My Annual Reading Challenge: Small but Successful

The year is drawing to a close, and I’m staring at my Goodreads reading challenge list. (If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, it’s a website that lets you rate and review books within an online community, where you can also set and track a personal reading challenge.) It’s pretty meager-looking. I wanted to read six measly books by December, and although I made it, it’s a pretty unimpressive accomplishment to me.

What I used to do before I had kids

If you had told me at some point in my life that I’d only read six books in a year, I’d be horrified. I’d wonder what was wrong with me. I’m a fairly slow reader, so I was never one to devour hundreds of books in a year, but I did use to go through a couple of dozen. I would finish a book at night and pick up a new one just to get it started before I went to bed. My Christmas lists were full of books so that I would have enough to sustain me through the next year.

But then, I became a mom.

My reading pace slowed down even more when I was pregnant. I was so unbelievably sick, so thoroughly drained, that I had no energy left for reading, and very little desire to do so. There were times that the mere act of reading made me nauseous.  I can’t pay attention to audiobooks, so I’m devoted to physical books, even though a wall of text made me want to puke. I pushed through a few books because when you love something, you try to do it no matter what, but it was an extreme effort.

After I had my son, it was still hard to read, because who has the time?! The baby demanded each and every one of my spare minutes, and if I wasn’t tending to the baby, I was trying to catch up on all the housework that fell to the wayside. I dropped my usual big book challenge down to twelve books, figuring I could tackle one book per month. I did it, but it was HARD.

Repeat this same cycle for my second child, and now, for my third. I dropped my reading challenge down to six books for 2021. Setting that low number didn’t feel great, but I knew it would feel even worse to set a high number that I knew I couldn’t reach. And sometimes, you just need a win, even if that win isn’t all that impressive on paper.

The obvious solution, of course, would be to stop tracking my book intake and just read for the sake of reading. I love to read, so why should the number of novels matter? Truthfully, I don’t know. I’m very goal-driven and love to check things off a list, so doing an annual reading challenge just seems to suit me. I suppose it’s a way to challenge myself, to try to make time to do something for me, even when there are so many other things calling for my attention.

I’m still learning to balance my parenting with my office job, home upkeep, and whatever free time is left for hobbies. I know as my kids get older, my reading challenge number will creep back up again. I’ll push myself to squeeze in just one more book. I’ll go back to wanting to read so much, I’ll start a new book within hours of finishing the last one.

Until then, I’ll find a way to make my peace and be happy with my small— but completed— challenge. Maybe I can even be proud of reading six books in a year with everything else on my plate. A win is a win!

Erica was born and raised in Metairie and now lives in Kenner with her husband Michael, and her three sons: Benjamin (5 years; paleontologist-artist-train engineer), Joshua (2 years; budding foodie), and the caboose, Elijah (super drooly). After graduating from UL Lafayette with a degree in advertising and landing her dream job, she left her chosen field and now works part time as an administrative assistant for a Catholic retreat movement. She spends the rest of her time at home with her boys, finding lost trucks and actively ignoring various messes. In 2019, she self-published her first book, The Sister. There's not a lot of free time between working, reading and writing, and chasing her kids, but in those moments she's usually sprawled on the sofa in casual denial pretending her house is cleaner than it is.

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