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I Listen to Books When I’m Sick of My Own Thoughts

I Listen to Books When I’m Sick of My Own Thoughts

As commonly happens with most moms, I worry about my kids. A lot.

It might be my teenage daughter, getting behind the wheel of a car again after her second fender-bender (Help! I can’t deal with this stress!) It might be a health issue my son is having. It might be a bad grade that needs to be pulled up immediately. It might be something less clear, such as worries about the state of the world.

It’s almost impossible to escape the noise.

Because most fears never come to pass – and because worry is only useful at all when followed by corrective action – I do my best to either go into “zombie mode” or into “learning mode.” That’s my coping technique. That creates either my quiet or my competence.

Zombie mode is easy. Crank up some Radiohead or Pink Floyd, and focus only on music while trudging through those “mom” tasks of cooking, cleaning, and the never-ending work of decluttering. For a few minutes, I have managed to…escape. An entire hour goes by and I don’t think about my daughter’s upcoming doctor’s appointment, or whether my son has been eating properly. 

Pretty good results. Pretty good. Zombie mode has its place.

But then…I realize there needs to be more to this coping stuff than simple escapism.

Zombies don’t know much, afterall. They don’t grow in knowledge. They are as mind-absent as any “living” thing can be. In this world of today – this complicated world where escapism is everywhere and Netflix, Spotify and self-care are the obsessions du jour – it soon feels as if I may be wasting hours…and days…and maybe even years if I’m not careful to parcel out those zombie hours and balance them with something more substantial.

Back when my kids were still in elementary school, I learned what that “something else” escape could be. It was audiobooks.

Back when I listened to my very first – the classic novel “Rebecca” by Daphne duMaurier – I was a holdout and a skeptic. The first few chapters didn’t sell me…I was distracted by the sound of the reader’s voice while I ironed shirts and folded towels. It took a few hours before I was roped in, but soon decided I loved reading-by-listening. As a serious reader, I’d always thought “listening” to a book was a form of…I dunno…cheating. 

It’s not. It’s enlightenment. 

It’s an enlargement of our world when we are too busy with raising kids to sit with a book in a cozy chair, with a fireplace crackling nearby and a warm cup of Earl Gray nestled in a knitted koozie. It expands our minds when we’re bored by the third load of towels or the second load of dishes. It brings the world into our four walls, which…let’s face it…can seem almost like a prison. This is especially true for parents who are stay-at-home, the way I was when the kids were young. 

Best of all, focused but alert listening is a way to keep the wolves of parental worry at bay. It’s the antidote to both zombie mode and worry mode. It’s…da bomb. 

Today, I spend quite a bit of time listening to audiobooks. Over the years, I’d often downloaded books from the website of my local library; I’m always allowed more free downloads than I’d have time to “read” each month. While I swept floors or pulled weeds in the garden, I learned about a cure for my child’s dietary issues; or ACT tests; or child psychology; or detailed techniques for meditation, which I always intend to practice, but rarely do. 

Here’s the point, though: When I’m ready, I will know how. I’ll be equipped. That’s the point of gaining knowledge; it should be a lifelong hobby. It’s a way to expend energy not on fretting, but on practical ways to solve the problems of your children, your home, and your own mind.

It’ll also keep you from sweating for six hours because your daughter has yet to return your text.

About The Author

Kara Bachman

Kara Bachman is a Managing Editor for Parents & Kids. She's also a book editor, former newspaper reporter, and is author of the humor essay collection, "Kissing the Crisis," which deals with the zanier aspects of parenting, relationships and turning 40. She's read her work on NPR radio and over 1,500 items have appeared in dozens of literary and commercial publications, including The Writer, The Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Nola.com, Dogster, Mississippi Magazine, American Fitness and many more. She's a New Orleans native, but lived for over a dozen years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including during 2005 when her house was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. She's a mom to two teenagers.

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