Monday, November 11, 2019

Can Hobbies & Parenting Coexist?

The comforter was pulled up to my neck and I breathed deeply, sinking further into the mattress. With the rolling wave of each contraction, my body was preparing to push out a squirming baby boy. As I lay there, my eyes closed, I heard my toddler scamper into the bedroom.

Is mommy at the coffee shop? he asked my husband, not noticing my figure huddled under the blankets.

Even at just two years of age, my son had noticed my habit of regularly taking time to pursue my hobbies. My simple action, of waking up early a few mornings a week to slip into the frosty air and drive down the street to the local coffee shop, was observed by this small human being. Our actions speak volumes to our children, and over time, impart wisdom that we may never be able to convey through our words.

Countless people have been rather surprised when they hear that my husband plays video games. Not only that, but he even is involved (in varying levels of attendance) in the competitive gaming scene. Some people even appear to be in awe that I "let" my husband play video games.

Many women have expressed to me that I like to read books like you, but I haven't done that since becoming a mom. They're tired and worn out from caring for their kids and household duties, so doing any reading "for fun" is placed on a backburner-and rarely happens.

I realize that some people are in situations which do not allow them to get out by themselves. Military families, single parents, and families where one or both parents work multiple jobs may experience a lack of "free time" or be unable to leave the kids with someone (especially if no relatives live in the area). There are also, unfortunately, situations where one spouse is not supportive of the other and makes it difficult-or even impossible-for that person to ever get a break. 

However, there are also some people who experience the obstacle of a mentality that much of our American parenting culture has. It seems like there's this idea that when someone becomes a parent, he or she can no longer have "fun," unless it involves his or her children. We schedule our lives around naptimes and playdates. We hunt for educational and leisurely activities for our children. We throw ourselves completely into our children's lives, with the resolve to make sure that they feel loved and cared for. However, We may become so preoccupied with entertaining our kids and making sure that they have an enjoyable childhood, that eventually we can find ourselves wondering when the last time is that we ever did anything "for fun."

What kind of message are we sending to other people-and to our kids-if they never see parents doing leisurely activities? Our kids see more than we know, and they learn from what they notice.
What might happen if our kids see us expressing our interests and passions through hobbies? What if our children heard us playing the piano-not to teach them how to play-but for our own enjoyment and expression? What if our children spotted us whittling a piece of wood, forming pottery, or sewing a cloak? Could a sight like this possibly show our children that their parents are people? People with interests and passions and an innate gift of creativity? 

It seems that some people are under the impression that a "hobby" will naturally become an all-consuming obsession; that one's spouse will only pursue that interest, and not devote himself or herself to the rest of the family. While this can happen, it does not necessarily need to happen. Self-control and honest (and charitable) communication is vital.

Hobbies can be good because they show our children the importance of living an integrated life; one that consists of nurturing our mind, body, and soul. Furthermore, hobbies can be good because they refresh us. I've found that when I push open the front door and step into the house after my "coffee shop writing time," I feel like a new woman. Even though I've been awake for a few hours already, I am energized. If I pull out the sewing machine to work on a project "for fun," I am filled with joy. Not only do hobbies and creative activities like this refresh me, but they also are a way that I can honor and respect who I am: a woman made in the image and likeness of God, the Creator of all. I can feed my mind, heart, and soul through my pursuit of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in various hobbies.

Take a moment to find some silence and think about your gifts, your passions, and that "thing" you've always been meaning to do for fun. Then, go do it. Talk with your spouse openly about how important this is to you-and support your spouse in finding ways to pursue his or her own hobbies. Carve our some time and do this one thing for yourself. Perhaps it just involves curling up with a video tutorial and a crochet hook for 20 minutes as you try to learn to crochet a hat. Maybe it involves taking a class. Alternatively, maybe it just requires that you have your art or knitting or whittling supplies handy to work on while the kids play in the evening. Or, perhaps involves visiting a tea house or coffee shop by yourself with a good book or a sketch pad. If you need childcare, but have no childcare options (or no budget for hiring a sitter) perhaps you could find a friend and take turns watching each other's kids.

Parents: you matter. It is okay to have your own interests. It is okay to learn about and discuss topics other than diapers, parenting, and baby milestones. It is okay to regularly step back and do your own hobbies while your kids play nearby. It is okay to do something "for fun" that won't earn any money for your family or boost your social media presence. Not only that, but it can be good for you to do these things. Maybe you will find yourself refreshed, energized, and inspired. And maybe, just maybe, your kids will come to see that it is possible to have personal hobbies once people become parents.
***If you need some more encouragement on this topic, I personally enjoyed reading One Beautiful Dream, by Jennifer Fulwiler.


  1. I wonder if the American mentality you talk about is why so many parents stop after 1 or 2 kids...they want to get back to giving themselves time and space to grow and enjoy life. You're right that it's a both/and situation. Hobbies for parents can totally enrich the lives of the children by making the parents happier people as well as letting the kids see a broad range of enjoyment and growth by their parents!

    1. That is such a great point, Laura! I wouldn't be surprised if this mentality affected some people's view towards having kids. I'd be interested to see how this topic is addressed in other cultures-to see if people are more open to having kids in countries where personal passions are encouraged even once the kids come along.

    2. I would guess that in other cultures, parents continue both their hobbies and chores and just include/involve the children or encourage them to play on their own. I feel like American "helicopter" parenting as well as our desires to raise our children as prodigies (or is it proteges?) makes us compartmentalize our lives instead of have them all run together in a good way. Just my random thoughts!

  2. I think we are better parents when we have those moments to refresh ourselves with hobbies (or even just some "me time" away from our kids). Having said this, I'm terrible at actually doing it! I have a hard time finding time for it and I tend to feel guilty when I do.

    1. I agree-I am definitely a better mom when I get some "me time"! Just last week, most of us were under the weather over here, and my husband had a lot of work (and the kids refused to nap/have quiet time), so I didn't get my usual time alone. And it was a lot more challenging to be patient and relaxed! But when I get time away (and put it on the calendar) it makes me a much more patient, much better mom.

      I hope that you are able to find a way to get some time to yourself! Maybe your husband can help you figure out a good time for you to regularly do that.

  3. Such a great and important topic to discuss! I completely agree with all of what you wrote. I find that it is so easy to get lost in "mommy-land" and in the process, forget to care for ourselves. I am still trying to find that balance but reading that you go to a coffee shop on a regular basis is so inspiring and makes me want to carve out time for that too! Enjoyed this post!! :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Elisabeth! It's amazing how kids-from teeny tiny little ones to bigger, more self-sufficient ones-can consume all of our thoughts and energy! I've found that it can be hard to have the mental energy to try to figure out when I can go out and relax. Something that's been very helpful is to make it a normal, 1-2 times a week occurrence. Because getting out to the coffee shop alone is part of our typical schedule/routine, it doesn't require as much mental energy for me to figure out ;) Hopefully you can find something that works for you!

  4. Yesss.. caring for children can feel all-consuming at times! That is a great idea.. I agree that scheduling it in the calendar assures that it will happen. Thanks for the encouragement! :)