It bothers me way too much that my wife has stopped reading for fun
July 15, 2010 8:02 AM   Subscribe

My wife has stopped reading for pleasure. I'm a writer. This is really starting to bother me.

My wife used to read for fun, not nearly as much as me, but some. Now, especially since we've had a child, it's obviously fallen way down on her priority list. I can't remember the last time she cracked a book that didn't have to do with work or child rearing.

I know, I know, people's priorities change, especially once kids are in the picture. It's her life, and her very limited spare time. You can't expect your partner to be into everything you are to the same degree. I feel terrible, selfish, controlling that this is starting to bother me so much.

But it does. Books and writing are a major part of my life, maybe the major part, that we don't share any more. I don't want to monologue about all the books I read. I feel like a musician whose partner has stopped listening to music.

What's my problem? Why do I care so much? I hate to say it, but I can't help but feel that my respect for her, as an intellectually curious person, is starting to suffer. That scares me. I know she's still the same smart woman I married. But still. Now she spends her spare time working, watching reality TV, or--very occasionally--browsing through parenting magazines or the "Style" section of the NYT.

We've talked about it, and she gets defensive, like I'm accusing her of something. I buy her books, offer to help make time for her to read, but the desire just doesn't seem to be there any more.

What can I do? Either get over it, accept the change, or help her get back into something she misses. I know.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (91 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing sucks the pleasure out of something like other people expecting you to do it.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:04 AM on July 15, 2010 [129 favorites]

people's priorities change, especially once kids are in the picture. It's her life, and her very limited spare time.
Hmmm...I wonder if there's anyone who could help out and free-up more spare time for her...?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:06 AM on July 15, 2010 [99 favorites]

Does she spend a lot of time in the car? Maybe you could get her into audio books.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:06 AM on July 15, 2010

This is your baggage, not your wife's. Get over it unless and until she asks you for your help pleasing you with her reading habits.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:08 AM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm of two minds on this.

1) It's her free time. She gets to choose what to do with it. You can suggest activities together (perhaps reading together, or to each other, which my wife and I can't get into, but some can). What you don't have the right to do what I think you want to do - pry the remote out of her hand and replace it with a book.

2) My wife has just started reading for pleasure again after a few year gap since college. She's carved out time for herself and has been reading things from 100 Years of Solitude to Twilight. She chose it, though. Once she made that choice, I've been trying to help. I've been turning off the TV and picking up books again myself. But she was the catalyst.

I've gone a year or two where reading for pleasure just wasn't in the cards for me, and all of a sudden, on some long trip, it will come back. But maybe it won't.

If she reaches out to you about it, help. Otherwise - it's her free time. You can read, you can write. She can watch the Amazing Race. She can satisfy her intellectual curiosity in other ways and still be the same person you love.
posted by SNWidget at 8:08 AM on July 15, 2010

By all means get over it. Your wife's reading habits are none of your business. Now that you have noticed this desire to control her, it's your task to deal with that -- not indulge it. Work on it in therapy if it is bothersome.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:09 AM on July 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

I buy her books, offer to help make time for her to read, but the desire just doesn't seem to be there any more.

Oh god, stop it.

The way you move past this is to work on moving past it. You need to let this all go, and your language here ("I feel terrible . . .") all reads like someone who wants affirmation, not someone who is willing to accept his partner for who she is. Well, I'm sorry, but I'm a writer too, and my husband--once a reader--has read about two fiction books in the past two years. And you know what?

I don't care. He's a loving partner and we share other things. He might not be able to engage in a free exchange of conversation on the latest Maggie Stiefvater novel, but he's willing to listen--just as I'm willing to listen to him talk about video games, or military history, or other things that I just don't care about. There's some really deep intellectual and class snobbery here--god forbid she watches reality TV!--that's really off-putting.

I mean, I'm starting to feel angry and defensive. And I'm not even your wife.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:10 AM on July 15, 2010 [76 favorites]

While the gut level reaction of yours to your wife no longer reading is understandable, this doesn't strike me as something you can address except in yourself. You need to accept this because every moment you don't is damaging your relationship. Of course she gets defensive, because essentially what you're demanding is that she enjoy reading again--and you can't dictate to your partner what they enjoy. If she starts reading again because of you, she'll be working, not pleasing herself.

Get over it. Explain how you feel if you haven't already, say something like "I recognize this is my problem to deal with, not yours, and I appreciate any patience you show me while I get over this."
posted by fatbird at 8:11 AM on July 15, 2010

I can't remember the last time she cracked a book that didn't have to do with work or child rearing.


I feel like a musician whose partner has stopped listening to music.

You're not like a musician whose partner has stopped listening to music. You're like a hip hop producer whose partner just got a full-time job as a jazz critic.

You're not actually worried about her reading. You're feeling neglected and your concern about her reading habits is a manifestation of your own feelings of neglect as her attention has (rightfully) been drawn to your child and her job. Your feelings are totally normal and natural, and nothing to be ashamed of. But you do need to deal with them and be a supportive part of her life, rather than obsessing about this very small issue.

How to do that? Work at it, be patient, and be way more than fair.

As far as the pleasure reading goes, it will come back. I used to read for pleasure all the time. Then I got a much busier job and started having kids and went for literally years without having time to do more than buy books I wanted to read and start them without getting very far. But I'm gradually getting to a point where I can read more for fun, and I'm looking forward to getting all the way back into that.
posted by The World Famous at 8:11 AM on July 15, 2010 [20 favorites]

Your whole question comes off as very self-centered. She has no time to read because she's raising a child, not because she has become stupid and lazy.

Perhaps you should take on more of the child-rearing duties so she has more time and energy to read.
posted by sid at 8:12 AM on July 15, 2010 [18 favorites]

I buy her books, offer to help make time for her to read, but the desire just doesn't seem to be there any more.

Putting pressure on her, as others have said, probably isn't helping.

People have different and changing ways of unwinding, particularly when life is busy and stressful. Now I read a lot (at least an hour a day, maybe three), but there are times when for weeks or months I'd rather play dumb games on my Wii or watch TV, during which I'll rarely open a book. Right now I haven't watched TV almost all year. But that will change again at some point.

For a lot of people it's absolutely necessary to vary what they do for fun. Do you want your wife to be reading and not enjoying it, just to live up to your standards? Give her the space to choose her own leisure activities without comment or criticism. Eventually it'll swing around to reading books again.

And maybe take a break from reading sometime yourself; even a writer needs to vary things a little to stay fresh.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and generally, you should just be helping her make time, whether or not it leads to more reading. That you've already offered this as an enticement to get what you want suggests to me that you're not really helping her with the kid enough.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2010 [30 favorites]

Books and writing are a major part of my life, maybe the major part, that we don't share any more.

Embracing motherhood and domesticity are a major part of her life, maybe the major part, that you don't appear to be sharing with her. (And by that I don't mean sharing th duties, I mean sharing the experience.) If she is a true reader, her interest in and energy for reading will return on its own. This is a phase, and by my recollection it's a really lovely one. Don't be a dick about it though, or you risk making reading unpleasant for her (and for your child as well, if you insist on it). In the meantime, be grateful that you married someone who is open to new experiences and interests and who continues to change and grow as she moves through life.
posted by headnsouth at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2010 [15 favorites]

I can't help but feel that my respect for her, as an intellectually curious person, is starting to suffer.

As is your respect for her as your wife and mother of your child, it seems.

How old is your child? Maybe this is depression? Maybe she's just tired. Here's a tip: If you're not just as tired as she is then it's possible you're not pulling your share of the parenting duties. Maybe you need to spend less time reading.

Sorry to sound so accusatory here, but give her a damn break. People change. Priorities change. So what if she doesn't read anymore? She's still the woman you married and had a kid with. You need to get over this.
posted by bondcliff at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2010 [10 favorites]

People tend to naturally go through phases of media consumption. I went through a period where I didn't read much at all, and now I'm back to reading quite a bit. Reading (depending on the material) can be viewed as more of a taxing free-time activity than other pursuits as it's far less passive than watching TV. It could just be that she needs something at this time in her life that lets her fully unwind, and reading isn't covering that for her now. Let her do what she wants to do, and she'll come back to reading if it's important to her and really something she's interested in.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:15 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know, even if she didn't have a kid to worry about, you still shouldn't be pressuring her like this. Sometimes people just don't feel like reading - they satisfy their curiosities elsewhere. Not reading a physical book is not a sign of laziness, unintellectualism, or a slid into mediocrity. It just means that they are interested in different things, things you don't necessarily share an interest in, like style magazines, reality television, etc.

