A Guilty Pleasure

My friend and I were discussing guilt earlier today.

Specifically, guilt about reading.

My friend just celebrated her 70th birthday, and has been retired from her high school teaching position for about five years.  But since that time she’s (1) resurrected a choir program at her church; (2) written a classroom guide to integrative concert planning for music teachers; and (3) created a program of arts classes for senior citizens. She is now in the process of starting a local community theater group, and is kicking it off with a musical theater summer camp for middle school students.

Today, I was telling her that I had visited my former office today to pick up some “homework” for next week, and that I was feeling a bit guilty about all the stress my replacement was feeling.

“I still feel guilty about having so much free time,” she told me. “I feel guilty about being able to sit all afternoon and just read, even though that was something I dreamed about having time to do when I was working all those years.”

I laughed, because I feel guilty about reading too – at least during the day.  I “allow myself” reading time first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. But to just sit down during the day and read for a while – never do it. I want to do it, but whenever I do, I immediately start thinking about all the other things I should be doing instead. Like laundry, or cooking, or working on my basement cleaning project, or pulling the weeds in the garden, or catching up with friends I’ve neglected, or practicing piano.

I still remember the years when my son was a baby and I was home full time with him – he was a good napper until he was about three years old, and I had long blocks of time each afternoon when he was sleeping.  But I was always leery of making noise in the house, so I’d sit and read while he napped. I justified this without feeling guilty because I was making sure I didn’t disturb his nap.

Short of having another baby – which certainly isn’t happening – I don’t have any good reason to just sit and read anymore.

Other than that I want to.

And shouldn’t that be reason enough?

How about you? Do you get to read as much as you like? Do you feel guilty when you take time during the day for reading?


19 thoughts on “A Guilty Pleasure

  1. When my children were small I either worked from home or part time and I used to manage to sneak in reading time during the day but I have worked full time since the youngest went to senior school at 11 (she’s now rising 18) and the reading time has dwindled because when I am at home, I’m running around trying to get all the household stuff done.
    Most of my reading now is done either late at night or during my lunch break as weekends are often spent grand-child wrangling (three year-old Amelia and 21 week old William and Isabella) As I think that you are due to be a granny in the near future, I would say don’t feel guilty and get your reading time in now because reading when toddlers are around is not going to happen (unless it is to them of course)
    I will just sit here and envy you!

    • I am due to be a “granny” soon, and I’m already storing up the books to read to the little one! Looking very forward to doing that, even though I’m sure my own reading time will take a back seat again!

  2. When I came off work with chronic fatigue the only thing I could do was read – so I got used to associating reading with actually doing something useful. And I suppose, to be fair, I had always sneakingly thought of it as one of the best things I did in any case. Now that I’m feeling better, I do sometimes have to give myself permission to take a rest or slow things down, and then I reach for a book to help me in that. I do feel guilty if I think I’m not getting on with things, but I’ve managed to keep reading out of the category of sloth or under-achievement. After all, the one thing that modern society really doesn’t do well is contemplate, think things through, consider ordinary life from a wide range of perspectives and angles – and yet goodness knows we’d all benefit from less short-termism, less rushing around doing first and thinking – if at all – a long way second.

    Am I making you feel any less guilty yet? 😉

    • Actually, Litlove, you are ~ I realize now I’d be doing a service to modern society by slowing down, reading, and contemplating more often, especially on lovely summer afternoons when my lawn chair and a glass of iced tea are calling me.

      Thank you very much 🙂

  3. I do read. Big chunks of time. I feel guilty about it, but I do it anyway, and tell myself I’m learning the craft of writing while getting some entertainment out of it as well. I still get housecleaning done. I read between loads. I tell myself that for every chapter I read, I’ll accomplish something: vacuum the stairs, wash the dishes, dust the blinds… But right now I’m a SAHM, so it’s acceptable. In August my youngest daughter will be starting school, and I’ll be entering the workforce. I’m anxious and filled with dread. When will I have the time to read?!

    • Wow, Jennifer, big changes ahead for you in the fall. Are you a morning person? I like to get up an hour early to read – it’s a great quiet time before everyone else gets up.

      • I either wake up before everyone else does, or I stay up later than everyone else does. I”m more of a night owl, though….

        My best friend wakes up at 4 in the morning just so she can get some “me time.” I don’t know how she does it…

    • Isn’t that silly to feel guilty about reading, Lilian? We’re writers, and we should consider reading part of our professional development time!

  4. I hear you! I feel guilty about reading during the day when I know the washing machine needs loading or there is ironing to be done etc etc. Usually I read at night or early in the morning – I’m a great believe in a chapter in the morning with a cup of tea before you get out of bed!

    • I absolutely love my early morning reading hour – if I don’t get anymore reading done than that during the day, I can feel pretty contented 🙂

  5. I used to read on the bus in to my office, and home. It was wonderful. I remember reading War and Peace in what seemed like a week, although I’m guessing that is more a description of how much I liked it on my commute. I’m sure I’m not the only person who looked up and realized she missed her stop because she was in another world. The problem is that now I use that time to write, and I haven’t quite found another concentrated, predictable block of time. And yet I still read, and lately more than usual, because for the first time in five years we actually have a couch in our living room. I tell myself that I am An Example To The Children, and living proof of what beauty and order comes into a home with the arrival of a couch. And then I feel virtuous. So yes, get thee to a lawn chair!

    • I travel quite a bit, and I look forward to plane trips because it’s the perfect time to read..no guilt then!

      You are definitely being a Good Example to the Children, so enjoy the new couch!

  6. My theory is that if you take time for you, then you will be more productive when you are working. I totally read in chunks of time during the day. This doesn’t happen everyday, but it does happen often enough to keep me sane.

  7. Reading feels like an indulgence, but for me (and for many!) it’s a necessary one. Meaning: not an indulgence at all, but instead, a necessity like food and air. Which is why I spent most of my morning off work, reading. Guilt-free. : )

  8. What a great question! I used to read any time I felt like it with nary a qualm. However, my husband has a pretty strong Protestant work ethic, and he feels that if you’re going to procrastinate you should at least be doing something useful. So, for example, at the end of term when he ought to be grading essays, suddenly our house is sparkling clean, our garden weed-free, etc. Not being Protestant myself, I used to just sit there and read while he worked, but over the years it has gotten harder and harder not to follow suit. Now, sadly, I do feel guilty about reading in the middle of the day. I loved the comment (above) about how slowing down and taking time to read & contemplate is actually doing a service to society. I’m taking that one to heart!

    Love your blog, btw.

    • It sounds like your husband and I are cut from the same Protestant cloth. Damn those Pilgrims and their work ethic! I say it’s time for a revolution.

      Thanks for visiting 🙂

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