Hail to summer and the summer reading list!  A time for sublimely relaxing vacations, cuddling up with great booksIMG_1581 for hours on end, staring at the sea and the stars…who am I kidding?  I’ve got 3 and 5 year old boys.  Enough said.  Summer won’t be particularly relaxing.  But it WILL be fun and a good time to sneak in some awesome reading – even if the only place I open the books is on my metro commute.

I’ve discovered over time that I’m a particularly “sensitive” reader, in that what I’m in the middle of reading – even in small snippets – has a profound and deep impact on my mood for the day and general feelings about my life and the world.  Knowing this about myself makes me more conscious of my book choices, and I’ve found quite a few that have led me to more calmness and joy, in a life where I wear a bunch of different hats (mother, wife, lawyer, entrepreneur, teacher, coach…).

Here’s my recommended summer reading list – books that have helped me plan better, feel calmer, and generally get my head on straight(er) as a working mama.

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte

  • Why read it? It’s the current BIBLE for understanding the life of working parents.  It’s as fascinating as it is readable.
  • Favorite quote? (hard to choose, as I’ve dog-eared about 50 pages – here, Brigid is quoting Eugene O’Kelly, former CEO, KPMG) “What if I hadn’t worked so hard?  What if…I had actually used…my position to be a role model for balance?  Had I done so intentionally, who’s to say that, besides having more time with my family, I wouldn’t also have been even more focused at work?  More creative?  More productive?  It took inoperable late stage brain cancer to get me to examine things from this angle.”

Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenting, by Allyson Downey

  • Why read it?  You’re pregnant or a new working parent, and you’re learning the logistical ropes of planning for maternity leave, returning, and finding family-friendly workplaces.  I love her check-lists related to things like “Questions to ask HR” before you go on maternity leave, and the straight up pros and cons of the various childcare options.
  • Favorite quote? “…[E]very day that you put yourself out there as the rock star you are, you’re poking a hole in someone’s unconscious bias against mothers.  They might not be aware of it – you might not be aware of ti – but you’re registering as someone who delivers, no matter the circumstances….When you share an idea that’s a game changer or finish a project that’s challenged all of your colleagues, you’re offering proof positive that whether or not you have a child isn’t part of the equation that calculates professional success.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené Brown

  • Why read it?  Because we can all learn a thing or two about vulnerability, and we are all daring greatly at this parenthood thing.  Her title quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s speech (“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the area, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”)
  • Favorite quote?  Her “Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto” (see pages 244-45), the last line of which reads, “I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you.  Truly, deeply, seeing you.”

Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life, by Renée Peterson Trudeau

  • Why read it?  I read this book while nursing my youngest (and, truth be told, holding him for various weekend naps), and just the act of reading it calmed me down.  Trudeau is great at helping you assess what’s working and not in your own family life, giving great journaling prompts, and encouraging baby steps toward change.
  • Favorite quote? “Our kids’ behavior is inextricably tried to our emotional well-being.  If things around us are in disequilibrium or are out of sync, we need to have the courage to examine if we’re in disequilibrium.  What’s going on with our inner world, our lens, and how we’re viewing life in general?  Often this becomes a wake-up call to begin to parent more consciously and to explore if a course correction is needed on our part.”

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, by Katrina Kenison

  • Why read it? It’s beautiful bedtime reading.  Each chapter is an exquisitely written essay, perfect for soaking in one at a time before bed each night.  Kenison helped me as a new mama to calm down, zoom out, and view the beauty of motherhood from a new perspective.
  • Favorite quote? “One of my greatest challenges each day is to sustain an atmosphere in our home that nourishes not only our bodies and intellects, but our inner lives as well.  To do so, I need to have some kind of vision of where the ideal really lies.  I need a sense of balance.  So I ask myself, How do I want to be in the world?  How shall my children spend their days?  How will I spend my own?  I’ve learned that when I’m uncertain myself of what we really need or want, I tend to charge ahead, swept up in the busyness of life.  But when I take the time to examine our choices – when I make decisions thoughtfully and from the heart- I almost always end up paring down and cutting back, doing less and enjoying it more.”

Delight: Eight Principles for Living with Joy and Ease, by Pleasance Silcki

  • Why read it?  This short e-book helps you step back from “crazy busy” to think about how you might live in a different way.  I loved Silicki’s personal stories, practical self-care exercises, and straightforward thoughts on how to live a more mindful life.
  • Favorite quote?  “When people ask you, ‘How are you?’ – instead of the same old, “Crazy busy!”       answer, try saying, ‘Good.  I live with joy and ease.’  If you don’t see your life that way quite yet, don’t worry.  You will.  Open your mind and heart and think the mantra, ‘It’s possible.’”

And a bonus!  What am I in the middle of reading right now?  Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.  I’m about half way through and am loving it.  Favorite quote so far?  “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” Here’s to a summer of reflection, slowing down, and happy reading.

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