Leave her alone, keep talking about interesting things with her, I'm sure you'll get past this.
posted by Think_Long at 8:15 AM on July 15, 2010

Get over it. She maybe has some obligation to read stuff that you wrote. Other than that, this is all about the lie you tell yourself about how you're a superior human being because you like to read. It's not necessary for your wife to share your hobby or profession.
posted by callmejay at 8:15 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

. . . get over it, accept the change . . . I know.

By first realizing that you have a choice.

Choose to accept it. Smile and think to yourself "This is ok."
posted by General Tonic at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love, love, love to read. However, I don't read the way I used to -- whole afternoons (or days) devoted to a good book. I have so many other things that I like to do so I go through lulls. And, you're right, it bothers you way too much. It's none of your business, really. It's great that you have the mental space to really focus on books, it sounds like she doesn't. Maybe you could think about that.

If you feel like too much tv is harming the family, maybe you two can have a discussion about things that you could do that are more productive/stimulating/relaxing instead of watching tv. But, a little mental "off" time with the boob-tube is not going to kill a person.

You don't mention how old your child is or what your wife's role is in caring for the baby. These things have bearing, I think.

What can I do? Either get over it, accept the change, or help her get back into something she misses. I know.

I vote another option: get creative. Find something *new* that your family can do together. Long evening walks... Saturday morning rambles in the city or country... bike riding... playing catch in the park after dinner with a bowl of strawberries... baseball games... vegetable gardening. Something! Sounds like you're feeling like you're both in a mental rut. That's no fun. Get creative. Forcing her to read a book and make discussion is just not going to work.
posted by amanda at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

I won't join the chorus of "get over it". Instead - anecdata: I pretty much stopped reading for pleasure after we had our first child (and I stopped having a long commute by train). Recently I've started again, but there was probably a period of 4-5 years where I read no more than a handful of books per year.

I also remember I was quite sensitive about being given books during that period, because unless it was *exactly* the right book then it felt like an imposition because if I actually read it, it would suck up a huge proportion of my minuscule reading budget.
posted by crocomancer at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

People who are responsible for work and housework and childrearing tasks don't have as much time and energy for intellectual curiosity.

Perhaps you could take on more of those responsibilities for a while (or, if you're not doing your fair share to start with, for keeps).

Less of "offering to help so she can read", though, and more of just helping out because that's a good thing to do.

Otherwise, try spending your time encouraging intellectual curiosity in your kid.
posted by emilyw at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know what it's like to be too busy to read for pleasure, and I also know what it's like to feel very self-conscious about it. I certainly don't need any help feeling bad about myself, and I'm sure she doesn't either: she can likely sense that your "respect for her, as an intellectually curious person, is starting to suffer." Instead of applying so much pressure to get her to conform to this very abstract facet of intellectual achievement, why don't you take a good, hard look at her -- say, while she's raising your child -- and learn to appreciate the many incredible ways in which she currently expresses herself. At the end of the day, you need to stop trying to "improve" her or "restore" her earlier tendencies. If you can't do this, try to channel your irrational disappointment into your writing instead.
posted by thejoshu at 8:18 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

She's not reading for pleasure in the way you define reading for pleasure. Too bad, dude. Does she complain about reading about childrearing or about her work? No? Then she's reading for pleasure. I read all kinds of stuff that other people do not think of as "pleasure" reading - but then again, you couldn't make me read Twilight.

If she DOES complain, and you want her to have time to do what she wants to do, then figure out how to help her do that. Otherwise, butt out. It's not about you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:18 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is her reading of parenting magazines and the style section her current pleasure reading? Are you defining pleasure reading differently than she defines it? If she's not reading novels or short stories currently, what is to say she won't again? Does she read online at work during the day? Is she listening to books in the car?

Why is her intellectual curiosity tied to books in your mind?

If you're still able to have conversations about other topics, then maybe you're either not aware of the ways in which she's exploring topics around her. Maybe she's getting her news from the car radio or online sources when you're not around.

I know I read tons more than my husband. His reading is very focused on his job and his hobby. I'm not sure when he last picked up a book just to sit and read it. The last several books were related to his job and a certification he's pursuing. I read novels, news stories, blogs, etc. I'm constantly reading. However, he's still the intelligent man I married and we're still able to converse about a wide range of topics. It doesn't matter if he's read the same book or article. We can still discuss it. If I find a particularly interesting passage, I've been known to read it to him.

Let it go. Stop buying her books and ease up on her. Continue talking with her. If you find a particularly interesting bit, read it to her. Let her choose how she spends her time. She may surprise you and start reading books again. Ultimately, that's her choice and it does not reflect upon you or your work at all.
posted by onhazier at 8:19 AM on July 15, 2010

I mean, I'm starting to feel angry and defensive. And I'm not even your wife.

Me too! I'm also a writer. But good lord man, get a grip.

Now she spends her spare time working,

Is that a flub? Maybe this is wrong, but I'm getting the impression that your wife is the primary caretaker of your child and the primary researcher of parenting in your household (those books don't count? Why don't you read the one she just finished and talk about it with her?) And in her "spare time" she... works? Have you honestly examined your labor split and how much you contribute to her having space and time to sit down with a book?

Here's a serious idea. Why not go to your wife and say "I'm sorry I've been such a jerk about books. I don't care if you read (okay, I know that you, mr. question-asker, actually care a LOT. just go with it here.), but I really miss having something shared to talk about at night. So I'm proposing a project: let's both read a chapter of Nurtureshock every week, and on Friday after the kid goes to bed, I'll pour two glasses of wine and we'll have a 20-minute book club, whaddya say?"

Of course, if a book about the science of parenting doesn't live up to your lofty ideals of what's acceptable reading fodder, I don't know...
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:20 AM on July 15, 2010 [32 favorites]

You don't say whether she works in addition to providing care for your child, but it's crystal clear to me that the additional time and energy taken up by your child has eaten up the spare time and energy she previously devoted to reading books.

When I was younger I read A LOT. I'd even go so far as to say that, at 20, I had read more books than anyone else my age I knew, and I knew some smart and well-read SOB's. In the intervening years I have graduated college, been through three career paths, gotten a job with geniune responsibilities, started my own thriving side business, got married, and bought a house.

You know what? I have not read a new book in probably four years. I only read books when I am on vacation, and then it's the same pulpy British Naval adventure books over and over. Why? Because I'm a grownup now, and have a lot to do, and when I have run down everything on my to-do list that needs doing right away, I'd like some time to let my brain slow down, thanks. I don't have the mental energy or wherewithal to invest in starting a serious book, or even a light one. Last time I did, I got forty pages in, set it down, and never went back. I am not ashamed or making excuses. I don't read anymore because I have THINGS to DO, and many of them won't wait for me to finish the next chapter.

It's all fine and good to decide to interpret this as meaning your wife has lost her intellectual chops, or is less brainy than the woman you first met, but the reality is, she's fking BUSY now, what with caring for your new KID and all, and wants to devote her attention to that minor project the two of you started together.

So my advice to you is, get over yourself, and get off her back. If you need to get some counselling to get your head around this, then do so. This hostility you have towards her no longer reading is probably cover for some misdirected dissatisfaction you have towards other aspects of your life, or your way of expressing your grief at having lost your more youthful carefree lifestyles.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:20 AM on July 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think it might help to sort out a bit more exactly what's bothering you here.

If you miss having intellectual conversations with your wife and/or reading in tandem, then you could certainly speak to her about setting aside some scheduled weekly or semi-weekly family reading time to get through a mutually (<>
If, however, this is about you judging your wife as a person because she no longer has time to read constantly, then I'd urge you to reconsider your prejudices. For one thing, a months-long (or even a years-long) hiatus in one's reading doesn't necessarily signal the permanent death of a person's intellectual curiosity; if she liked reading once, she'll probably come back to it once the kid's not quite so needy and demanding. For another, regardless of whether she has time to put in the hours of reading, presumably the mental qualities that made her enjoy reading-- curiosity, analytical prowess, openmindedness-- still remain. And if you didn't actually care about those deeper qualities, but just wanted a wife who was hip to the literary scene and could drop the right names at parties-- well, that's the kind of superficiality you may want to try to grow out of now that you're somebody's dad.

