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I’ve been trying to galvanise the crew to put down their phones, etc, and do some reading, but I’m not sure I’m a very good example. It’s not that I don’t read. I’m reading stuff on the computer all day long and I have a mound of books by my desk and bed. It’s just that I don’t read for pleasure any more because there is simply no time at all in the day unless I forgo sleep entirely. I was telling daughter one about a woman I interviewed who had written a book in the night because she couldn’t sleep after having a premature birth. “You should do that, mum,” she said brightly. “You’re working into the night anyway. Why not just give up on sleep and write a bestseller in the remaining hours?” This was naturally followed by “and then we can all move to New York.”
So I don’t think I am a great example of the joys of reading even though I spent much of my childhood living in books and even built a full model of the Little House on the Prairie at one point to express my love of said book. Before I got to secondary school, I had read almost anything from the entire series of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Wuthering Heights.
University was my reading nemesis. After years of speed reading French and Spanish literature, my brain went into spasm and I found it difficult to read anything at all because I was so used to writing notes in the margins. Every line seemed to have hidden meanings. At the back of my mind was the feeling that one day I might have to write an essay on this. That period lasted quite some time and I still find that I am looking for the secret motifs and underlying themes in, say, Paddington. Every book, from The Gruffalo to my current reading “How to get a good job after 50”, is some kind of a all-encompassing statement on the world we live in. It depends how you read it.
These days there are way too many other things to be reading than just books. Daughter one is on her phone most of the weekend. It’s not just that she’s texting her mates either. She seems to know stuff that I didn’t have a clue about at her age so she must be looking it up somewhere. She does read books too, but she seems to have several on the go at once. Daughter two is my biggest reading challenge. Her favourite source of reading is still the Argos catalogue. I have been to the library and got out things that I know will appeal to her sense of the dramatic. The only problem is that even when I leave her in bed with a book, if I go back five minutes later she is doing the splits or dismantling collapsed Ikea furniture to create artistic masterpieces.
Daughter three likes reading, but has become obsessed by vloggers. She claims some of these are also authors, but I am not convinced. I am trying to wean her off said vloggers after she expressed concern that her eyebrows were misshapen. “You have very intelligent eyebrows,” I said. “But they’re too long,” she replied. We had a lengthy exchange which resulted in her deciding she wanted to grow her eyebrows all down her face – which I consider a triumph on my part. A victory against the overpainted, overcommercialised tyranny of the vlog [I say this and I haven’t actually watched many of said vlogs. I am sure there are lots which are really creative and inspiring. I just see the magazine clippings where they expound on their favourite hair products and tell you why some new form of moisturiser will make your life so much better]. Daughter three is still plotting for me to come to some vlogfest in October. It’s a battle of wills and I fear she has the stronger one since it is not jaded by 15 years of sleep deprivation. I am hoping that she goes off the vloggers by September when tickets go on sale, but she has mounted a mini campaign to force me into going. She is currently saving money to buy me a ticket so I feel obliged to get her the VIP version for her Christmas present. Crafty, but I’m onto her. It was not for nothing that my brother called me a “master of manipulation”…
Only son is a paragon of reading and writing. He adores the library – a bit too much as we come back loaded down with books and then lose at least two before the due back date. He is storming through the Biff and Chip books, although he sounds out every single word which means it can take a while. Even when the same sentence is repeated on the following page. The other night he lost his school library book. I had seen him with it only five minutes before. “It must be round here somewhere,” I said. “Use your brain and think if you can remember what you were doing.” He looked at me blankly. He never remembers anything at all about what he was doing five minutes ago. His life is a constant whirl of nowness. We searched for the book everywhere until daughter three found it. “Where was it?” I inquired of only son. Only son thought for a minute. “It was behind my bed. I used my brain just like you told me.” It turned out daughter three had found it in the bathroom.