Why Reading and Parenting don’t mix: 2013 365 Challenge #289

David Eddings' Belgariad

David Eddings’ Belgariad

I was scanning through some of my old blog posts for inspiration today, and I came across one from July last year discussing how much I missed reading adult books and listening to proper songs while raising my young children. (I mostly read children’s stories and listen to their music in the car.)

Much as I love books like Where the Wild Things Are and songs like She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, there’s only so much you can take.

My post discussed the main reasons why reading had become a rare event, with a one year old and a three year old to care for. What’s frightening is that most of the reasons are still applicable, even now the children are three and four.

These were the reasons:

  • I tend to zone out the world entirely when I’m reading a good book; something that, until recently, hasn’t been vaguely possible. My son especially requires constant vigilance to ensure his continued good health (not because he suffers from any kind of illness, but because he likes to throw himself off high things). This is still true but because now I worry he’s digging up the garden or feeding his lunch to the dog.
  • Kids (and husbands) have an in-built sensor that alerts them when you’ve got to a good bit. Husbands you can just about tell to feck off, but it’s only on really bad days that I say that to the children. Still true, though the likelihood of me telling the kids to “Please go away, Mummy’s reading,” is much greater than it used to be.
  • Even after they’ve gone to bed, assuming I can keep my eyes open to read, the little one wakes every couple of hours, and on the rare occasion I’ve read past midnight, he’s guaranteed to be up and screaming from 1am until 5am. I had one awful night during my consumption of Hunger Games when I didn’t actually get any sleep. Not the best way to get through the following day without going to Mummy Hell in a handcart. Still true: the children don’t wake as often, but they do take it in turns through the night. I also go to bed later because of the daily blog. I’ve still been caught out reading or working until 1am and then not getting any sleep after that.
  • Then there has been what to read. I get paranoid that reading books of the same genre as the one I’m writing might lead to me inadvertently copying a character or piece of plot. This is still true, although my choice of books is more limited by my tiredness and short attention span, as I can’t imagine reading anything quite like Two Hundred Steps Home!

Recently I have ignored all these factors and got stuck into rereading the Belgariad series by David Eddings. I’m on book four already. They’re an easy read and, because I’ve read them before, I am able to put them down (just about) when the children need me. I suspect the daily blog has suffered – certainly my self-imposed 10am deadline has fallen by the wayside, but I needed the break. And being a perfectionist is over-rated!

Best of all, because they’re in paperback format, I don’t have to wait until the children have finished with the iPad. And the children see that I’m reading, not working or surfing the net, as they might imagine when they see me with the tablet in my hand. They say one of the best way to raise readers is to let them see you read. Well, after this week, my kids are going to be moving into a library when they’re older! 🙂


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire’s head pounded in time with the noise of the train: chugga thud, chugga thud.

Digging her thumbs into her temples, she tried to massage the pain away, but the contact only gave it somewhere to focus. It felt like someone had slotted a clamp either side of her skull and was now cranking the handle.

Gritting her teeth against the discomfort, Claire focussed on the tiny screen, cursing each time the train’s lurching motion causing her to press a wrong key.

How do people use their phones for anything other than making calls? My fingers must just be too big.

Claire carefully tapped the screen above the tiny black arrow and prayed the website would give her the right page.

I miss my iPad.

She dwelt on why she’d had to sell it.

I miss money too.

The thought wandered around her mind like a lost puppy, while she waited for the page to appear. It wasn’t money, exactly, that she missed. She’d never had any before, not really. Her extravagant lifestyle in Manchester had been funded mostly by credit. Despite the large salary, she’d always seemed several months’ pay in arrears. But, so long as the money was coming, it felt like hers and that was enough.

Now, for the first time, she was experiencing life without the expectation of that monthly sum, and it was an uncomfortable place to be. Even with knowing that she was working finally, and money was on its way, she knew she was at least a month’s salary in arrears, with the bills she had run up in New Zealand.

How do people live without credit? How do they pay the bills, or eat? Never mind run a car.

The webpage slowly revealed itself, one picture at a time, like some kind of digital striptease. The wait stretched endlessly but, when all the text and images were visible, the story was still the same. Hiring a car to travel around the south west was way beyond her budget.

Who knew I would ever miss my little Skoda.

With careful precision, Claire opened a new search window and tapped out “Skoda” with the tip of her index nail. The page, when it appeared, was not what she was expecting.

They still make them? That looks more like a Volkswagen. I can’t afford that.

Without really knowing why, she changed the search term to “Second hand car” then added “Exeter”. A few painstaking clicks later and she was looking at a list of second hand cars that were the same price as hiring one for a few weeks.