Regardless, you might also do some thinking about why it is that you seem to have all this leisure for voracious, delighted reading while your equally-smart wife is too exhausted to do anything but pass out in front of the TV. Your making a resolution to shoulder a half-hour or hour of additional childcare duties every now and again might go a long way towards helping her regain her mental energy. Just sayin'.
posted by Bardolph at 8:21 AM on July 15, 2010

It sounds as if (1) your wife's free time is being given over to escapist pursuits that take her away from stress, and (2) you resent her for not including reading in those.

If I were your wife in this situation, I'd be growing pretty resentful of you anf your hectoring right about now. So stop.

Also: 'monologue' is so not a verb.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:22 AM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

I hate to say it, but I can't help but feel that my respect for her, as an intellectually curious person, is starting to suffer.

In addition to my previous answer, I have to say that this is one of the most childish, insulting, and intellectually dishonest things I've read in a long time. This is about you, not about her. Losing respect for her? You better hope she never figures out that this anonymous question is from you or any respect she has for you is in serious danger.
posted by The World Famous at 8:23 AM on July 15, 2010 [36 favorites]

Sounds like your wife is stressed out and busy and feels like she doesn't have the mental energy for books right now. But, is there a reason why you can't have an intellectually stimulating discussion wherein you deconstruct reality TV, parenting magazines, or the Style section of the NY Times? Rather than turning your nose up at the medium, perhaps you should try and engage with it critically with your wife.

A clever friend reading over my shoulder points out that the two of you can also bond over reading to your children. She also brings up this good point: "The OP is a writer - books and writing and reading are a part of his identity in a way that they are not a part of his wife's identity, presumably. So he should be trying to understand what IS a part of her identity, rather than complaining that she won't talk about books with him."
posted by Lieber Frau at 8:23 AM on July 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

Your wife is not you and she's not an extension of you. Honestly, she is reading, she's just not meeting your standards for what she should be doing. What if she told you that she wished you were an engineer instead?

Also, if she's a mom, she's probably pretty tired. She's busy trying to improve herself work-wise and learn about something.

You should be more sympathetic and not so judgmental and critical of her, as her partner.
posted by anniecat at 8:27 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

How old is your child?

Do you have any conception about how emotionally and physically draining it is to be the primary caretaker of a child, or to be a working mother?

Look, I was a bookworm as a kid. Never ever without a pile of books at my bedside. But guess what? Right now I do NOT read fiction. I finally went to the library after ages and ages and got some books. It's almost time to turn them back in and I have not finished them all. Because in life, priorities change, energy levels change, etc.

Your wife probably needs to relax intellectually when she has spare time. Reading good books can take more effort than she feels up to right now.

And frankly, after having said all that, it sounds a bit more now to me as if this isn't as much about reading as it is a power struggle between the two of you. I can tell you this much-if my husband was nagging me to read it would definitely lessen my desire to do so because no one likes to feel nagged or forced. Even if she was in the mood to read maybe she would rather not reinforce your nagging.

Put down the book and spend some time with your kid. And quit judging your wife.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:27 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

PS. I am a musician and songwriter. My husband HATES a good percentage of the music I like. But he supports ME. I don't expect him to listen to music with me. Occasionally it can be annoying but it really isn't that big a hairy deal. Because we connect on other things.

It's NOT rocket science.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:29 AM on July 15, 2010

Look, my husband and I are parents of a two-year old and both of us work full-time in demanding jobs. I used to love, *love* to read history and biographies and all that. Now when I have time? I watch Project Runway. I watch Glee. Because fuck it, my brain needs to TURN OFF sometimes. Moreover, I feel like I can't give my preferred reading materials the concentration that I need to really absorb them. I figure if I can't read them "properly" (for my definition of "properly", involving extra research and discussion, and thinking extensively about historical parallels blah blah) then I won't do it at all. It won't be a full experience for me. I'd rather watch Top Chef.

I don't know if that thought process is at all applicable to your wife, but just something to think about.
posted by gaspode at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm going to try really hard to write this civilly because I think you could really use some help and if I rail at you for being an insensitive jerk you might not read my answer. So here goes:

I love to read. I love books. I used to spend time at the library just for fun. I enjoyed finding people to talk to about books. I would be constantly reading. Forget TV or Movies, I spent my spare time reading loved every minute of it.

Then I had kids.

I'm the kind of person who when I get into a book I tend to tune out whatever is going on around me and really get into the book. This is a great thing if I'm on a crowded bus or in a noisy cafe. It's not a good thing when I have kids to look after and listen for.

I also get very testy if I'm interrupted while I'm reading. With kids I'm interrupted constantly. I can't sit down and read more than a few paragraphs at a time. This makes it super easy to read a magazine article or blog post but just about impossible to read a book.

Sure, I could read after the kids go to bed. Unfortunately by that point I'm so exhausted that I just want to veg on the couch and try to spend some grown up time with my husband. I usually last about a half hour before I just want to go to bed. Reading a book would actually involve thinking and by the end of most days my brain is so wrung out that mindless entertainment (like reality shows) are just about all I can handle.

When I do get an afternoon to myself I could read but there seems to be so many other things that need to get taken care of that sitting in one place seems like a selfish waste of time. Even if I'm told to be selfish I'd rather spend the time getting my hair or nails done and catching up on the much needed 'me time'. If I've only got a few hours of unstructured time, I'm much more likely to go see a movie by myself than to start a book that I know I won't get a chance to finish. Reading a few chapters once every few weeks is not a good way to enjoy a book.

I do read books. Usually it's on nights that I can't sleep or sitting on the couch while my kids watch a DVD. But I don't read even 5% of what I used to. Circumstances just don't allow it.

I am still an intellectually curious person. I still thrive on learning new things. Unfortunately now I have to get my information in much smaller doses. I learn through the eyes of my kids. I stay informed by looking things up on the internet while my youngest naps. I catch snippets of TV while I'm folding laundry. I watch the news while I'm getting the older kids ready for school. Just because I don't read as much as I used to doesn't mean that I am any less curious or any less intellectual. It just means I don't read as much as I used to.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2010 [36 favorites]

From the vantage point of a heavy reader now in my mid-fifties, I can tell you that all through my adult life the desire to read for pleasure has been very fluid. During my kids first years, there was just no energy or time or desire. Later, while building my career, I used reading as stress relief and read everything I could get my hands on. BUT, my partner was the full-time caregiver and I had no specific household duties. Later, I just didn't need the stress outlet and stopped for a while again. So, just because she doesn't read now doesn't mean she won't again later. But how she spends what little spare time she has should not be in your realm of influence. Pressuring her to do this, even subtly, will only result in resentment, I would imagine. I would resent it highly, and something like that would change the dynamic of my relationship with my partner. It really is controlling behavior, it really is YOUR problem, and you really do need to explore this further for your own well being.
posted by raisingsand at 8:31 AM on July 15, 2010

2nd unless it was *exactly* the right book then it felt like an imposition because if I actually read it, it would suck up a huge proportion of my minuscule reading budget.

And how old is your kid? Because this is normal for a new parent. Why are you not both equally busy with parenting duties? Next time you find yourself thinking about this, fire yourself off to the beach or park or farm or museum or whatever with Little Anonymous; you'll give yourself something else to focus on, and in the process lighten Mrs Anonymous' load. This is pretty cheeky stuff; it amounts to snarking on how limited somebody else's spare time is.

I had grandparents who were a pair of very educated, erudite, sophisticated doctors, and when we were at the cottage they sat around and read what I considered to be somewhat trashy novels. Gawd! I thought. How embarrassing! And what was the deal? These were smart, smart people, reading junk!

And then I grew up, and realized what the score was there...

So the answer is partially to stop being a pretentious thirteen-year-old. There's nothing wrong with the literary equivalent of a bag of chips.
posted by kmennie at 8:32 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think some people outgrow fiction. I stopped reading fiction a few years ago and don't feel any remorse about it. I just don't find most stories interesting and popular books seem formulaic and boring. The books I read are biographies or science related, but lately its cheaper and easier to get this information via various sources on the internet than physical books. The idea of spending so many hours to get through yet another "Protagonist overcomes obstacles while exploring his or her relationships with others" is a serious turn off. There's a formula to most most novels and some of us are just sick of it.

