Who has time for a hobby? Between taking care of your family, working, caring for your own parents and somehow getting dinner on the table each night, it may feel like there’s little time left over to explore an outside interest. But cultivating a hobby can be one of the most beneficial things we do as parents. Not only is time away from our families crucial so we can reset and recharge but developing an interest outside the home can help busy parents de-stress, connect with others and spark creativity that serves as inspiration to our kiddos.
Hobbies serve as self-care, and that is anything but selfish, says Frank J. Sileo, PhD, a licensed psychologist in Ridgewood. “Hobbies are critical to creating a healthy balance both physically and mentally in our lives. We are our children’s role models. If we don’t model self-care and being open to hobbies, what example are we setting for them?”
Sileo says the benefits of hobbies run the gamut from allowing us to relax to forming connections with others in the community. “You can also develop a hobby with one of your kids,” he says. “It’s a great bonding experience, creates memories and allows you to connect with your kids in a different way other than being the ‘Homework Mom’ or ‘Chore Dad.’”
Hobbies can help us cultivate new skills. “Perhaps we want to learn to cook healthier foods or get in better shape or learn how to crochet,” says Sileo. “When we develop new skills, we feel good about ourselves and our confidence grows. Sometimes this can help us in our jobs or even help start a new career.”
Pursuing an interest also bolsters parents both physically and emotionally. “Doing something for ourselves helps to create a healthy balance,” says Sileo. “Some hobbies have more of a physical focus but they also enhance our mental health.” It can also give you something to look forward to.
For John Frigo, a father of a 13-month-old in Princeton, taking on a new hobby has been a way to revisit his lifelong love of sports and to stay in shape.
“I’ve recently taken up volleyball as a hobby. It started when my coworkers put together a rec league at the park district and I enjoyed it so much I started finding meetup groups of other people who played volleyball,” he says. Frigo also spends time at a local bar with indoor volleyball courts that puts on tournaments several times a month.
“I used to be an athlete in high school and college and I didn’t realize how much I missed being on a team and the competition of sports,” he says.’
Frigo says he and his girlfriend trade nights to go out. Giving each other that time has been a great way to support a new hobby.
“As far as benefits it’s fun getting out of the house and doing something,” Frigo says. “I’m in better shape because of it and the camaraderie of being on a team and having some competition is fun.”
While some parents might feel too guilty taking time for themselves, Karen Tom, certified health and life coach, owner of PEAK Health & Life Coaching in Chatham, says taking that time deeply benefits the kids.
“Parents can only be at their best when they take care of themselves,” she says. “While we may think that spending time away from our families is selfish, it is actually the most generous thing we can do, so that they get our best when we are with them.”
Tom says scheduling time to devote to your hobby is essential and you shouldn’t cancel on yourself unless there’s a true emergency. “Schedule any time, even 10-15 minutes,” she says.
“In working with patients, I often find that people waste a lot of time such as doom scrolling news or spending an inordinate amount of time on social media,” says Sileo.
Having your partner on board can help you put your hobby into action. While you don’t need their permission to start a new hobby, you can share your feelings as to why it’s important to you. “Open communication will certainly go far in helping you feel less guilty about taking time for yourself,” he says.
Michele Sobel, a mother of two from Scotch Plains, always painted as a hobby, but turned her passion into a side hustle, doing hand- painted artwork on designer bags and luxury goods when her firstborn was a toddler. She says painting helps her relax and embrace time to herself, both of which help make her a better mom.
“Whether it’s sketching, exercising or simply picking up a book, I would highly recommend trying out new hobbies to new parents as a way to relax and find time for oneself,” she says. “Parenting is my life’s greatest gift, but it’s also hard! So, self-care is important.”
When Sobel’s kids were little, she would paint to wind down at night or during naptime. “Now I paint while they are in school, and sometimes after they go to sleep at night,” she says.
Her kids, now 5 and 7, love helping put her paints in “rainbow order” in her studio and proudly wear their custom painted sneakers to school every day.
“Explore different activities until you find the right one for you,” she says. “You don’t have to be the best at everything but making time for yourself or trying an activity to clear your head can make you feel like a more patient, engaged and present parent. We are always proud of our children for their own accomplishments but it’s really special when they vocalize that they are proud of us.”
Find Your Passion
Not sure what your new hobby should be? Sileo says to do your research. “Look online, in your communities, your houses of worship, local/national charities and other community organizations,” he suggests. Your town’s community school is the perfect place to launch a new hobby and your local library or Y may have resources, too.
Do anything that’s fun for you and puts a smile on your face, says Tom.
Possible hobbies include exercise (hiking, biking, walking, dancing, yoga), fishing, painting, drawing, anything artsy, studying a language, joining a book club, listening to interesting podcasts, gardening, cooking, wine tasting, playing a musical instrument–the list goes on.
“Think of anything you enjoyed as a kid, or before you had kids, and just have fun!” she says.
“Hobbies aren’t going to knock on your door,” says Sileo. “Go out and explore the many possibilities!”