What are your hobbies?
It’s a question that is often asked on job applications and in social conversations, and lately, it seems to be a question that is tied to “self-care.” Usually, my answer is “reading and writing,” but despite the fact that we are sold the mantra to do what we love, it is the very fact that I love these two things and that they are so closely related to what I do for a living that I do not actually consider them to be hobbies.
I love to write, and I joined New Orleans Mom to motivate myself to write more, but beyond my posts for this site, I don’t have much to show for this passion. Most of my writing is personal and journalistic in nature, not something I wish to share with friends or family, and while I’ve tried my hand at poetry and fiction, I’m way too self-critical to ever do anything with them. Similarly, while I absolutely love to read, most of the time I’m reading something to teach, and reading for pleasure only happens during school breaks. I wish I could return to the avid reading of my youth, but the truth is, I’m a tired teacher-mom, and Netflix requires less brainpower when I’m trying to relax.
I guess I am hindered by this notion that hobbies should be something different and separate from what you do for a living, and I don’t really have anything like that.
Perhaps I hold this belief because my parent’s hobbies were so visible and so separate from their jobs. My dad started out as a forestry major, and though he ultimately ended up in corporate logistics, he never let go of his love for nature. Many weekends and vacations in my childhood were spent hiking and canoeing. He also had a garden in our back yard, and I loved to help him in the garden, often getting in trouble for eating the peas right out of the pods when I was supposed to be picking them for dinner. My mom is an accountant, but she loves arts and crafts. She made all of my Halloween costumes growing up, she often made custom gifts for my friends and me, and if she couldn’t find exactly what she was looking for in a store, she’d end up making it. She will still make me anything I ask for.
Both of my parents had obvious hobbies and shared them with me, and this may be another part of my struggle to find hobbies. Although I can’t keep a plant alive to save my own life, and my mother says she could never teach me to sew or knit because I’m left-handed and everything ended up inside out or backward, I appreciated that my parents involved me in their hobbies when I was growing up. Unfortunately, that is not something I feel I do well, or even know how to do, with my own children. Neither one of my girls has expressed a strong interest in anything yet (perhaps because they don’t see me enjoying a hobby), so I can’t just decide to love what they love, and my attempts to share my love of reading and writing with them haven’t gone well.
It’s embarrassing to admit as an English teacher, but I genuinely do not enjoy reading to my children. When my oldest was younger, I read to her a lot, but as soon as she learned to talk and ask questions, reading to her became exasperating. Often her statements and questions had nothing to do with what we were reading, and I found that constant interruptions to be incredibly frustrating. I wanted to focus on and talk about the story, and her inability/refusal to do so sucked the joy out of the shared experience for me. My younger child is slightly better when it comes to reading, but she prefers interactive books, and I’d rather snuggle up with a good storybook. It doesn’t help that, usually, when my children see me reading, I am reading something I am preparing to teach (pen, highlighter, and notebook handy) or I am reading articles on my phone (which they can’t distinguish from Facebook scrolling or online shopping). My kids see my reading as work or distraction, not as something I do for pleasure, and though I’ve tried changing that, I also can’t stand being asked a thousand questions when I dare to sit on the couch and read a good novel.
Sharing my love for writing hasn’t been any easier. My kids see me writing my posts (and writing lesson plans), but I don’t really share my writing with them because their age group isn’t exactly my target audience. When my daughter enjoyed writing her own book in first grade, I tried to encourage interest. I bought her story cubes and cards, drawing books, draw and write tablets and even some little blank books, but her interest faltered quickly, and those items have collected dust on her bookshelf for the last two years. I hope my youngest might share my love, but right now we’re just working on sight words, and though imaginative, her stories don’t track easily enough for me to transcribe them.
I’d love to find a hobby I can share with my girls or simply one I can enjoy myself while showing them, a little more visibly, the importance of doing things you enjoy. And now that my girls are a little more independent, I am making an effort to find such a hobby. Maybe I’ll try my hand at gardening like my dad, or maybe I’ll rent a kayak and tour the Three Rivers. Maybe I’ll discover a new and unexpected interest. Give me some ideas.