I think the last fiction book I read was Dhalgren. Its weirdness and originality kept me hooked. Maybe she just needs a break or more challenging reading materials.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:34 AM on July 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

I can't remember the last time she cracked a book that didn't have to do with work or child rearing.
I hate to say it, but I can't help but feel that my respect for her, as an intellectually curious person, is starting to suffer.
She is an intellectually curious person: her energies are just being directed towards her intellectual curiosities about work and child-rearing. What's wrong with that?
posted by deanc at 8:34 AM on July 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

Okay, I reread the question and realized you really are interested in how YOU can deal with this.

I think it's hard for some men (maybe women too, I dunno) not to think of their wives/partners as extensions of themselves. I think you need to have a talk with yourself and realize that it's okay for your wife to have different interests, that it is in no way a rejection of you and of your interests, and that part of a happy married life is being able to watch your partner develop in areas that maybe aren't yours but allow you a window into something you wouldn't ordinarily participate in.

My husband loves politics and is involved locally. If it were up to me I would not be involved one iota but I do go to the occasional gathering with him. But only occasionally. He doesn't get mad or upset or feel I am unsupportive because I am not with him at every stinking meeting or making phone calls or etc. etc.

He doesn't see it as a referendum on our marriage or a judgement on his interests. We have separate interests, and we have mutual interests. We don't expect each other to be a carbon copy of the other one.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:35 AM on July 15, 2010

I used to read a lot for pleasure, and then when reading became my job during grad studies, that killed all motivation. My attention span was nil and if it's remotely difficult to get into a book I just couldn't do it. That said, I'd read through all Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series - the ones that True Blood (HBO tv series) is based off of, as well as a lot of other books I'd consider literary junk food, like The Devil Wears Prada, Dexter, and Belle Du Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl. Absolutely no brain power required, just as entertaining to read as watching a good tv program... not surprising as they have been already adapted for TV or film. She might be more open to those kinds of books if you point them out to her in the bookstore, especially if she knows the show already.
posted by lizbunny at 8:36 AM on July 15, 2010

I stopped reading fiction when I had a kid, after having a houseful of thousands of books and a librarianship degree. Switched to tv shows and a couple of newspapers, after 10 yrs I stared reading factual books unrelated to work for fun.

In those ten years I read maybe fifty fictional works. Bored by all of them, plus if I couldn't spend twelve hours reading one in a sitting it just wasn't worth it.

Got deeply, deeply annoyed by the looks of horror on the faces of a)people who'd known me before when I was the local bookstore and b)complete strangers when I admitted I didn't read any more.

You know, the internet is great, I can read snippets of what I want in between other stuff, and bookmark things for later. Fuck books, I'll read them when I'm ready.

(and also I'm very sorry to anyone who told me they weren't much of a reader when I read, my embarrassed face now must surely out-do my horrified face back then)
posted by shinybaum at 8:39 AM on July 15, 2010

Books aren't the only way to learn stuff. Of all the valuable things I've learned in my life, I'd say less than half came from books. The rest came from experience. Your wife hasn't stopped learning; she's learning about children everyday.
posted by smorange at 8:40 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does she read what you write? I think the only way you get to be upset is if you've asked her to read/discuss what you write, and she won't.

We have a young child and my husband and I have this fight about me exercising - he likes to exercise, he thinks I should to, and I'm quite sure his respect for me is decreased because I don't exercise.

Why don't I exercise? Because WHERE am I supposed to find the time to exercise? Where is that extra hour in the day? I get up with the baby, get her ready for daycare, one of us takes her there, on the days I don't, I go directly to work where I work until I pick her up, get her home, play for half an hour, feed her, bathe her, and wait for my husband to get home. He plays with her for half an hour while I clean up the kitchen, then one of us puts her to sleep. If I put her to sleep, he exercises. If he puts her to sleep, I work, or I make dinner. By the time we sit down on the couch together, it's 9pm. I can do one of the following things at that point: laundry, more cleaning/organizing/planning the family vacation/pay bills, talk to the grandparents/friends on the phone, organize pictures, prepare meals for later in the week, do more work. Or I could spend time with my husband: talk, touch, have sex. Or I could do something for myself: read my bookclub book, watch Friday Night Lights, stare into space and dream, or exercise.

Don't get me wrong: my husband is just as busy. He helps with most of these tasks, at least some of the time. For whatever reason, he is better able to prioritize himself than I am able to prioitize myself. Most nights, something from that first column wins. If I make it to that third list, the LAST THING ON EARTH I want is someone telling me how I should choose to spend that time.

That's a long way of saying: I bet she prioritizes her child, her spouse, and her job over herself. Reading is something she used to give herself. Now she chooses to mentally check out when she has time to herself. She'd rather watch reality tv (I bet we're talking one or two shows, right?) than read? GOOD FOR HER. Hopefully when the kids are in school full time and like to do things other than hang out with their mom, she'll feel like intellectually engaging in books again. But give her a break.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:42 AM on July 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

My mother didn't read while I was growing up. She would take us to the library and wait in the car. I thought it was weird, but all she said was that she didn't have time to read. She didn't seem mad about it or anything; just uninterested. She started reading again when I (the youngest of 4) was in high school, and hasn't quit for the last 30 years. (I say "again" because I assume she read in her younger days, before marriage and 4 kids, but I don't actually know that.)

Has your life not changed at all since the arrival of your child?
posted by JanetLand at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2010

Oh, and before I went on that rant (sorry, sensitive and timely discussion) I was going to say: maybe deal with it by asking her to read whatever you're writing and engage in discussion about that. I suspect the thing you need/want is engaging conversation with your wife, about whatever topic, and that used be fed by what she was reading.

Or, you read the child rearing books she's reading, and talk about that. It's highly intellectual if you read good books about brain development - SO MUCH to talk about there. I read those books, find them fascinating, and want to talk about them to the point of annoyance with others. Maybe she wants to engage about what she is reading, but you're somehow (maybe unintentionally) giving her the cold shoulder about that?
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:46 AM on July 15, 2010

i'm a single mom with a busy life and i used to love to read. motherhood changes you in ways that you don't expect, that is for sure. i have different priorities, different ways of looking at time, different ways of looking at myself. also, i think that becoming a mother changed my mind, and i am sure there is some kind of scientific backup for this. not that i am less smart, or even essentially a different person, but i think differently. my reflexes are different, my reactions are different, my "filters" for information are different. i haden't picked up a book since my daughter was born, but recently, i did start to read again. it was like coming home, but more like coming home after being out of the house for years....i came back a different person and home meant something different to me. i have no idea of the nature of your relationship with your wife, or what either of you are going through on a greater scale, or what kinds of challenges your child brings to the table, but if your child is under 5, being a parent is super-tough and takes up a lot of the bandwith that was normally excitedly reserved for intellectual pursuits. maybe that shit just isn't important to her right now compared to the consuming, absorbing, and necessary details and challenges that come with being a momma.

sorry it is bothering you so much. i don't have too much to offer as far as suggestions for snapping the hell out of it. that is not nearly as easy as it sounds and may not be entirely necessary. you are feeling what you are feeling, and that's okay. just don't throw it all at her. if you can be reflective about it, and open to your own issues, maybe you can start to understand where this is all coming from. maybe if you traced these feelings way back down to their roots, something completely different will show up. again, sorry this is so complicated for you. i hope that you figure it out. i always think that talking with a really smart friend who won't betray your confidence really really helps. maybe you and a friend could get together over some fancy wine and try to hash this one out.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:48 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My partner is a PhD candidate and because of all of the various articles he's in the middle of writing (or revising) and because of his dissertation research, he pretty much only reads non-fiction. I used to read like a maniac and most of the classes I took in college had to do with literature. These days, though, I don't read nearly as much. So, because I feel that fiction is important and transformative, we read fiction to each other. I pick a book and we alternate reading chapters out loud before we go to sleep. Then he picks a book, etc.

That being said, you really need to get over this. Her free time belongs to her. If she doesn't want to read, then she doesn't want to read. If she has made that decision and you are still hounding her, then you need to realize that you are the one with the problem.
posted by eunoia at 8:49 AM on July 15, 2010

Does she read what you write? I think the only way you get to be upset is if you've asked her to read/discuss what you write, and she won't.

