By Jessica T
The reading holidayUploaded: Apr 22, 2014
Now that I'm back at work, what I miss most about being on maternity leave is not my children. It's having the time to read. My leisure time is limited to a few hours a week, which makes this article unfathomable.
On a typical week night, after my kids are fed, bathed, and put to bed (by 7 pm!), I open my laptop to take care of whatever work is left over from my day and to tend to a little personal business. When I close the computer, it's usually time to hit the sack.
On maternity leave, I found time to read by slipping away to pump. If the babies took a well-timed nap in the afternoon, I could make a pot of tea and get in a well-caffeinated read (my favorite). In the evenings, I didn't "catch up" on serial TV programs on Netflix, I read books.
When I returned to work at the beginning of this year, I was not only refreshed but enlightened. I had new ways of looking at business problems. I could make intelligent conversation with my husband and friends about the arcs of stories. I went back to work with newfound energy and perspective. I was armed with new metaphors and history lessons from the tech industry. I kept a reading journal of the 21 books I read in 2013 - not bad for having worked four months and given birth to twins (and a blog!) I read novels, non-fiction, and poetry. My journal has my assessment of the book, what moved me, and what I learned.
This past weekend, when I needed an escape, I hid under the covers and read, alternating between two books. When my kids slept, I read. When my kids cried, I read. Judge me if you like, but I have always been up-front about the kind of mom I am.
It suddenly occurred to me that I didn't need a vacation, I needed a reading holiday. Remember those two days just before fall and spring midterms in college? I'd like to propose that tech companies in the valley could stand to gain a lot from granting their employees two days every six months for reading. Sure, some people would treat the extra time as vacation and use it to travel. But when do most people get their reading in for the year? When they are in airports and on beaches, of course!
Here's what tech companies stand to gain from reading holidays: First, literary fiction in particular has been proven to increase emotional intelligence, a quality that anyone working in the Valley can attest is woefully lacking. Second, reading spurs innovation; it forces you to "connect the dots," as Steve Jobs once said. It gives you the runway to make connections your brain may not have made without literary stimuli. Third, reading is both cerebral and relaxing, a leisure activity that any employer should support for its workforce.
This fall, I'm starting a movement and re-instituting a reading holiday for myself. Who's with me?