OVER WORKING FOR ME!!

    • Beth says:

      My husband is a high school English teacher and he completely agrees. His feelings, in a large part, are what got me really getting into reading again. I LOVE to read. In that it can almost be an addiction. So I stopped for a while when my son was an infant. But my husband kept telling me, “You need to read more!” So when we got a kindle library subscription in February I quickly picked up my “addiction.” Not once has my husband criticized me for my time spent. His biggest complaint is that I haven’t read Paradise Lost yet :).

  • Cheri says:

    I remember feeling exactly this way as a young mom! I rarely took the time to read anything! Nowadays I make a commitment to myself to read at least 20 minutes a day. For some reason just making that commitment makes it feel less like a guilty pleasure and more like an important task on my to-do list.


    This article by Susan Wise Bauer. Spending time together N one’s intellectual stimulation is not something to feel guilty about!!

  • Maria says:

    This is something I’ve been really learning lately! And trying to help my husband implement as well! If left to our own, we will work ourselves to death and I’ve spent too many days bitter and exhausted, trying to keep up. It’s so important to have priorities in place so you know what you can let go without feeling like a failure!

  • Jennifer says:

    I love reading Fringe Hours because it helped me to see it was absolutely okay for me to take a little “me time”

  • Leah says:

    Thank you, thank you. I found out the hard way this past couple of years that if we don’t take the time to fill up our cup, we’ll have nothing to give to our families. I love this quote, “When you are completely drained, completely tapped out, and completely burned out, you will not have anything worth giving to others.” Yes! With a 5, 3, and 1 yr old, oh, how can I relate!
    I try to wake up before 6 each day because my 21-month old is an early riser. Yesterday she gave me 45 minutes of reading time. I was able to do a couple chapters in my Bible and a chapter of John Maxwell! It’s amazing how ready I was to face my busy day yesterday, just having that quiet time. Reading has become a piece of my to-do list! I also try to remind myself that good writers come from good readers. Others’ words inspire me!

  • Anne says:

    It is soooo important for me to take some time for self care during nap time. I struggle with the guilt too, but it is misguided. Our 2.5 year old has some developmental delays and only time will tell if she genuinely has special needs or if she is just a little bit of a late bloomer. If I work all the way through nap time, I am more likely to lose it and yell at her during the umpteenth tantrum in the 5pm hour than if I take some time to recharge. Ultimately my relationship with her is more important to me, but I have to constantly remind myself that my self worth isn’t tied to my achievements with housework or my very part-time WAH job.

  • Emma says:

    This must be a common struggle for us moms! I know I’ve always felt guilty about reading when there is work to be done, but a couple of months ago the Lord gave me peace about it. I wrote a post about that; if you’re interested, you can find it at:

  • Jamie says:

    My kids go to bed and then a half hour to hour later I go up to bed and read for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour (or sometimes more!). It allows time for hubby and I to spend a few kid free minutes together.

  • Susan says:

    I just have to agree with everyone else – I am a huge reader and now, so are my girls. I have one who we literally have to tell her to stop reading to go play. But reading (and seeing me read) makes a difference in how they in their lives – their imagination is huge and they are doing better in school because of it (7 and 10 years old). They would see me reading while they were playing when they were young. I would also read while I dried my hair! Whatever time you can carve out to read, do it. It’s good for you and it models a great behavior for your children. Also, it is a great thing to be able to tell your children (when they are older) to grab a few books because there might be wait when we go somewhere.

  • Gwen Taylor says:

    Can you recommend a good devotional book for a new mom? My daughter is mother to a one year old and will have another little one in about eight months. She is feeling overwhelmed and I thought a good devotional specifically for new moms would be helpful. Thanks! I love your blog!!

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