Chiming in once more, before I bow out of this one, but as someone who spits out an awful lot of writing, I don't think it would be fair to ask my husband to be interested in everything I write, or even to read it. He does occasionally, and that's nice, but I don't think you should ever expect your spouse to be either your editor or your biggest fan. A supporter of your goals? Sure. But marriage to an artist can be draining already, and it's not really all that reasonable to add to that by expecting your SO to be a ready-made audience, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:50 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

thehmsbeagle's idea is genius.
posted by k8t at 8:50 AM on July 15, 2010

i used to read voraciously. I don't read much at all now, other than things i find interesting on the internet or magazines. And yes some of that is fluffy. Part of the issue for me is that if i pick up a book and start to read, i want to really spend time and read. Not just 15 minutes here and there - hours at a time. Frankly, i don't have hours at a time to spend holed up with a book. So i pick things i can finish in a short period of time.

And of course she got defensive when you talked to her about this. I can't imagine how you approached a conversation about this with an adult. She isn't a 10 year old with a mandatory book list. If she is refusing to read your work - maybe you have a reason to get your feelings hurt. If she doesn't enjoy burying her nose in a book just for fun, you really really don't. Her decision not to read is not directed at you, it has nothing to do with you. Did you two really used to sit around and talk about books all the time?

I hope you meant writing and books are the major part of your life AFTER your wife and child. Because if you meant those are THE major part of your life, therein lies your problem. You might need to put the living, breathing parts of your life ahead of the books.
posted by domino at 8:54 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

seconding k8t seconding thehmsbeagle
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2010

[few comments removed - folks back it up, knock it off with the judgeme stuff and answer the question or go holler it out in MeTa. thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:59 AM on July 15, 2010

I buy her books, offer to help make time for her to read, but the desire just doesn't seem to be there any more.

Dude, this is like Example Number One in the list of Ten Million Things that are Guaranteed to Make Someone Hate Something Forever.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:00 AM on July 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

Oh but as to what she might like to read, what got me buying books again was music. I'd developed a non time consuming devotion to dead blues players in those ten years, plus a whole boatload of folk.

So people started buying me books by Charles Shaar Murray, probably the greatest music writer in the world - also easy to dip into chapters that didn't need a marathon session.

Especially the book on the blues that came with it's own CD.

Now, if I do read a novel it tends to revolve around music or have a music backdrop. So figure out what her new interests are and encourage them, otherwise leave her alone and she'll work it out.
posted by shinybaum at 9:04 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm with damn dirty ape -- I don't think it's uncommon for people to outgrow fiction as they get older. I haven't read a novel in ages, and I say this as someone who used to read them voraciously and even wanted to write them for a living when I was younger. The past few years I've been much more interested in reading books about cooking and food science since that's the field I feel most passionate about now. I also read a lot online. But I do read less now than I did for most of my life, and after some internal hand-wringing about that, I'm fine with it.

Here are a couple other things to consider:

1) Is there a part of you that doesn't want her to change, period, and you are focusing on this one thing as a representation of that? My mother constantly asks if I still read and write as much as I used to. The fact that my life no longer revolves around those activities is disconcerting to her, I think, because she feels unsure about who I am now. But remember that to a certain extent, these things are just trappings. Your wife probably still has the same character, the same qualities that made you fall in love with her, even if those qualities manifest in different external ways.

2) How much do you care about what other people think/how this will make you appear? I used to have a bit of a complex about dating guys who didn't read as much as I did, or didn't read the same types of things. A lot of my identity was very wrapped up in being A Serious Reader and A Serious Future Writer, and I worried about what people would think about MY intellect and creativity when they saw me with someone who didn't share that very narrow definition. That's a bullshit, elitist view. The truth is that all of my relationships have been with intelligent, curious men, many of whom have enriched my intellectual life in all kinds of different ways that didn't require them to be Serious Readers. In fact, some of them taught me a lot about getting my nose out of a book and engaging more with life, which has plenty to teach on its own.
posted by spinto at 9:06 AM on July 15, 2010

So I'm proposing a project: let's both read a chapter of Nurtureshock every week, and on Friday after the kid goes to bed, I'll pour two glasses of wine and we'll have a 20-minute book club, whaddya say?"

Here's a project: Anonymous cooks dinner, cleans up, puts kid to bed, pours wine and chills with wife until bedtime, and then deals with kid Saturday morning.

Any project that involves books seems kind of condescending and exhausting for a Friday night, at least to me.
posted by vincele at 9:08 AM on July 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

Do you try to talk with her about the books you're reading, even if she hasn't read them? My boyfriend and I regularly talk about books only one of us is reading. Usually we start by bringing up stylistic or thematic issues that either interest or bother us, and the conversation develops from there... into something that may or may not have to do with books, but is plenty stimulating.

It sounds like you might depend on your wife for all or most of your intellectual satisfaction. Do you have other friends who can satiate your need to talk about writing, so that you can focus on all the things you and your wife can share together right now?

It also sounds like you miss your wife, though, and that's understandably frustrating. Her reading habits may or may not change with time, but she still has the same awesome mind she had when you fell for her. Please help her out more -- it will help you understand where she's coming from and will free up some brainspace for her, so that you two can meet on more even ground.
posted by bethist at 9:09 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's sort of amusing how many people are taking the piss out of you for trying to force your wife to feel a particular way, and then telling you to just "get over" your reasonable emotional reactions.

It sounds like reading, and books, and literacy, and a certain kind of intellectual curiosity, etc. were a huge shared thing between you and your wife, and for you if formed a key reason that you fell in love with her. "She loves books, I write books, she loves me because I write books". Now that her priorities have shifted you're left wondering where you stand. "She's not into books anymore, is she still into me? Am I still into her?"

A lot of women in America (by and large, not indicative of any particular woman) will, at the start of a relationship, become hugely interested in whatever their boyfriends at the time are interested. Not in a deliberately manipulative kind of way, but in a "I'm interested in this boy/man, partially because he's interested in these things I have a mild/medium/big interest in, so as part of the relationship I'm going to become more into those things"

Part of being in a long term relationship is dealing with your partner's changes, and each of you taking that change as an opportunity to grow. You've just had a kid, which is the biggest change most humans ever get to deal with in their lifetimes. It's going to be all about that kid for about 6 months to a year as you both readjust to the cycles and schedules that caring for a short human takes.

You don't need your wife to start reading again. You need to hear from your wife that she still loves and cares for you. Your wife doesn't need to you badger her about reading, she needs you to show her you love her by participating in the relationship and the raising of your child. That's the conversation you two need to be having.

So start talking now and learn how to communicate, because even if this turns out worst case scenario (wife just wanted you for the sperm donation;you just wanted her because she affirmed the single most important thing in your life), you two are stuck dealing with each other in some form for the next 18 years.
posted by alan at 9:12 AM on July 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

offer to help make time for her to read,

How about offering to make time for her to have time to do anything she wants...this struck me as particularly controlling.
posted by Pax at 9:15 AM on July 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

I didn't read for pleasure much at all for about six years.

In college there was so much required reading that I didn't have the energy to sit and look at the page any more.

Then, starting a job post-college, I really didn't have the energy to do much of anything.

What got me started again was, first, having a bit more free time and energy, and second, starting with books that were quick, entertaining reads (I am not proud of this but I read the DaVinci code).

I am currently re-reading a book I tried to read a few years ago in my super-exhaustion phase. Back then I inched along page by page for a month before finally losing track of the plot, forgetting who the characters were, and giving up. Now I am breezing through it.

What I am trying to suggest is that life does not always allow for certain types of reading, especially novels which require a certain kind of focus. You need to cut your wife some slack. The only thing you should really do to help the situation is to offer to do more work around the house and with your child.
posted by mai at 9:21 AM on July 15, 2010

Here's a serious idea. Why not go to your wife and say "I'm sorry I've been such a jerk about books. I don't care if you read (okay, I know that you, mr. question-asker, actually care a LOT. just go with it here.), but I really miss having something shared to talk about at night. So I'm proposing a project: let's both read a chapter of Nurtureshock every week, and on Friday after the kid goes to bed, I'll pour two glasses of wine and we'll have a 20-minute book club, whaddya say?"

Husband, I like this idea in theory, except that the the 'something shared to talk about' shouldn't be a book. She doesn't want to read right now, and this is still suggesting that she needs to read to make you happy.

