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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Hobbies–Fantasy or Necessity?

When a couple starts to have children, the notion of having a hobby becomes a fantasy. At that point, kids in the house become a full-time job, and your full-time job becomes your hobby. Anything else simply becomes a dream-like wish, comparable to how once you wanted to be an astronaut.

We’ve reached a point in our child-rearing where our kids are all school-aged, which opens up some more time and energy for things other than fighting for their survival and our sanity. We’ve both taken on a hobby this summer, and it feels great.

We’ve shifted our work patterns in the past year—with her full-time job, Stacey has been looking for something to do to balance the total investment of her day on campus. Her birthday gift this year was a series of riding lessons at a nearby stable. She comes back from those once-a-week outings with new vigor and energy. She tells me it is revitalizing to get away from our normal setting and routine, to deal with people who are completely out of her circle of associates, and to work with horses, which she loves.

All of this has been really healthy, I think. She is able to devote some energy and attention to an experience that is just for her, and just for fun. She seems more balanced, and it has only cost us about an hour and a half once a week. She is signed up for eight lessons, but she likes it so much, I’m sure we’ll find a way for her to get back—maybe later this year or next summer.

It made me wonder what my hobby might be, if I had one. I was disheartened to realize that I didn’t have any ideas of what a hobby might be until one dropped in my lap! I somehow got added to a circle of men who were getting together on a few, intermittent Saturdays to play baseball.

I love baseball, and I only had the opportunity to play through middle school. After having children, I discovered the romance of the game: the way it connects fathers and sons, the way it encourages an ethic of small and consistent virtue, the way it captures the universals of human experience in the drama of an inning.

So, out of the blue comes an opportunity to play this game that I love. I’d become a connoisseur of the game, and suddenly I have an opportunity to step into the kitchen. It is all very exciting.

I have a long ways to go to be able to gobble up a hard-hit ground ball in stride, but it has been a lot of fun to try. We’ve gotten together for an hour or two on a couple of Saturdays to take batting practice and field some balls. Next week, we’ll play a game, with a real umpire, even. It might not go beyond that, but it has been a breath of fresh air for me to be able to go out and play.

And I suppose that idea of play is what makes hobbies important. They feed the child-like part of us. Parents spend nearly all of their time at home among children, but rarely do we get to give ourselves entirely over to playful activity. I play and wrestle with our kids, I chase them around a playground and instigate water fights, but in all of that I am Daddy. When I’m playing baseball, the guys call me “Noem.” I get to dedicate all of my attention and energy to something that is not related to the family or the house or work.

And when I walk back into the house and hang up my glove, I feel invigorated and renewed, ready to take on all the work and fun of being Daddy again.