How A Full-Time Working Mom Can Read 52 Books A Year

As a full-time working mom managing a marriage, a family, a side-hustle, and an in-home Airbnb, my time is at an absolute premium. There are plenty of days where I don’t know which way is up. In order to balance it all, I have to have a mental escape hatch I can leverage when I need an out, and my guess is, you need one, too. 

One of my favorite ways to de-stress is to read. It might surprise you that, despite these commitments, I still manage to read 52 books a year. In this post, I share how I do it and how you can, too.

Listening is Reading

Have you ever overheard someone talking about the most recent book they read and wondered: 

“How are they finding time to read? I can barely catch my breath in between buying groceries and Valentines, changing sheets and scheduling the dog for the vet, prepping for presentations and navigating family holiday drama. When I try to read, my eyes cross before I’ve finished the first paragraph.  How are they finding time to start AND FINISH entire books?”

Answer: They are not “sitting down to read”; they’re reading by listening to audiobooks while doing something else. 

Now, before we move on, I know what you’re thinking: “They’re not really reading”, or “That doesn’t really count.” First, where are these reading vs. listening police, anyway? Who cares how you consume content? Do you earn a badge for sitting and reading vs. commuting to work and reading by listening to a narrator? No.

Give yourself permission to absorb and enjoy content in a manner that fits into your modern life. If that looks like listening to a book while folding clothes instead of curling up to read while trying desperately to ignore Laundry Mountain, so be it.

Audiobooks- a Full-Time Working Mom’s Best Friend

By now, as a full time working mom, you’ve listened to at least a handful of podcasts and perhaps even binged on your favorite shows. If you haven’t made the leap from podcasts to books yet, you’re in for a treat. 

There are (at least) two great platforms for audiobooks accessible to you: Audible and Overdrive.

Overdrive

Do you have a library card? Your library card can be linked to a larger pool of libraries beyond the one in your hometown, effectively multiplying the number of titles you have access to via e-books and audiobooks. On your desktop, navigate to Overdrive and follow the prompts; on your phone, download the “Libby” app from your device’s app store. 

First, you will link your library card to your hometown library via a dropdown menu.  Then, you will have the opportunity to download the affiliated app named “Libby”. Creating an account, downloading the app, and downloading books from the app are all FREE.

Why I like it

The Overdrive collection is not infinite; however, borrowing books via Overdrive is free, so it is always the first place I check for titles. If the library does not have the title you are searching for, the platform typically offers you the opportunity to “recommend” the library purchase this title. Your recommendations are not unlimited; you may only recommend one title every X number of days- but at least it feels like you have a voice in the composition of the collection.

Bonus: the library will notify you via email once a title you have recommended has been purchased and is available to be lent. Score! As a full-time working mom, I don’t have time to constantly check on the library’s stock; this way, I don’t have to.

Audible

Audible, an Amazon company, has a collection of books that are available to purchase at a premium without a monthly subscription (ranges $14.95/month to $229.68/year), or at a discount with a subscription.

Why I like it

Your Amazon account links directly with your Audible account, so you’re practically already “in” the system; logging-in and getting started by downloading the app is a breeze. Once you’re an Audible subscriber, you will have access to the “Daily Deal” (think: bargain bin for audiobooks where the day’s audiobook can be purchased for $2.95- $4.95). As a subscriber, you also have access to BOGO sales, free subscriber-only content (Amazon Originals, e.g.), and daily news from sources such as the Wall Street Journal.

Populate your shelf on Overdrive

In the Overdrive/Libby app, search for the book you’d like to listen to.  You can narrow your search by applying a filter under “Refine”, then “Format”- select “Audiobooks” to show only audiobooks in your search results. When you find the book you searched for, click “Play Sample”, “Borrow”, “Hold”, or “Wish List”. 

Play Sample

I recommend you play a sample of the book before borrowing it. The narrator’s voice or cadence may rub you the wrong way, or the content may be more dry than you expected. 

Borrow

If the book you’d like to listen to is available on Overdrive, check it out by clicking “Borrow”. Once you have done so, the book is on your shelf; open the book to download it to your device and you’ll be ready to start listening. 

Hold 

If the book you’d like to listen to is unavailable (checked out by someone else), click “Hold”. The platform will notify you approximately how long you will have to wait to listen to the book. You have the opportunity to place up to six books on hold at one time.

Pro tip: If you want to read 52 books a year without buying every one of them outright, take advantage of the opportunity to place books on hold- max it out! 

Wish List

If you want to read the book someday but not today, add it to your Wish List for later.

