I love to be creative. It’s what makes me feel most alive— most like myself. When I’m not making things, I end up turning inward and finding things about myself I don’t like. My self esteem and body image begin to plummet. But when I am exercising my talents and abilities, I am happy and feel fulfilled as a person. While I might be inept in a lot of other ways, my strengths and capabilities are able to shine through my hobbies and give me a sense of accomplishment. This is why I’ve worked so darn hard on the dollhouse I’ve been sharing with you. No— it’s not because I have too much time on my hands (Ha. Ha.), and no, it’s not because I’m an amazing mother. It’s because I discovered I really enjoy making miniatures and was absolutely thrilled to my core when doing so.
Recently, I’ve been impressed with lots of feelings about adults and hobbies. And the sad fact is, not many adults see the value in hobbies. I’ve seen husbands discourage wives from putting money into hobbies because their hobby won’t bring any money into their household. I’ve had people express to me their desires to build a dollhouse, but end up admitting they wouldn’t because they don’t have children to enjoy it. As if the only value in a hobby is in its practicality or end purpose. This mentality is so ultra American. Our history is built around pragmatism, and it’s hard to not let that influence the way we live our adults lives.
Children are encouraged to explore all kinds of hobbies- art, dancing, athletics, music, clubs, and more. Often within clubs, they’re encouraged to give back to the community, whether through volunteering, organizing donation efforts for those in need, or raising awareness for rare diseases. Kids are often doing way more than adults these days. But I’m not here to talk about the kids. I’m here to ask, why are the kids having all the fun? Why are the majority of adults working a job they don’t enjoy and returning home to watch television they sort of enjoy? Why do we feel the only way to justify having a hobby is if it can earn extra money? When we encourage children to pursue their interests, is it only to eventually help them decide which career to pursue? Because let’s be real, most people aren’t actually able to turn their hobby into a paying job, much less a full-time one. So do those people just abandon those things that make them multi-faceted, happy individuals once they become an adult? Are we expected to work jobs we tolerate, or sometimes hate, only to return home and escape into a televised world featuring people who are out living their lives to the fullest and exploring their passions? Why are adults pressured to find their fulfillment in their work, and if they can’t do that, to just exist and help their children eventually live a better life?
I’m curious how many adults you know have hobbies. I’m definitely privileged to have grown up in a lower middle class family where healthy adulting was modeled for me- hobbies included. My dad designs robots by day (how cool is he?!), and my mom worked a variety of retail jobs throughout my childhood, when she wasn’t staying home to home school me and my brother. My dad is a woodworking hobbyist, has volunteered to build a track and organize pinewood derby style races for local churches, hosts a card club once a month with his buddies, and sings bass in a traveling men’s quartet. My mother plays the piano for local choirs and for special recording events, she organizes musical programs at our church, has a book study every Sunday evening and card club once a month with friends. My parents are both avid readers and enjoy traveling too. You’d think all of that means we’ve been pretty busy as a family, but we really weren’t. We usually sat down at the dinner table together as a family, and I was able to learn about a lot of my own talents and passions by joining my parents in theirs. To this day, my dad and I spend hours together in the garage building things, and I know without his influence I wouldn’t be as interested in wood working, and definitely not as proficient.
As I typed that last paragraph, I was impressed by how privileged I really am to have had such amazing parents, but it also challenges me to create a similar childhood for my girls. Yes, it’s important to play with my children and invest my time in them, but it’s also important for me to spend time alone and investing in ME. That means I find babysitters at least once a week, I end up staying up far too late at night, and I will trade kids with local friends to have some time alone. With my alone time, I’m often tempted to unwind by eating a treat, drinking hot coffee, and watching television, but I am actually most fulfilled when I am being creative. So that’s what I do! Lately it’s been the dollhouse. What an adventure that’s been!
So how do we rationalize having hobbies, when our lives are already so full to the brim? How can we justify the expense of craft supplies, music lessons, or league fees when our budget is as tight as can be? I have a few ideas which have helped me. As far as justification goes, you have to find the value in having a hobby. I look at my hobbies as essential to my health and happiness. Do you invest money in healthy foods because you see the value in your resulting quality of health? That’s sort of how I view the time and money required to have a hobby. Do you see a therapist to work through your emotional issues or dissatisfaction with your life? Not that a hobby would replace a therapist for mental or extreme emotional issues, but working with my hands has certainly helped me work through a lot of my self esteem issues.
But how do I find the time for my hobbies? I admit— I stay up sometimes until 4am because of the creative pull which sometimes feels impossible to escape. That’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. But lately I’ve been thinking of ways I can find time in my day by whittling time away from other necessities. For instance, we finally got a freezer to put in our garage so I can spend way less time cooking. When I make food, I can make double or triple the amount and put the extras in the freezer. Making food in bulk has been a huge time saver for me, and also helps us save money on takeout when we haven’t had time to cook. Other ways I’ve found to save time is to spend less of it on social media, or setting a timer when I’m browsing the internet so I don’t spend more time than I’ve allotted. I try to be efficient in my shopping trips as well, and have learned to say no to things I really don’t want to do, but would’ve said yes to in the past because of fear, guilt, or obligation. (That’s a whole ‘nother discussion for another day!) If you’re having trouble finding ways to shave time off your day, utilize social media and ask your friends for their best time-saving advice. Maybe spend a few days tracking the time you spend doing things and review it your logs later so you are able to see where you are wasting time on non-necessities and unfilfilling things that could be better spent exploring a hobby or doing something more fulfilling.
And what about money? Well, this is a sticky thing, because everyone’s budgets and financial goals are different. But since my husband and I have been on a budget, I’ve finally been able to spend money without guilt. That might sound backwards, but think about it: If I have a set amount of money each month to spend on whatever I want, I can spend that and not feel like I shouldn’t— because it’s already been set aside for this purpose. Because everything is budgeted, I don’t find money disappearing during Target trips or at coffee shop drive throughs, because I keep a watchful eye on every penny spent. That means I can make my money do what I want, instead of what genius marketers (Target Target TARGET!) want me to spend it on. We still have debt we’re diligently paying off each month (student loans— UGH), but we’ve found ways to save money on things we need to buy by doing things like shopping around for the best insurance rates and shopping at discount grocery stores (like Aldi), and we’ve also cut out things that we don’t need, such as cable TV and gym memberships (we still exercise at home). We’ve also found ways to increase our earning so that our budget has some wiggle room for fun things that we can spend money on, even while we aggressively pay off debt. The trick is to not let earning extra money take up all of our time so that we can still spend quality time together as a family and also alone as individual exploring our own interests.
I suppose you could find a myriad of excuses for not investing in a personal hobby, whatever that may be for you, but I encourage you to realize the value of exploring your passions and talents through a new or old hobby this year. Break through the barriers of excuses and unfilfilling time-sucks, and make this a priority in your life. It will enrich your days, inspire your friends and family, and maybe bring some valuable relationships into your life as well! Who knows? Why not try it out and see what can happen?
Lead image adapted from a Hellen Borten children’s book illustration.