Hobbies

August 23, 2004 | 19 comments
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Last week I had an interesting conversation with a young father in my ward about hobbies. He was lamenting the fact that he has none. He used to have hobbies, but the press of family, work, and Church has squeezed all self-indulgence from his schedule. I was interested to hear this because I had said almost exactly the same thing to my wife about five years ago. I had completely given up my youthful passion for golf. I rarely watched television, and certainly didn’t have any regular shows. Reading? Forget about it, unless it was related to a paper that I was writing. No video games, no movies, no pez dispenser collections. Even BYU sports was out. When a student asked about my hobbies, I responded simply, “none.”

Fortunately, I enjoy my family, my work, and my Church service because they still account for virtually all of my waking hours. More recently, however, as my children have gotten older, I have started to resume some personal pursuits, though even many of these (e.g., cycling) involve my family. Blogging is a hobby, though my other blog has lots of positive externalities for my work. I also love to cook, and I especially enjoy eating good cheeses.

As I reclaim more of my life, I wonder how I should think about hobbies. The obsessor in me worries about wasting time, but another part of me counsels that an obsession with time is satanic. Just between us, I hope the latter part wins.

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19 Responses to Hobbies

  1. clark on August 23, 2004 at 6:08 pm

    Bad news Gordon, as my wife can testify, reading and writing on blogs counts as a hobby.

  2. Derek on August 23, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    Creativity is “turned off almost like a tap if a man gets married and has children, a study says.”

    Source: http://tinyurl.com/gou3

  3. greenfrog on August 23, 2004 at 6:18 pm

    I have found that sketching and drawing are practices that one can fit in by bringing a small sketchbook and pencil with me wherever I go. Rather than doing nothing while waiting for something else to happen, I can always sketch whatever is in front of me. Sacrament meeting makes a remarkably good sketching opportunity, if one is discreet — you’ve got a person standing in front of you for somewhere between two minutes (youth speaker) and forty-five minutes (High Council speaker). Needless to say, my more complete sketches tend to be of older gentlemen.

  4. Julie in Austin on August 23, 2004 at 8:31 pm

    Well, you know I have to comment on the sexism of this. I honestly think that you would be hardpressed to find many LDS womwn–even with teeny kids–who *didn’t* scrapbook, quilt, jog, go to the movies, blog, read, etc., etc., etc.

    But it does seem that the LDS men with teeny kids are squished for time.

    My husband would tell you that his hobby is Netflix. I read and blog.

  5. Kristine on August 23, 2004 at 8:37 pm

    I don’t know, Julie. From the time my first was born until my youngest hit two, I would have said that my only hobby was an occasional shower. (Wish I were kidding).

  6. Jack on August 23, 2004 at 9:13 pm

    greenfrog: You therefore, have the appearance of being both focused on the speaker and scribbling down copious notes. A perfect cover! :)

    My wife, who is much more balanced in her mind than I am, has developed the perfect strategy for helping me overcome my guilt for hobbies. Last christmas she bought me a tool set which includes a myriad a fun little gadgets. For my last birthday she bought me a circular saw to add to my growing collection. At this rate I’ll be forced to get started on that model railroad because the weight of guilt will soon be greater for *not* building it! That *really is* her purpose – to get me to build the railroad. It won’t be an empire sprawling through the entire basement, but it will fill a few square feet in the corner of our storage room. I’m making progress!

  7. Adam Greenwood on August 23, 2004 at 9:18 pm

    Memorizing poems or hymns makes a good hobby. In little odd corners of the day you can run through something beautiful in your head..

  8. Bryce I on August 23, 2004 at 10:35 pm

    I recently went golfing for the first time in eight years (oddly enough, roughly the same amount of time I have had kids/pregnant wife). I wasn’t a really big golfer before settling down, as I didn’t have a car of my own, and had to find friends who liked to golf who also could provide transportation, and I never really thought I missed it during my hiatus.

    However, after playing (27 holes — I couldn’t stop at 18), I found I had a glimpse into what it must be like to stop smoking for a period of years and then relapse. I don’t mean to make light of physical addictions, but I was amazed at how golf dominated my thinking in my free moments.

    My wife, surprisingly, has encouraged me in this expensive pasttime, as I have no other real hobbies. She quilts and scrapbooks weekly with a group of friends, and I think she feels guilty that I don’t get to do anything fun.

    The sad thing is, I didn’t miss golf while I didn’t have it, but now I find myself trying to resist the temptation to set up a weekly round with a friend. Fortunately, both of us have young children and limited disposable income. I look forward to the day when I can teach my children to golf and I can enjoy my round without feeling guilty about it.

  9. Gordon Smith on August 23, 2004 at 10:50 pm

    I honestly am not sure what you are trying to say with the sexism comment, Julie. That Mormon men lament not having hobbies while their wives just do it? Or that Mormon men worry about not having hobbies, but hobbies aren’t even a plausible hope for Mormom women, who are tied down by domestic responsibilities? Or that Mormon men think Mormon women have hobbies, but they really don’t? Anyway, I just wrote about myself, but I think my wife’s experience has been much the same. When our children were very small, they were all consuming. As they have grown older, she finds herself with more time for herself. I am not sure what is sexist about that.