The 'thing' should be something else. An album (which she can listen to while doing other things) a meal made together, a card game...anything but a book. You need alone time with your wife to reconnect, and that's fine, and you should have that. Just don't make it about books (well, maybe a cookbook is ok ;) . And if you aren't doing so already, see if you can make some "me time" happen for your wife; take over the parenting duties or have someone come in to watch the baby once in a while.
posted by iconomy at 9:23 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's what you should do.

For the next month, any time you have a moment and think to yourself, "Reading Time!" don't pick up a book. Instead, spend the time you would have spent reading taking care of your child. And I don't just mean playing with the kid or going for walks, though that's part of it. I also mean tackling the inevitable mountains of laundry and dirty dishes, or scrubbing the bathroom floor, or doing the grocery shopping and then cooking and freezing a week's worth of meals. For one month, don't do any pleasure reading, and spend that time instead being a parent. Don't ask your wife whether she'd like your help, just do it. It's your responsibility as much as it is hers, and so for one month, try doing a disproportionate share of it so that she doesn't have to do as much.

After a month, I imagine that you'll be pretty exhausted and want to have some time to yourself. Likely, that's how your wife feels right now, and a month of some respite might put her back in the mood to do what she likes to do in her spare time, including reading. And if it doesn't, it'll be time for a different kind of conversation between the two of you. But for now, one month, you replace pleasure reading with family-related chores.
posted by decathecting at 9:25 AM on July 15, 2010 [38 favorites]

[seriously GO TO METATALK if all you want to talk about is how it's tough to be a mom. No one is saying it isn't. This is a question with a problem to be solved. I'm sorry it pushes some buttons for people.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:30 AM on July 15, 2010

She's very focused on her life mission. Intellectual curiosity is kind of a luxury -- one I embrace, but I don't have kids (or any other all-consuming life mission).

Escapism reading and viewing is probably necessary for her, if everything else she's doing seems extremely important (and it is).

Have you tried being interested in the things that absorb her?
posted by amtho at 9:33 AM on July 15, 2010

Okay. Well, I'm glad you like reading, because this is a long one. I am a mother, and a reader, and I am also a writer partnered with someone who very rarely reads for pleasure, so let me try to tackle this from all sides.

When my kids were small, I barely had enough time to myself to use the bathroom. I'm talking just going to the bathroom, not something luxurious and self-indulgent like taking a shower in the bathroom or anything. So when I *did* have 6 minutes to myself, I tended to do things like change my clothes, or move all the crap off the bed so I could rest for just one freaking moment, or maybe respond to one very short email. Reading for fun was just not something I could fit in -- mostly because it is incredibly frustrating to read in short bursts (a paragraph here, a chapter there), and unfortunately in those early years of parenting, everything seemed to happen in micro-bursts of time. I read about parenting, sure -- but that was "research," and usually in a form that I could digest in small bites and then actually apply in my day-to-day life. Reading a book from start to finish, like I used to do in the old days, pre-kids, was a fantasy. But then, so were lots of things back then -- like having longer than the duration of a light-sleeping toddler's nap to cram my non-parenting life into. So there's the mom piece of things.

I am also a writer, and my husband is not a reader who reads for fun. We both knew this about each other going in. He reads dense and complicated medical journals, he reads stuff for his job, but reading for fun is a very new concept for him. (I still remember being shocked by his frank admission before we were married that he actually read the Cliffs Notes of everything in high school instead of reading the actual books themselves.) He recently got hooked on a series of books and has been reading for fun every once in a while for possibly the first time in his life. But it's work for him -- he is not a fast reader the way I am, and he doesn't have a lot of leisure time, so it's not fun. And his decision to read his book becomes about deciding to take time away from something else, like spending time with me and the kids, or tackling his never-ending to-do list. I get that, because that's what reading for fun was like for me when the kids were small -- it was work. And that experience for me gave me a little bit of understanding of what it's like for him all the time.

The other thing I should say is that not only does he not really read for fun, he also doesn't really read my stuff. Sure, he's read *some* of my stuff. But I've had 8 books published, a couple even hitting the bestseller list, and he's maybe skimmed them (and not even all of them!) at best. He hasn't read a single one of them cover to cover. THIS DOES NOT BOTHER ME. Why? For one, because I'm not looking to him for approval of myself as a writer. For another, I have writer friends, online and IRL (though mostly online), who are the people I go to when I want to have conversations about work -- about writing and books and "process" and etc. HE is the guy I go to when I'm puzzling over a plot thing and want the idle perspective of someone who watches a lot of movies; my writing pals are the people I go to when I'm despairing that what I'm working on is the stupidest idea in the history of stupid ideas and want actual, concrete, useful feedback. So, just like he doesn't come to me to chat about surgical techniques in pediatric ophthalmology, I don't go to him to chat about the stuff I do for work every day, and just like he doesn't need me to say "Hey, awesome job on that eye surgery!" for him to feel like he's a good doctor, I don't need him to say, "Hey, awesome job on that book you wrote!" to feel like I'm a good writer -- or to know that he's proud of me and that he cares about what I do. We have other shared interests that intersect, and for those interests that don't, we each have other friends and colleagues in our lives that are able to scratch that "talking about X together" itch.

I would imagine that once your kids are older and your wife's time is not stretched as thin, she will come back to reading books for pleasure again. But parenting young children is an intense time, and a transformative time, especially for the person who has the primary day-to-day, managerial, hands-on part of the gig. And it may very well be that once she has a moment to read again, she'll discover that her tastes have changed -- that she wants escapist stuff rather than literary, or that she's totally into genre books in a way she never expected before, or that she only wants to read cozy mysteries involving cat detectives. The question you have to ask yourself is, would you be able to handle that? Because if it's really about wanting to her to read the stuff that YOU like to read, and not just wanting her to read in general, then I would say that what you're looking for here isn't a book club buddy or fellow book-lover, you're looking for attention. You're looking for her to be connected with you, in quite a specific way. But here's the thing: you're already connected. And she doesn't have to read the books you want her to read to maintain that connection with you. But you might want to look at why it's so important to you that she does. (My guess? You'd like to feel more connected in general as just the two of you -- which is hard when kids are in the picture -- and focusing on the "out of sync"-ness of your used-to-be-shared experience of reading is a way to limit the panicky feeling of falling out of connection with your partner.)
posted by mothershock at 9:34 AM on July 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

My fiance and I are trying to get back into pleasure reading - and we're not lacking awesome material, we lack decent time. It's very true that after a busy day, sometimes you just want your mind to go blank on something mindless. So we play games or watch TV or take walks. Anything more mentally challenging than that could mean a collapse on some days. And we too used to be voracious readers, I couldn't be separated from a book 24/7 a few years ago.

I think you just have to realize that she's not avoiding books to spite you, nor because she's becoming intellectually lazy. More likely than not she's too swamped by her schedule to be able to pursue a really good book these days. This isn't about how she feels about you. It's also not about your interests drifting apart irreversibly. She (and you, really) have entered a different stage of life with shifting priorities, and you have to shift along with them. She'll go back to reading, as people who loved books rarely stop loving them. But there is only so much time in the day, and more that needs doing now, so some activities are expected to fall out. Just be supportive, find new ways to spend your free time together, and enjoy having her as your partner through all things, not just reading.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 9:45 AM on July 15, 2010

You better hope she never figures out that this anonymous question is from you or any respect she has for you is in serious danger.

I'm not trying to pile on here. Seriously I'm not. But perhaps it would help to think along these lines: if your wife could read your mind, she should lose respect for you for feeling this way, because good people don't feel this way about other good people. On the list of priorities in life, reading comes further down than the other things in which she invests her blood and sweat to keep your family functional. If you see it through this lens, perhaps this is something that will help you internalize this as being more your issue than hers. And this is coming from someone who sees reading as being very important. Give her some space, help create some space for her, and you might find that she takes up things she's felt morally obligated -- or physically and mentally necessary -- to set down for now. It could very well be that she desperately wants the kind of mental space she used to have to read books, but just doesn't have it right now.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:45 AM on July 15, 2010

I'm piling on late here, but here goes--
Your wife is deeply, intellectually, emotionally engaged in a long term, hands on, applied psychology experiment. She is trying out things in the field, learning the rules as she goes. As are you. Rather than fret about how this experiment is outside of your discipline, why not try earning that research assistantship?
posted by pickypicky at 9:48 AM on July 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

What can I do? Either get over it, accept the change, or help her get back into something she misses. I know.

