6 ways I found time for my favorite hobby again after having a kid

November 5 2013 | Guest post by Thekla Richter
Photo by Anita Nowacka.
I knew before my kid was born that I would get less sleep and have less free time after having a baby. I didn't realize how hard it would be to lose my creativity for a while. It felt like losing a piece of my soul. During what we've since dubbed the Era of No Sleep, I was exhausted. What energy I had went almost entirely towards caring for my family. I connected with friends and took breaks, but I did not drum, dance, or engage in any of the myriad of crafts I've always loved dabbling in.

At some point, things began to get a wee bit easier. I realized that while I wasn't "ready," I still had to find a way to show up again for my creative self to stay sane. So when the kiddo was about six months old, I finally started going to drum circles again and playing my drum at home.

Returning to my beloved drum felt like a huge effort at first, but overall the effort gave me more energy than it consumed. And the more I got used to doing it, the less energy it took to get started. Is it easy to make a little time for my drumming? Nope. But is it worthwhile? For me, absolutely. Do you know in your heart that it's time (or past time) to start reclaiming the hobby that lights up your heart the way drumming lights up mine? Here are the lessons I've learned on how to mix hobbies and busy lives sustainably.

Start with just one activity

Adding even a little more time for hobbies might mean a lot of changes to your life. Start those changes gently with just one activity at a time so that you can learn how to best shift other things to make space as you go.

Get out

Making time for hobbies is toughest when you are at home where distractions abound, so create a regular time to enjoy your hobby elsewhere. Stepping away for a while will free you to fully focus on what you are doing, and you will be able to draw upon that feeling of focus when you are doing your hobby at home. Planning time away, preferably at the same time every week or month, also makes it easier to stick to your intention and not put off your hobby time.

Do it at home

Unless you get out of the house a lot more than I do, having a vibrant hobby means doing it at home as well. The key to success is to think small, stay flexible and keep showing up. Seek out small pieces of time. Practice dipping into your hobby for fifteen or even five minutes. Create routines that support hobby time. Spend less time on activities that numb you rather than fulfill you.

Dedicate space

Needing to gather things up from all over the house or dig them out from a messy area can make you hesitate to get started and add unnecessary stress. Create and organize a small space just for storing your hobby supplies and projects, if your hobby includes tangible objects. It can be as small as a drawer or a shelf. Make it easy to get started.

Consider family-friendly adjustments

Does your hobby seem impossible right now? What part do you love most and how could you bring some of that into your life with ease? Think about what you can do and open your mind to adaptations and variations, rather than dismissing your hobby outright. Get specific, overcome obstacles and make plans.

Include your family

My son loves helping me get dressed up for drum circles. And when we are at home, we sometimes have "drum circles" of our own on kid instruments. Occasionally I've taken him to the more family-friendly drum events in town. Even if you are mostly doing your hobby away from your child, if you can find a way to include them a little bit as well, they might be engaged and inspired by it… and surprisingly supportive.

Engage with your spouse or partner (if you have one) about supporting one another in having time for hobbies or other individual pursuits. If you make the conversation about both of you getting your needs met, rather than your needs alone, you can work together to both be happier.

It's okay if you're not ready

It took me a few tries to get into the groove again. I had to wait until the time was right and life had calmed down just a bit. Nudge yourself forward, but don't push yourself too hard if you are not ready. Your hobbies will be there. Your creative work and play should nurture you, not become another obligation.

Nurturing a hobby while also being a busy person — be it with children, work, whatever — is tough but it can be done, and it's worthwhile. Do you make time for a hobby? How do you make your hobby happen for yourself?

  1. My husband and I have an arrangment: We each get one evening a week to ourselves. One of us watches the kid and holds down the fort for a few hours while the other one gets to do whatever their heart desires. He usually takes Mondays and and plays card games like L5R with his friends. When it's my day, I might listen to 90's music and cook, watch a movie, work on a craft project, or just take a nap. It's worked out pretty well so far and has become a regular part of our routine. Those few hours each week have helped us both maintain our sanity and identities.

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    • We do this too! It's such a nice break in the week, and we even look forward to the other's night out (it's nice to have Netflix to yourself while eating cheezies in bed).

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      • Making self-time part of your regular family routine like that is so awesome because then it doesn't slide down on the priority list by accident. I also love having new + exciting stuff to talk about with my husband when we go out and do things on our own.

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  2. "Your hobbies will be there" is such great advice. I had a hard time getting back to yoga after my maternity leave ended and my teacher told me "your practice will be here". It really put things in perspective for me – yoga's not going anywhere! Although I felt like I was taking quite a bit of time off, now that I've been back at the mat for a year, that break seems insignificant in my lifelong journey.

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  3. "I realized that while I wasn't "ready," I still had to find a way to show up again for my creative self to stay sane."

    This, this, this, THIS. It's so easy to hide behind how much effort it will take to get up and dust off the things you love to do that you forget how much you need those hobbies and fun bits in life.

    I just wanted to add that this sort of mentality isn't just confined to new parents; it can apply to any new relationship, and it definitely applies to those of us who struggle with depression, anxiety, and a bevvy of other health concerns ranging from the physical to the mental. The advice here applies to all of it.

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  4. My baby is rapidly approaching 2 (!) and I still struggle with this a lot. I always feel like I need to prioritize things like errands and chores over taking some 'me' time that involves getting away from the house.
    It doesn't help that my partner seems to think that going to the grocery store/other stores for errands counts as fun-away-from-toddler time.