  10. Julie in Austin on August 24, 2004 at 12:19 am

    Gordon–

    None of the above. In my experience, when it comes to young LDS families, the wife *really does* have a hobby and the husband generally does not.

  11. Julie in Austin on August 24, 2004 at 12:24 am

    Gordon–

    Just to clarify further, I wasn’t accusing *you* of sexism, but rather suggesting that the leisure time discrepency is evidence of sexism in favor of women.

    (I know that there are exceptions, as Kristine pointed out, and I know my evidence is anecdotal, but in my experience, 80-90% of women have a serious hobby, maybe 10-20% of men do. My suspicion is that if anyone is going to leave the house on a weeknight or Saturday to follow their bliss, it will not be the husband who has already been gone all day.)

  12. Gordon Smith on August 24, 2004 at 12:56 am

    Oh, I get it. That makes me feel better. When someone says I am being sexist, I usually know what I have done, but that was a stumper.

  13. Kim Siever on August 24, 2004 at 11:36 am

    Luckily, my hobby of web design has turned into my full-time job. The more they make me work, the more I spend on my hobby. :-)

  14. Another Jim on August 25, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    My last remaining hobby is moving people in and out of crummy apartments. And I won’t let my wife take that away from me.

  15. Clark Goble on August 25, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    Just catching up on threads, but I find the comments that women, not men, have hobbies surprising. I wonder if this is a location thing. After dating *lots* of women over the years (as a late person to get married) I’ve noticed that in Utah at least few single women have anything remotely like a hobby. Almost all single men do. If this reverses after marriage, what is the reason? Is it church callings taking what little time men have left after work and helping around the house and being with kids? Or is this, as I suspect, a bit of a myth?

    What counts as a hobby. Initially I jokingly said that blogging is a hobby so all men writing here have at least one hobby. But clearly there are others. I admit I’ve given up most of mine during pregnancy, mainly because my wife can’t do anything with me nor much on her own. But we both understand that we’ll be getting back into shape and more specifically climbing shape. (With presumably a decreasing in blogging) But I still manage woodworking hobbies along with a lot of reading. So I admit a certain question regarding whether men really have fewer hobbies than women.

    If they do, then the question is why?

  16. danithew on August 25, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    My wife made some excellent oatmeal raisin cookies (my favorite kind) yesterday. I’m going to encourage her to turn that into a hobby. :)

  17. john fowles on August 26, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    I know it is not nice to take comfort in other peoples’ woes, but this thread is encouraging, since I have been down on myself that I don’t have any hobbies now that I am married with kids. For a while, it seemed that I was alone in that (because other guys in my neighborhood somehow still golf despite having a wife and kids–I could never feel right about going golfing while my wife was at home watching the kids like she does every day).

    But just last night as we drove down I-5 in California’s central valley we discussed this lack of hobbies while the kids slept (finally) and we think that we have come to a solution where both of us can have hobbies. Planning is key, I suppose, and we have been sort of taking life as it comes rather than shaping it according to our own desires.

    I hadn’t considered blogging a hobby, but my wife made clear to me that she considered it so. Remember that thread about whether the little red hen had acted ethically in refusing to share her bread? Well, my wife actually got mad about that one–that I was spending time discussing something as banal as that instead of simply spending time with her or the kids.

  18. Rosalynde Welch on August 26, 2004 at 4:35 pm

    Hey John! You can take credit for my new hobby (LDS discussion boards) since you–actually Alison–turned me on to this site!

    I think there’s another factor in this hobby gender assymetry, namely the extent to which professional activity for (some) men provides the function that hobbies provide for women. For example, since I decided to stay at home with my children after I completed my PhD this spring, Renaissance literature has become my “hobby”, whereas my husband’s MD/PhD, also completed this spring, has become his profession. John gets to spend many (many many many) hours each week pursuing this interest and passion of his–not all of them enjoyable, of course–whereas I manage two or three hours each week. Ideally, professional work (for women or men) would provide a satisfying outlet for analytical, social or creative impulses, just as a hobby might–although I recognize that this ideal is far from reality for many hard workers.

  19. john fowles on August 26, 2004 at 5:26 pm

    Rosalynde, sorry to have gotten you hooked–Allison has resisted the temptation herself.

    I think you are right on in your analysis of the differences between male and female hobby-seeking. I suspect that this is very true for Gordon as well, as he presumably loves his work as a law professor. I know that raising children is a noble and necessary work, but I doubt many women would actually consider it their hobby, so as you point out, they will still arrange their schedules to fit in a hobby, such as your literature.

    This leads to another question, though: what about the many men, including LDS men, who continue to maintain time-intensive hobbies, despite having a profession that could qualify as a hobby because it is in their field of interest and it is where they spend their time. I have very mixed feelings about LDS men who go golfing on Saturdays after their wives, who have chosen to stay home with the children rather than pursue their own professional ambitions, have been home all day all week tending the children and who then have to do so again on Saturday. On the one hand, I think that such behavior is not ideal because of the extra burden it puts on the wife. On the other hand, I wish that I was good at something besides just my job and would love to spend time developing other interests and skills. So is it good or bad to pursue hobbies as an LDS male?

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