As a working parent, you’re familiar with putting the needs of others before your own. You take care of your family first, and by working hard in your career, you often prioritize your clients’, managers’, and employer’s time before carving out time for yourself.
But, as cliché as it may seem, airlines have it right when they advise you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. After all, we’re no good to anyone else if our energy is depleted. This is an especially difficult challenge during this time of social isolation, work from home, and eroding barriers between work and family time. One way we can better take care of ourselves — and by extension, others — is by spending some time tending to our own needs. A great way to do that is by taking on a hobby.
北京快3Many parents probably feel like they don’t have time for a hobby right now. But considered broadly, a hobby is simply the intentional, purposeful use of the time you do have for yourself (however short that window may be). Hobbies don’t just take our mind off our stressors, they can help us meet our work and life challenges. Among other benefits, hobbies can help us:
Relax and recharge
My neighbor has a stressful job dealing with family-related mental health and trauma — the kind of work that could easily overwhelm. I most often see her in the evenings as she peacefully tends to her garden. She tells me that the consistent time she spends outside, doing the many simple things to help her vegetables grow, helps take her mind off her work. This improves her mood so she can be a more present parent and return to work more enthusiastically the next day.
Hone new skills
Many hobbies involve study and practice of things we find enjoyable. If we pluck away at a guitar for an hour every other day, we can learn new songs, develop our skills, and get the intrinsic satisfaction of improving, even if no one else hears us play. The fact that we get better at something through hard work is intrinsically satisfying. We can also intentionally choose new hobbies to learn different skills, such as photography, brushing up on your high-school Spanish, or starting a blog. Sometimes these new skills become things we can apply more broadly in our lives and jobs, or can even start us on a new career.
Become better problem-solvers
北京快3Ever get stuck on a work problem, and then get the needed bolt of inspiration while folding the laundry? Solutions often come to us when we shift from focused thinking to . Sometimes the best strategy is to take our mental focus off a problem — giving our brains an opportunity to subconsciously and creatively problem solve — all while we bake bread or build new bookshelves.
Connect with others
We can use hobbies to spend valuable time with important people in our lives and to support the people around us. If, like most working parents, you don’t spend enough time with friends, you can use a hobby to create more social time. Why not get three of your friends to sign up for the same yoga class? Or, when you can’t go to the studio, find a class you can all do over video. This way, you get regularly scheduled exercise and time with friends every week.
北京快3Hobbies can also provide more opportunities to spend time with family. If you and your spouse or partner feel like you need more time together that doesn’t involve chores or taking care of the kids, look for something you can do that you might both enjoy. Shared hobbies like reading the same book, going on nature walks, or figuring out how to roast, grind, and brew the perfect cup of coffee together can be an investment in your relationship.
北京快3Many working parents also want the time they’re spending with their kids to be more meaningful. Developing a common hobby with them is a great way to carve out quality time and to . My family has been baking together a lot during our social isolation, but you can also consider art projects, a new LEGO set, or researching family history. Fun activities with you and your kids also provide unexpected opportunities for honest conversations, laying the groundwork for more adult relationships with them later on.
Finally, hobbies are a great way to meet others in your neighborhood and to contribute to your community — even virtually. Getting involved with a local charity or church group can help you develop skills, make friends, and give back to others. For example, my gardening neighbor met a lot of friends at our town’s community garden, and she and her husband work with a community group to improve our local park. These days, many local schools and organizations are ramping up fundraising, food drives, and deliveries to the elderly and housebound. In many cases, you can even be involved online ( could be a helpful resource for getting started).
Keep in mind that you won’t gain the benefits of hobbies unless you commit to them. Carve out regularly scheduled times for hobbies and protect that time as you would an important business meeting or family matter. We are far more likely to follow through on a plan if we make it a set part of our schedule. Otherwise, it is easy to put off important activities because something more urgent pops up or because we’re feeling lazy. You may love knitting, but a call from work might scuttle your plan. But if you joined a weekly knitting circle (even ), you’ll shut off your phone for that hour. If you enjoy playing basketball, don’t just hope for a pick-up game every now and then — join a league at your local Y. Or sign up for a spin or cooking class. While some of these options may not be available during social distancing, many organizations are offering virtual options, through online workout sessions or video-led teaching. Whatever your hobby, find a way to make it a regularly scheduled part of your week and then defend that time.
Then, communicate with your family about this time, and make arrangements. Before the pandemic, my weekly Monday night volleyball league was my haven. I could concentrate on the game, exercise, and enjoy time with friends. The fact that Monday night was volleyball night meant that my wife and I would schedule around it, making it much more likely that I could make almost every session. I got my work done ahead of time or saved tasks for Tuesday. Sometimes we hired a sitter for our son. And even though I may not be able to get to the volleyball court now, I make regular time for other hobbies, including Wednesday night Zoom happy hour with several local friends and a beer, and solo bike rides around my neighborhood. I’m a much better husband and father when I get to , and I’m a better professor for my students when I get enough time away.
北京快3Obviously, picking up or recommitting to a hobby won’t solve all of your work-life balance challenges. But a hobby can be one important part of the puzzle. Work-life balance is a multivariate problem requiring a multifaceted solution. By scheduling some time for our own needs, we get better at rising to the challenge.
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