If books and writing are a major part of your life, try diving into child rearing books. Or books about raising kids, I'd recommend Shirley Jackson's "Raising Demons" and "Life Among the Savages", they're quiet hilarious and fun.

Thinking about it, there a ton of books about moms raising kids and their experiences, but seemingly very few about dad's doing the same, which is a shame. Maybe this is an opportunity for you to write about something unfamiliar or outside your comfort zone?
posted by new brand day at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2010

Everything changes when you have a kid; it takes about a year to readjust.

Sounds as though you're really talking about intimacy when you talk about books.

Give your wife some time. Spend time reading with your new child.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2010

I really do understand what you are feeling right now and I am sure reading the answers is tough. I felt very similarly about my spouse after our son was born and could have written this verbatim (including the intellectual curiosity thing) and merely replaced the term "reading" with "my thing".

It was easier for me to look at Mr. Murrey and blame him for changing than to accept the truth. But here's the truth about my situation as I painfully figured out. As someone wisely said up above, it wasn't about "my thing" and it isn't about your wife's reading. In my case, I missed how Mr. Murrey and I related to each other so easily and that the arrival of Baby Murrey and all of our other recent life changes changed the way we related. I realized that I deeply missed what we had before. And I had to grieve for that since I also realized that our wonderful life changes necessitated that we change along with them.

I also realized that I felt lonely. The myriad things that demanded our attention in the past year and a half required that we both pay less attention to other things. I realized that it was a testament to the strength of our relationship that the one thing we both unconsciously felt could withstand less attention was our relationship. But we have both come to realize that although our relationsip can withstand some negligence, it is not wise to do so.

I also realized that I felt less important or interesting to Mr. Murrey. I am still working on this one to be honest, but here is what I know so far. I had a successful career and a firmly entrenched personal identity before Baby Murrey came along at 40. Although I still work part time, becoming a parent radically changes your identity and lifestyle. Even though Baby Murrey is 11 months old, I still feel like I am struggling to recapture some of who I was in light of who I am now. I don't think I feel less important and interesting to Mr. Murrey because of anything he does or doesn't do...I think I feel this way because I feel a bit lost from myself.

By being honest about the situation to Mr. Murrey (that I missed the old "us", that I felt lonely and that I feel uninteresting) has opened up a dialogue between us to work on these issues as a couple and individually. Had I continued pursuing the lazy route (the "you are not doing what I want you to do") with Mr. Murrey, we would still be tangled up in tangential, unimportant arguments where he feels inadequate and harshly judged and I feel frustrated and alone.

I shared all of this with the hope that something might resonate or open your heart to what is really bothering you. And as someone like your wife who is working part time and having a baby and home to care for, find a way to let this go. She is exhausted and doing the best she can. I almost never read anymore (and gravitate to reality tv too). But on a recent vacation I read 5 books I found in our rental in 10 days -- no work, no house and full time help from the hubby with baby care might have had something to do with that.

Good luck.
posted by murrey at 10:10 AM on July 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

If this helps, I think you have a broader concern than the (rather petty and childish) one you've put up front.

It's easy, when you have kids, to feel that you've lost your partner. Certainly the quality of conversations, and time together in general, degrades. You get really functional with each other, and at least one of you (sadly, usually the mother) is in constant-defense mode. I remember this well.

My wife and I still can't put together a good conversation with each other when our 7-year-old son is around. We'll go out to dinner and, although we sometimes joke together as a family and carry on a bit, we mostly have fragmented and unsatisfying conversations. There are even times when I wonder: Are we running out of things to say?

But then if we remember to go out together while our son is being babysat, or if we sit on the couch and drink coffee together before he wakes up, the conversation comes back, very easy and gracious like it always was.

So you both are in baby mode. She's dealing with it directly, you're having an indirect tantrum. Just accept that your intellectual life is eroded. And schedule some time for adult conversations (minus the homework assignments, please). I bet she'd enjoy those.
posted by argybarg at 10:13 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

The how you get over this is meaty stuff.

Start with noticing what is really going on, factually. I say this, because some part of your brain has you thinking 'she's not reading' but a more important part of your brain knows that she is reading.

Keep a time log for yourself. How much time are you spending diapering, feeding, burping, transporting, soothing, watching, entertaining your child? How long are your showers?

What could you be doing with this time instead? I'm not going to make any judgments here, but I will say that every single new mother I know relates that theit new father partners seem to expect a medal for each and every diaper change, burping, and stroll around the house.

And a surprising number of fathers refer to time spent alone with their own child as babysitting. I wish I were kidding.

Think about how you are performing and presenting yourself with your wife and new child.

Do you want to be the partner with gobs of reading time and little/no knowledge of infant brain development/food allergies/physical milestones? Do you want to be a trivia team current fiction ringer, or do you want to be a husband and father.

Are your current activities lining up to give you the knowledge and skills to fit the role you have chosen for yourself?

Because parenthood, and spouse-hood, like any other roles, require specific skill sets. If you don't attain those skills, your performance in those roles is likely to suffer.

And at the heartbof your question, I hear you asking how to be a better husband.

So. Make time for your wife. Don't expect to find time, that's a very passive notion. Plan to make time. Be active about it. Read for 20 minutes instead of 40. Skip the gym once a week. Pick up something just for her when you make the bread and milk run. Hire a housekeeper to scrub the toilets/baseboards/windows. Snuggle on the couch to a favorite movie. Hold her hand.

Read to your baby. Have a bathtime/bedtime/coffee run ritual. Make afternoon plans with baby that leave your wife in solitude if she desires it.

But while you're doing all of these things, realize that your wife is under a lot of social pressure to not just be perfect, but to have a perfect child. She is held publicly accountable for two roles (three if you leave the house for a job, four if she is employed for pay in any way.)

So. Um. You know what you want/need to do, you told us that.

Now you gave to cultivate an awareness of where you are when you behave/feel differently, and practice being the spouse and father you want to be.
posted by bilabial at 10:25 AM on July 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

Another voracious-lover-of-reading here, who stopped reading fiction for years after I had a kid. There was never enough time to really sink into a good book and read for hours, the way I did when I was younger. For years my reading consisted of magazine articles and parenting books. And anyway, the parenting stuff was what I was interested in at that point. As my daughter got older, went to school during the day and became less needy of my constant attention at home, I gradually got back into reading other types of books for pleasure.

My husband and I are both intelligent people who enjoy conversing on various topics. We both read, but we have completely different taste in books so we almost never read the same things. Doesn't stop us from discussing books, though. We frequently ask each other "so have you been reading anything interesting?" and this often leads to good conversations.

My husband and I have surprisingly little in common when it comes to our interests. I'm not terribly excited about politics, video games or science fiction. And he doesn't give too much of a crap about thrift shopping, decorating, popular science/psychology, or the artsy-craftsy kind of stuff I'm interested in. But we listen to each other anyway, and ask questions, and in the end we both learn about stuff we wouldn't otherwise know or care about, and we learn a little more about what makes each other tick, and overall, it's pretty darn cool.

We also watch a fair amount of TV together, some of it trashy and some of it not. Even reality TV can spark some good, intelligent discussions... we've had conversations on sociology, ethics and game theory sparked by Survivor, for instance; the history of weaponry courtesy of Deadliest Warrior; physics and science, thanks to Mythbusters; politics and current events, from watching Comedy Central. Ok, maybe not PhD level discussions, but we enjoy ourselves and usually learn a little something new and interesting in the process.

My suggestion as far as having things to talk about is to get interested in her new world for awhile. Read the parenting books she likes and discuss them with her. Watch the same shows she likes and talk about that sometimes. Or just ask her what she's been reading/watching lately and let her tell you what she finds interesting these days. Ask questions try to be enthused and engage in the conversation a little. Relate her interests to things you know about, and feed that back into the conversation. It's every bit as intellectually stimulating to converse out of your element as it is to dissect a topic you both are familiar with.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:01 AM on July 15, 2010

Do you have a bathtub? Maybe she would like to take a long, relaxing bath and read something while she's in there. You could do child-wrangling so she has a good stretch of time to herself.

Help her carve out some reading time, if that's possible. A weekend morning, perhaps, when she can do her own thing and go to a cafe, or sit in the yard or in an armchair and not have to worry about domestic chores.

