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working moms

This Is What I Missed Most From Before I Was a Mom

Young women relaxing in bad while reading book and enjoying in decorative light

This weekend, I officiated my brother’s wedding.

It was an incredible, exhilarating, romantic, and emotional few days filled with naches: joy, family and friend reunions, dancing and a few moments of being verklempt (weddings bring out my Yiddish, clearly).

But then, yesterday afternoon, I took a rare few hours off to recuperate. My husband and I retreated to an undisclosed and lovely location while our baby son was in the hands of his fabulous babysitter and I lay down for a few hours and read a book.

But it wasn’t just any book: I chose a hardback book called “A French Wedding” that I’ve been toting around for weeks—because come on, how could you not want to read a book called “A French Wedding?” But despite the enticing title, you know how it goes: After all that hopeful toting, I had only made it about 30 pages in.

Readers, I finished it. That’s right. Yesterday I sat back and I finished that book, which followed a group of college friends about to hit 40 on a food and wine and drama-soaked reunion in beautiful Brittany. OK, I actually finished their story on the subway home. But still, this was huge–I read the majority of a summery book in one day, reclining, in a comfortable chair.

And I realized it’s been over two years–I saw that the last time I got to read this way, uninterrupted and breezily, was on a summer trip two years ago when I was a few weeks away from being pregnant.

Of course, I can’t complain about my life these past two years. Being a mom has been as fulfilling and moving I hoped, and as exhausting as I imagined. I’m lucky.

Eventually, I’ve been able to do everything extra-curricular that matters deeply to me in some form or another: I’ve taken swims, a few yoga classes, spent evenings with family and friends, gone on date nights, scribbled thoughts in notebooks and even read lots of big and important recent books (in short chunks, almost entirely on my commute). Yet all of these pursuits have been  circumscribed by the reality of being a working mom with social and family ties and obligations, in 2017.

So this, this was the one thing I’ve just longed to do for myself, and the one thing I felt was beyond my reach. There’s something about reading a book just for pleasure—not a stupid book or a trashy book, but a cozy book— that signals, for me, the ultimate luxury.

When I was done, I got to reflect on the themes the book touched on: the passage of time, youthful choices and their repercussions, and of course, oysters and white wine. But I didn’t have to think too hard about where the book fit in in today’s literary landscape, or how it reflected the Trump era, or anything like that. It was perfect.

I think I know why this mattered so much to me.

In 2017, time is our most precious commodity as parents. We’re living in a world that’s somewhat disconnected, often finding ourselves living far from loved ones or friends and working hard, long hours— whether at jobs or doing childcare.

So when we have time, we naturally  choose to spend it connecting with those special people online, or connecting with the broader world by catching up on the “important” cultural touchstones and news of the moment. Or we end up going in the opposite direction: decompressing with some junky TV or mindless reading.

That’s why this few hours of reading I did meant so much: it was none of those things. It was real self-care, and not the kind that involves buying stuff or paying for someone else’s services, either. It felt kind of, well, pure.

I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to read this way again, but I know that when I try to make myself feel good and happy as a mom going forward, I’ll be looking for experiences like this one.

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