In small, quiet corners of my home lie abandoned hobbies, waiting in a suspended state of “you never know.” In a kitchen cabinet, a stash of yarn remains from the crochet adventure of 2018 (not to be confused with the crochet effort of 2006 or knitting exploit of 2013). There are silent musical instruments, shrink-wrapped puzzles, and cake decorating tips that have never tasted sugar. They whisper “pick me up,” but who has the time?
For years, the corners claimed dusty, unread books. Once an avid reader, my hobby laid dormant after I had babies and lost my focus.
At book club, I would speak only when the group went on a tangent and walk away hoping it wasn’t too obvious (spoiler: it was obvious). At home, I could barely read a text message without getting distracted.
Halfheartedly scrolling through Facebook, I cringed every time I read humble-brag posts about crafting, marathons, or photography. It seemed every other message was about self care, but no one admitted the truth. For some of us, “me time” doesn’t fit into a realistic picture of early motherhood.
If we can barely sleep when the baby sleeps, we’re sure not going to crochet when the baby crochets.
I recently had a conversation with friends about hobbies. I realized that my experience of isolation was in fact a shared one. Many of us could have benefited by hearing, “it ain’t gonna happen . . . and that’s okay.”
These fellow moms said:
“I didn’t participate in hobbies when my children were younger. Trying to figure out how to fit another thing in brought more anxiety and stress than it alleviated. Now that my kids can function without constant supervision, I can participate in hobbies again, but it still takes planning, purposeful timing, and help from my spouse.”
“This is making me realize I don’t have any hobbies . . . likely because I feel like I don’t have time to make it a priority and haven’t had the support to prioritize that.”
My attention span improved. Gradually, I considered where there was space in my time and mental load to reintroduce hobbies and healthy habits.
I started with regular manicures — a small commitment to stay seated and feel pretty. Over time, I persevered at reading, and last year I started going to 5:30 a.m. workout classes. While the early alarm continues to offend, it has been worth it to start my day selfish.
In contrast to hours parenting and working, my favorite hobbies serve no one but myself.
“I don’t sleep. Literally. I’m up until 2 or 3 a.m. at least twice a week. I don’t recommend it but it’s the only way I can make enough hours in the day. I’d emphasize that my need for creativity to sustain my mental health is more important than sleep sometimes. In the past, when I’ve cut out creative hobbies to try to simplify my schedule, it really affects my mental health. It is my therapy and I need it.”
“I traded sleeping in for the gym and get up at 5 a.m. so I can go first thing in the morning.”
“I wake up an hour before my family to have that first cup of coffee while doing one of my favorite things: reading! No interruptions to start my day with one of my favorite things is worth going to bed a little earlier at night.”
The common theme was that rather than having generic “me time” we found habits and hobbies that were worth small sacrifices. Sleep is not the only priority surrendered.
I may have an impressive reading list, but I’m a terrible housekeeper. I’m not up to date on current shows or movies. My kids spend more time with screens than they should. In spite of that, I protect reading as a regular habit because it makes me feel grounded in a way few other things do.
“I make time to sew because it helps me keep my anxiety in check. It’s therapy for me, being able to focus on what I am making and forgetting the rest of the world for a while.”
“I go home for my one hour lunch break so I can eat a good meal and meditate to recharge daily (I really can tell a difference on the days we have lunch meetings).”
“I make the time to go for a run at least three times a week after work so that I can be healthy and give myself time to reflect on the day.”
So where does she find the time? Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes the time is carved out of shifting priorities and compromise.
Despite my commitment to reading and working out, there will likely always be yarn in my kitchen cabinet (at least figuratively). Self care is more multifaceted than an occasional nap or manicure. There will be times when “me time” isn’t realistic, or comes with real sacrifice.
As mothers and women, let’s talk about that more.