Many great advances have been made in modern parenting. We understand that attachment in the early weeks and months is essential for the formation of a well-rounded human being.
We know that excessive screen time can be damaging to kids’ development (but that some screen time is also quite okay).
With all of the research and advancements in parenting, though, there still exists the general feeling that mothers should be all about their children, all the time.
It’s why working moms still feel guilty about being away and why stay-at-home moms struggle with guilt over wanting alone time, and why work-from-home moms struggle with both.
Ultimately parenthood is not easy. You’re all-in 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no vacation time or built-in breaks. Even when you have a partner who shares a lot of the parenting duties, somehow being the mother puts you in “default mode” a lot of the time.
Even if motherhood is the thing you love most in the world, and even if it comes completely naturally, you still need to remember who you are in the midst of it.
Why? Because research shows that children grow up better and are more well-rounded human beings when their mothers have interesting and independent lives.
Yet, research also shows that more than one-quarter of moms put no effort into their own hobbies or interests, for whatever reason. (1)
Odds are, those reasons fall under one or more of these:
- Too tired
- No support or childcare for regular hobbies
- No financial means to invest in hobbies
- No free time due to childcare, work, special needs children, etc.
Every mother’s situation is unique, and according to the same research, over half of all moms do put in some effort to have hobbies or interests independent of their children.
Still, if you find yourself in the situation where you ask yourself, “When was the last time I did something for me” or “for fun?” you are not alone.
As a tired mother of three myself, I often wonder what even is “fun” anymore? I used to love reading, but now I fall asleep within a paragraph or two of opening a book.
I used to love cooking and creating new recipes, but now I default to cooking the same five recipes for my family because they’re easy, healthy, and inexpensive.
I used to love spending hours in a bookstore, checking out what’s new, and discovering new authors, but now it’s too much work to get there by myself and if I take the kids with me, well, I think you know how that goes.
I used to like getting together with friends for coffee, but now they’re all tired moms too, and we find ourselves all wondering if hobbies are even worth the struggle. Someday the kids will be older, we tell ourselves, and it will be easier.
Yet moms with older kids caution that it will not be easier. Kids get older and require more transportation, more help with homework, and more conversational energy.
If you, like me, wonder why it even matters that you have hobbies or interests outside of motherhood or your career, believe me—it does.
Here are the top reasons why you matter as the individual human that you are, and why staying in touch (or reconnecting) can not only boost your own mental health but make you a better mother, too.
5 Reasons Why Moms Need Hobbies of Their Own
You’re a person well beyond just being a mom. Even if motherhood is the best thing ever, someday those kids will be grown and independent, and you won’t want to have to reconnect to who you are then, after years of being completely disconnected.
These are the reasons why you need hobbies and interests of your own right now.
1. Your Mental Health Needs It
Before you gave birth, you had interests and ideas. You had alone time. You socialized. You did things just for fun because you could. Now that you’re a mother, you may not want to do any of those things that you used to do.
Staying out past 8 pm might seem like punishment instead of freedom now, I get that.
However, you did formerly have a life that was not only invested in the children you’re now parenting. And you were probably in a better state of mental health for it.
Even if it’s simply that you used to sleep more—a lot more—you were most likely less burnt out and more invested in your wellbeing.
Juggling a thousand different schedules, feedings and mealtimes, bath times and school drop-offs might come as second-nature now, but all of that “management” is taking a toll on you. It’s like work to your brain and your brain needs time to do nothing or to be in off mode.
This requires not being responsible for anyone other than yourself for at least some time on a regular basis. No job would require 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without built-in leave, vacation, and reprieve.
Parenting, while infinitely better than a paid career, requires the same sorts of breaks and (responsible) disconnect.
2. The Kids Will Grow Up Someday
You can devote your entire life to parenting, but what happens when your youngest turns 18?
When they go off to college, get married, and move into their own independence?
Most people who don’t have hobbies or interests will find themselves lonely, depressed, and suddenly at a loss. Perhaps midlife crisis will set in, or your marriage will suffer because, in all those years of raising kids, you forgot that you were also individual people.
While those are extreme examples, we should never assume that we are immune. You can’t give everything you have, saving nothing for yourself, and expect to have any amount of individual security and identity after years or even decades of doing so.
Taking some time for yourself, now, on a regular basis, helps ensure you’ll move into the phase of being the parent of adults without your life spiraling into chaos and depression (at least, of course, for those reasons).
But having interests and protecting your mental health has benefits for every area of your life, not just parenthood.
3. You Want to Teach Your Children Balance
When kids grow up and see their mothers involved so heavily in parenting that they can’t identify a single non-mom thing that they do, that doesn’t convey endless parenting love.
It also shows that in order to be a parent, you have to give everything up. This could present a negative view of parenthood to your offspring who when it comes time to reproduce, may decide that they don’t, in fact, want to “have no life.”
By having hobbies and interests, your kids will grow up and see you not only as a mom, but as a human person doing interesting things.
You might even help facilitate your child’s development of their own special interests that will enrich their lives far beyond just feeding them and keeping them safe.
Of course, those are essential aspects of motherhood too, but you want more than just a child who survives—you want them to thrive as the three-dimensional persons that they are.
4. Your Kids Need to Understand That Others Have Needs
If you feel guilty that your child has to wait their turn for something, that’s a sign that you might be too wrapped up in parenting. Learning to wait or take their turn is a vital part of human development.
Even if they don’t have siblings that also demand your attention, raising a well-rounded human requires teaching patience, kindness, and respect.
By having interests of your own, you help to broaden your child’s horizons to the world around them.
Starting with you. