Literary Reflections is pleased to present this month’s featured writing prompt response.
Earlier this month, inspired by Becki Melchione’s essay, The New Yorker for Mothers, we asked:
Has having a child changed your reading habits? Do you mourn the loss of your pre-parenthood regular reading material, or have you – like Becki – found a new favorite read, since the arrival of your child?
In response, Laura Cline wrote:
For two summers in my twenties, I worked at a tiny independent bookstore at the beach, and I was never happier. I read upwards of fifty books each of those summers – all novels. Ever since my elementary school years, where I would get into trouble for trying to secretly read books in my lap while the teacher was teaching, I’ve been a fiction girl. I wanted to name our first daughter “Story” but my husband exercised his veto right. (I’m still holding out for daughter number two, should she ever come along.)
When I gave birth to my first child and entered a PhD program within months of each other around the middle of 2010, I feared I would never again read for pleasure. I was happily proved wrong by two truths. 1.) a year’s worth of breastfeeding (times two – I had a second baby last April) entails a lot of time sitting in a chair with not much to do besides read. 2.) I can’t effectively highlight and take notes while breastfeeding. I think discovering this saved my life; I’ve found a way to live without sleep, but I’m not sure I could have said the same about books.
More surprising than finding time to read once I became a mom, though, was my newfound impatience with fiction. It wasn’t just the drive to learn more about child development, parenting philosophies, sleep issues, baby sign language, and how to trick toddlers into eating vegetables, although I continue to read about most of those topics still. It was also that my need to make sense of the world and my place in it had shifted my focus. I’m a full-time graduate student and also a stay-at-home mom, and I’m constantly trying to figure out how to do both, and so I soak up everything that anyone has to say about the matter – blogs, books, essays, etc. I thought it was guidance I sought, but maybe I just derive strength from seeing pieces of myself in other people’s lives.
I’ve also found myself reading more about faith, prayer, and spirituality, as well as texts on “slow” or mindful living. Motherhood has weakened me for the better. I’m terrified of the weight of constructing the world for my children, and I need all the help I can get. I can’t afford to be anything less than purposeful in this pursuit, and so I read. I read about other people’s experiences and insights, and I try to benefit from the wisdom that is distilled in their writing.
Becoming a mom has changed my reading habits. Of course. It changed everything else, too. But there are days when I long to lose myself in a story again, to step outside myself. So, two weeks ago I treated myself to Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, Flight Behavior, and now, for the last ten minutes of each day, I get to visit with Dellarobia and Cub in rainy Tennessee, and fall asleep to visions of butterflies.
Laura Cline traded in elementary school teaching in sunny San Diego three years ago for a move to Delaware, where she is currently pursuing a PhD and raising two small children with her husband. She recently made the leap from strictly academic writing to creative nonfiction. In between planning for pregnancy number three and preparing for her dissertation, she is starting to regularly write about the struggles and blessings of her experience navigating academia and motherhood.
A new Literary Reflections writing prompt is published the first weekend of every month. Responses are accepted until the 15th, and we promise to comment shortly after that. Look for it – we’d love to hear from you.