Re-Proposing Well-Read Mom

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Marcie Stokman

“I’m frustrated with my Well-Read Mom group,” Sarah informed me. “You know the one rule: ‘If you don’t get the book read, don’t apologize.’ Well it sounds good,” she continued, “but the problem is, many of the women in my group aren’t reading or apologizing. They are too busy!”

Sara’s irritation is indicative of a broader cultural trend that keeps women spinning on the hamster wheel: FOMO—Fear of Missing Out. People joke about it, but it’s a real problem. Somehow we get the message that we’re not okay unless we accept every opportunity. But we can’t give our whole-hearted attention to everything, so we find ourselves living half-heartedly.  We overcommit in a non-committed way.

Paradoxically by keeping all doors open, we end up missing out. We might not miss out on the activities, but we do miss out on entering into our commitments with a true yes! Last year, I joined too many actives and found myself half-invested. It is not a satisfying experience to not be truly present to what I have said yes to. All of the activities were good, but too much of what is good can become an enemy of what is best.

One friend observed, “Why will women run to everything their kids are in, yet not give one hour and fifteen minutes once a month to a group directed to their own growth? Wouldn’t that perhaps be a better way to love their children?”

When we commit to the experience of Well-Read Mom, it means a sacrifice of time and energy. Investing in a committed way means saying no to other things, but it’s the only way to benefit from the group. Only by a sincere effort can we really verify by experience whether reading and discussing literature is helpful for life.

Is it worth it to commit to Well-Read Mom? For me it is.  I have a personal goal to read more and to read well. Being accompanied by a small core of faithful women enables me to reach this goal. I have no doubt about it. Without my friends, I wouldn’t be reading these classics. Every month, I’m surprised. Because we are faithful, we reap the benefits: increased focus, relaxation, concentration, a greater capacity for contemplation, conversation, and friendships to name a few.

Elisabeth Le Seur, whose diary we read several years ago, understood how important it is for a woman to take the legitimate needs of her heart and mind seriously. She claims, “It is a duty to develop unceasingly one’s intelligence, to strengthen one’s character, to become a creature of thought and will; it is a duty to view life with joy and face it with energy.”

In American culture, it takes dogged determination for a mother to give space to the life of the mind and heart. Staying together is key.

Being in Well-Read Mom is a commitment to resist intellectual laziness and the marginalization of our minds.

It is a decision to resist a utilitarian life that can leave us flat-souled and hollow. Reading great books is an invitation to bring back a more restful, restorative way of living.

But wait.

What if you take the commitment seriously to read with us this year and then, because of the demands of your vocation, you are not able to get some of the books read? Are you failing? No, no, no! Three chapters of Reed of God may be just what you need. It may change your life.

The rule stands: “If you don’t get the book read, don’t apologize.” But now I’m adding an addendum. “Don’t apologize unless you need to.” Look at your life. Why were you not able to read? Are there some things you can let go of? What is it you want? What can you tweak in your day to carve out some regular reading time?

If you have legitimate reasons for not reading, don’t apologize. But if you weren’t invested or spent too much time on social media, maybe apologizing is what you need to do.

If you are new to reading, and the reading load feels like too much, hang in there and don’t apologize. One woman was in WRM for two years before she finished a single book. Was she failing? No, she was taking baby steps. By consistently persevering, she is becoming a reader, and this is a good thing.

So, wherever you are at in the journey of reading, I encourage you to join in with us this year in a committed way. Don’t be afraid to start again. Your group will benefit from your faithfulness. So will you.

Join women across the country who want to read more and read well. You can find a group and the booklist here.