Or maybe you could take on some bedtime duties with your kid so she could get 20 or 30 pages read before she's too sleepy to read any more.

I have found it very hard to read books for pleasure since my commute shortened and I started grad school. My solution, which won't work for everyone, is to keep lighter fiction and nonfiction books in the bathroom and dip into them when I'm there. It takes weeks to read a book that way, but at least I feel like I'm reading something for pleasure.
posted by vickyverky at 11:05 AM on July 15, 2010

Oh. A thing that might help you stay focused in becoming the person you want to be.

Within your home, you are teaching your child how loving pair bonded relationships operate.

If you want your child to grow up believing that one adult gets to dictate/browbeat, or otherwise pester the other partner into particular leisure activities, carry on with buying her books and framing your helping around the house as enabling her to choose behaviors that satisfy you.

If you want your child to grow up believing that adults are not only capable of, but also responsible for choosing a range of activities that bring joy, encourage your wife to do things she loves, no matter how unintellectual they seem to you.

Your child will be wholeheartedly loved, regardless of the affinity for books that develops, right? Right? I ask, because if the answer is anything but a resounding yes!, you've got a bigger problem on your hands than you realize.

I can't stress this enough, you are already forming the habits that are teaching your child how to be an adult. Think about the adult you want to raise, because contrary to the English saying, your job here is not to raise a child. Your job is to raise an adult.
posted by bilabial at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you've got time to read, why not read to her some of the more interesting and intriguing passages from things you like? Being read to is a lovely thing. She may not have the energy or time to devote to a deep intellectual conversation afterward*, but this is still a nice way for you to share things you like in a way that does not put responsibility on her.

*so go into this with no expectations, ok?
posted by oneirodynia at 11:49 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh and BTW, I'm going to (re)emphasize that the best way to kill anyone's love of reading for pleasure is to lean on them to do it. I would think a writer of all people would understand what an intensely personal experience pleasurable reading is.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:51 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm going to rephrase this how a loving, supportive husband would phrase this question:

"Before we had our baby, my wife enjoyed reading novels. Now that she's so exhausted from caring for the baby, she has no time or energy to read novels. I think she'd really enjoy reading as an escape, but with the baby it's really hard. Suggestions on how I can help her get back to doing something she found pleasurable?"

Now, I'll answer this question:

"Probably sitting down to read a whole novel isn't going to happen with an infant or toddler. She's not going to be able to read the whole thing uninterrupted and some people don't like reading in chunks and spurts. My father is as an English professor who loves, loves, loves to read, but between his job, his commute, a long distance relationship, a poetry career, he's found it nearly impossible to read an entire novel. So instead he reads smaller things: books of short stories, literary magazines, poems, things that can be read in short sittings. So I would suggest getting your wife a subscription to the paris review, or ploughshares, or tin house, or any other literary magazine that has short stories and poems and things that can be read in a quick sitting."

I throw in the part about my father to show you that even a man who loves reading almost as much as breathing, who has a phd in victorian literature, who has spent his life teaching others about novels, found it hard (especially while raising two kids and working full-time) to find time to read novels. He's not incurious or stupid or vapid, he's tired and overworked.

Throw out the judgment and try and support your wife. She'd probably love a whole afternoon to read a book and she's probably sad she can't anymore. She probably misses it very much, just like she misses having enough time to go to the bathroom by herself (something I hear is difficult with an infant).
posted by bananafish at 11:58 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am sorry that you do not consider the topic of raising your child to be intellectually stimulating. Perhaps that's your answer: perhaps you need to engage with the intellectual side of child-rearing. Instead of brushing it off dismissively.

Perhaps you can try reading some of those parenting books, too. Perhaps you and your wife can have interesting intellectual debates about these parenting books. Perhaps you can start to form opinions about how children should be raised, and why. After all, you are a parent. Perhaps it behooves you to explore that topic, and books which discuss it.

In other words, perhaps you are the one in this situation who lacks intellectual curiosity.
posted by ErikaB at 12:11 PM on July 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

My husband stopped reading books in favor of computer magazines and web sites and podcasts, and it really bothered me for a while. Then I realized that he is the one who saves my ass every time something happens with my computer and who implements all the complicated computer stuff at our business that I can't be bothered learning about. Now I feel nothing but gratitude.

You can do this, too.
posted by HotToddy at 12:38 PM on July 15, 2010

Your wife is not responsible for keeping you entertained. Suck it up and join a book club.
posted by media_itoku at 12:59 PM on July 15, 2010

Does she like short stories?

Do you think she might enjoy listening to podcasts while doing somewhat mindless work?
posted by brainwane at 1:24 PM on July 15, 2010

You're using transference. She's paying more attention to the baby and less to books you. Recognize it and move on.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:52 PM on July 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

You and your wife don't have to have the same hobbies or interests. For serious.
posted by chunking express at 1:52 PM on July 15, 2010

If the respect you have for your wife is solely built on the fact that she reads, I don't believe you have ever built a proper foundation for a relationship. To just assume that her mind is idle and has no more intellectual desire or capacity is extremely arrogant. To think that she deserves less respect, if that even were the case, is even worse. And yeah, that would scare me too if i felt that way.

I've been in a relationship where I was constantly being judged by someone's seemingly irrelevant ideals, and I truly feel for her. I hope you can learn to love her for who truly is and get over your judgment. If you truly love and respect her, this wouldn't be the slightest issue.
posted by mewmewmew at 1:52 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just something for you to reflect on:

When you and your wife got married did you promise to always share exactly the same interests? Did she specifically pledge to always read X hours a week for pleasure?

Just, you know, perspective ...
posted by blue_bicycle at 6:59 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the asker does respect his wife.

Respect is probably measured well on a Likert Scale, and I think part of what he wants to do is move from 'some of the time' to 'all of the time.'

Accusing him of not respecting her is not helping him find tools to change the attitude(s) he wants to confront.

With that in mind, I dropped back in to suggest having a conversation with her about this.

Specifically, tell her you've noticed that you've been bugging her about reading, you know it hasn't been fair, you're sorry, you'd like to be more considerate of her time. Ask if she has any suggestions to help. Many of the suggestions above are great, but she can help you find the answers that work for both of you.

If she can't think of anything, feel free to show her this question.

I'd bet ten dollars to a donut that she appreciates your honest effort to make her life more comfortable.

Admitting that we want to treat our loved ones better is a sign of maturity and growth.

She can help you in this by pointing out gently, 'honey, you're rolling your eyes at the Baby Brain Book, can we read a chapter together?' or she can tell you that yes, she'd love for you to read her some Neruda. In the original Spanish. Or she can say, 'I was thinking about getting some audio books for the car, bit I was worried about the expense.'.

In short, she's likely your biggest ally in this endeavor. Not just because getting married usually involves that explicit promise, but also because this endeavor effects her life directly and immediately.
posted by bilabial at 8:37 PM on July 15, 2010

I just bring home lots of books that fit my wife's interests and break the internet connection at 10 pm every night.
posted by mecran01 at 10:17 PM on July 15, 2010

or you risk making reading unpleasant for her (and for your child as well, if you insist on it).

Oh god yes, you sound just like my mother: according to her worldview, being an 'intellectual' is the most important, almost the only, quality by which a person should be judged. Rarely do I have a long conversation with her in which she doesn't sneer at people who watch reality TV, listen to pop music, have tattoos, speak without perfect grammar, haven't heard of some famous author or scholar, etc.

I was raised in this moral climate and was a terrific student and considered myself an 'intellectual' in high school, but when I got to college, I just couldn't do it anymore--the stress of thinking that your character is determined by what you choose to do when alone during your free time became overwhelming. Then, on the other hand, I know people whose parents thought intellectualism was absurd, and that they should 'do something useful with their lives' who ended up being philosophy majors. Over the course of a few years, I watched as they discovered 'the intellectual life' for themselves, on their own terms. Their raw excitement and energy frankly made me envious: I often wonder what my relation to literature, art, philosophy, etc. would be if I had been allowed to find these things myself, rather than having been taught in no uncertain terms that in order to be a person of value, it was imperative that I appreciate them in the correct manner.

My mom is a wonderful woman and she did a lot right as a parent, but in this one aspect: don't be like my mom, either towards your wife (and I can hear the subtle disdain in my mother's voice when she mentions over the phone that my dad is watching the baseball game) or to your kid.
posted by notswedish at 2:44 PM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

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