Her heart thudded beneath her ribs and her throat ached for a cup of tea. The throbbing in her temples increased as she scanned the list of cars. Age, mileage, alloy wheels, five speed, four speed, petrol, diesel. The words seemed important but they might as well have been in Icelandic for all the sense they made to her.

With an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy, Claire realised she’d never actually bought a car before; her university runabout had been provided by her parents and, after that, her wheels had always belonged to the company. Even the Skoda.

Dropping her phone into her lap, Claire let her head fall back against the grimy seat. Staring at her own reflection in the window, her mind chewed on the growing sense of failure. Her image looked pale and haggard and her whole body ached.

How pathetic. I’ve been driving for ten years and I’ve never bought a car. I’ve never bought a house or had a mortgage. What do I know of the real world? I’ve lived in my stupid little bubble and been so proud of myself for being a success. What bollocks.

A tiny voice suggested she call Conor and ask him to source a car for her. She immediately quashed it. She did not want to owe Conor any more favours. A mental image of his eyes glittering with pleasure at her helplessness made her shudder.

With a sigh, Claire picked up the phone and staggered down the moving carriage to the corridor. In the end there was only one person a girl could call.

As the phone connected, Claire leant back against the wall and swallowed down tears.

“Dad? Hi, I’m glad you answered. … What? It’s Claire. Claire. … Yes, I’m okay, how are you? How’s the book coming along? … Great, that’s great. Look, I need a favour. … No, it’s not that. I need some advice. … Dad, how the hell do I buy a car?”


5 thoughts on “Why Reading and Parenting don’t mix: 2013 365 Challenge #289

  1. I totally know what you mean! I zone out when I’m reading too, and just don’t want to be disturbed until I finish the book. It really just doesn’t work when you’re a parent. Getting a little easier now my daughter is older, but then, I have all these other things I want to be doing too! (Like writing.)

    • Absolutely! I have to say I’m reading when I should be doing the daily blog and I do feel the quality is suffering and I’m getting fewer likes/comments. Hopefully I’ll get back on track when I’ve finished reading the Belgariad (provided I don’t immediately start on the Mallorean series that follows it! I have those books too…)

  2. Having finally exploded from lack of sleep, I got hubby to agree with me that our daughter needs more sleep to, instead of getting up and running around the house at all hours. She is cranky tired and distracted at school, but its more fun to get up several times a night and incessantly chatter that to stay in bed and TRY to go back to sleep, which is boring.
    So we got her a clock that shines the numbers digitally on the ceiling so she can tell it is NOT time to leave her room. The I made big sign in blue glitter a pinned to the inside of her door that says 7:00 a.m. The we gave her the speech that she is NOT/ NOT to leave her room until 7 am, under threat of punishment. She was told she can get her own drink of water or quick bathroom visit but right back to her room. We assured her we would peek in on her to make sure she was ok, and we would wake her at 7 so no worries about oversleeping. Otherwise stay in your room with the nightlite on and be quiet and try to sleep. We had to force this issue after I caught her sneaking around the house at 2 am and opening a door really quietly in stealth mode. When I ask her what she was doing she had no answer. So we decided we needed to break this habit of roaming instead of sleeping.
    So for the last 2 weeks she has stayed in her bed all night. It looks like she is sleeping every time we check, so far so good. So the threats of vague punishment worked, and we are all getting more sleep

    • I’m glad to hear you’re getting more sleep and you’ve found a solution that works. Our kids both have something called a GroClock that has a star on it during the night which changes to a yellow sun when it’s time to get up. The clock counts down stars round the edge during the night (seeing as neither of them can tell the time yet) and they’re allowed to read QUIETLY if there is only one star left. Actually both kids are really good at staying in their room and only get me up if they need help with the toilet. Unfortunately, since starting school my daughter has been getting up in the night teary, needing a cuddle. I send her straight back to bed, but then she cries and that keeps me awake. Little man is teething and has a cold, so he’s just waking trying to find his dummy every couple of hours. That and his nappies seem to leak from time to time, so I have to strip his bed about once a week (we’ve tried loads of brands and just putting him in pants, to no avail!) The doctor suggested I spend a night or two a week at my mother’s so I get some proper sleep, to stop myself going mad, but I can’t imagine I’d sleep at all, I’d be too worried about the kids! I’ve never been away over night except when I spent 10 days in hospital when the youngest was born and I do worry hubbie wouldn’t wake if something happened, seeing as he rarely does now even when they’re screaming! I reckon a night nanny is the answer – like preschool but during the night time! 🙂
      You have demonstrated though that it’s worth persisting and it’s so important for them and us to find a solution that works.

  3. Pingback: Grow Up and Get Back to Work | writermummy

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