Populate your library on Audible

In the Audible app, search for the book you’d like to listen to. When you find the book you searched for, click “Play Sample”, “Borrow”, “Hold”, or “Wish List”. 

Play Sample

As was the case in Overdrive, you may wish to play a sample of the book before deciding to buy it. Click the “Sample” button beneath the cover to get a sense of the narrator and content. 

Add to Cart

If the book you’d like to listen to is available, you may buy it out by using either credits or cash. After checking out, this book is on your shelf; open the book to download it to your device and you’ll be ready to start listening. 

Wish List 

Add titles to your Wish List for down the road. 

Listening considerations

As a full-time working mom, you need to cut straight to the chase when it comes to picking out a book and getting started. That’s why you’re here, right?! I break down the final elements in your audiobook-decision tree next.

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

The full-time working moms I know are just as interested in career growth, current events, and parenting techniques as they are in escaping the real world via fiction. 

While I now listen to both fiction and non-fiction works, I didn’t always. In the beginning, listening to fiction felt a wee bit awkward, so I reserved fiction for reading and nonfiction for listening. Start with whatever you’re most comfortable with but be open to listening to both genres.

Narrator preference

When you play the audiobook sample, the first thing you’ll notice is the narrator’s voice. Is it pleasing to you? Does he/she read too fast or too slow, or have an accent? Does the narrator’s gender match with the book’s narrator and/or content? 

Some authors choose to narrate their own books, like Rachel Hollis, Jessica Honegger, and Shauna Niequist (check out this blog post about Books on Courage and Confidence), while others outsource it to professional narrators. Sometimes it’s nice to have the author herself speaking her own words directly to you; other authors are not as skilled.

Narration speed

I often find myself increasing the narration speed (a feature that is available on both Overdrive and Audible) on non-fiction pieces since tone, nuance and suspense are not in play. 

Increasing the narration speed also brings me closer to my goal of reading 52 books a year.

Book length

Just as you would pick up a book in a store and notice its heft and length, so, too, can you do this with an audiobook. In Overdrive, the book’s duration in hours at 1.0 speed can be found under “Details”; in Audible, it’s posted front & center on book’s page on the Audible website.

A 6- to 9-hour audiobook is a sweet spot for me; at 1.25 speed, I can knock it out even faster.  I have learned that audiobooks longer than 12 hours lose my attention. 

 

Listening mechanism

Take care with HOW you choose to absorb the material. I find that AirPods are my favorite device to use, however, I’ve also had luck with these Bose headphones, which I tend to use in louder environments (e.g., airports). I have not had success listening to an audiobook on an open speaker, be that my iPhone’s speakerphone or a Bluetooth speaker in my house. The exception to this rule, however, is the Bluetooth sound system in my car.

Bottom line: the closer the speakers are in proximity to your ears, the better.

Listening audience

I recommend listening by yourself. I have heard of people listening to a book with a spouse or friend, but in my experience, I want to giggle and chat about the book’s content with my co-listener rather than zip it and pay attention.

A means to escape

What is the household chore that you find yourself doing most frequently that is necessary but feels like a waste of time? Is there something you do daily that just bores you to tears? Fill that void with a book! 

Do you need someone in your corner?

It helps to talk through what you’re experiencing with someone you can trust. You’ll gain a second opinion, guidance, and the encouragement you need to take action.

If you are in a season where you need a coach, contact Anne via the Contact page.

For me, this looks like washing dishes, loading/unloading the dishwasher, drying my hair and putting on makeup, sorting, folding, and putting away mounds of clothes, raking leaves in the fall or potting plants in the spring. I listen to audiobooks on my daily commute, while making the rounds in Costco, and on a walk as my kids practice sports.

Read 52 Books a Year:

Pro Tips

If you are accustomed to scribbling in the margins of your non-fiction books or underlining passages you want to return to, you’re in luck: both Overdrive and Audible offer the opportunity to “bookmark” passages. You can type notes into your bookmark, which you can re-read later or even skip directly to the passage to replay the section.

Audiobooks are also splendid for children! When my son was starting to read, we had to take a road trip, which was an opportune time for him to practice his reading. He didn’t have the endurance to make it very far in his story, though, which frustrated him; enter the audiobook. He listened to a book from cover to cover for an hour, then begged me for another one. Thankfully, Overdrive has a robust selection of Magic Treehouse books, so I was able to get him going on book #2 in no time. 

Speaking of road trips, I’m prone to car sickness and unable to read anything at all in the car. Listening to an audiobook is a game-changer for my own entertainment on road trips. 

If you are a full-time working mom, I hope you will take action today towards making space for audiobooks in your life. You will be well on your way towards reading 52 books a year in no time!

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