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    • Hi Tasha, thanks for commenting! It can be so hard and frustrating when a partner doesn't seem to understand our need for self-care, and hard also to take time for ourselves when there are so many undone chores (and there are always so many undone chores). If you had two hours out of the house for yourself, and didn't use it for chores, do you know what you would specifically want to do? Sometimes I find that getting extremely specific about exactly what one next thing I want to do for myself, and how much time I need in order to do it, can make it easier to schedule it on the calendar and line up any needed support… whether it ends up being from your partner, another family member, or even a fellow mom who'd love to swap childcare with you for a few hours so *she* can get out too. I hope that you're able to find a way to get more of what you are wanting for yourself right now with less struggle. Sympathies to you! This can be hard stuff.

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      • I have a few ideas – like getting back into a regular yoga class, if I can find one that a) I can afford & b) is at a time that does not conflict with other obligations.

        Other hobbies I never really dropped (like knitting & crochet) but I mostly do them at night after munchkin has gone to bed, and since I'm still around if needed, it doesn't really feel like time off, y'know?

        Since we don't have any family nearby or a regular babysitter, so we mostly rely on each other to watch the munchkin. Partner has a regular thing with friends most Sunday afternoons-thru-evenings, which I'd have to schedule my thing around, in addition to groceries, etc, due to lack of physical supports nearby.

  5. I think that sometimes people don't have hobbies to go "back" to, and they want to find something to do while also being so busy. I know that was true for my husband. He never really had a hobby – he'd get together with his friends for beers, or to watch the game, or sometimes played on a floor hockey team, but there was nothing that he was passionate about. So once we had kids and settled into a routine that was a lot less about going out with the guys (because time. because money.) he just spent a lot of time at night watching TV. He wasn't unhappy about that, but it was a rut. I finally told him that he had to get a hobby – anything, really – and suggested brewing beer. It took him a while to get started, but now he loves it. It's not super time consuming, but he reads about it, looks forward to the next brew, is super proud and happy when his beer turns out great, etc.

    Honestly, I don't even remember what I did for hobbies pre-kids (sometimes a dance class, often went to the gym) but I've been SO. MUCH. HAPPIER now that I've been adding stuff back in. I now knit a bunch and cross stitch. I picked up running and shockingly love it. I'm training for my second triathlon. I read books for fun.

    I promise, if you want to do this stuff, you can find the time. I work full time, have a husband who is recovering from his second round of chemotherapy, have two dogs and have two kids. I'm busy. But I still get a decent amount of sleep, eat 95% of meals at home from scratch, and I do stuff for myself. If you a) make it a priority and b) turn off the TV (or find something that can be done in front of the TV!) it'll happen.

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  6. I have been struggling for about a decade now with finding time for my many "hobbies" (i.e. the things that are most important to me, but take a backseat because I don't live in a place where hobbies are easy to live on). I'm glad you mentioned that this post is not just for moms. I work full time, and that is PLENTY of challenge for me, and a huge road block in my creative life.

    Part of why I don't want to be a mother is because this struggle is such an enormous issue for me even as a childless person. I cannot fathom having yet another (even more important) reason to have less time for my many "hobbies" (painting, photography, writing, yoga, jewelry making, paper arts, ceramics….the list goes on and I am passionate about all of it!).

    I have an art studio in my (recently new) home, and it has actually been getting some tiny use lately, so I can vouch for the "making space" factor being helpful.

    I have also been making the time to "get out" because as adults, we establish such routines and run ourselves so ragged, that being home all too often means simply crashing in PJs in front of the TV, after long hours at the office. Getting out,, buying tickets to something, or paying a fee to go to a class, seminar, show, etc creates a commitment and time/space set aside for your passion. It also opens the door for being inspired by other creative people (or athletic, etc…whatever your jam is) which can be a tremendous reinforcement of what makes you you. Sometimes we just need to step outside of ourselves and our homes, and make distinct plans in order to really do our thing.

    I schedule my passions in on Google calendar, and tell someone (my husband usually) to create some accountability for myself. If I come right home after work instead of going to the literary event I told him about, for example, he is going to ask why, and show concern. It's like an absentee running buddy or something. Accountability goes a long way for me. Newly married, I'm re-learning many of my adulting habits based on this realization. Also, I use Facebook to inspire myself with other people's passions and events, and commit to engaging that way (simply clicking "Going" on someone's event page usually means I *am* actually going because I said I was).

    As a painter, it's so hard to want to get all messy and squeeze out some paint when I only have 15-20 minutes to spare, but establishing a routine, and getting back in the groove is the hardest part, so it's worth it to do it regularly, even if it's cut short and you waste supplies.

    As they say in yoga (and as applies to all life), getting yourself on the mat is the hardest part. I like to leave my mat unrolled in the middle of my art studio. Even if I just stand on it and do a single pose, it reinforces my commitment to myself and the things that matter to me. Do you, mamas, papas, and everyone else! It means so much.

    • We're all busy, parents and non-parents, and with so many demands on us prioritizing the stuff that makes us awesome is a challenge. Yay for you for showing up on that mat, and setting up rituals and a low bar to entry. Showing up + starting every day is key to making it all happen. Love the idea of leaving your mat out, like a sweet invitation to yourself.

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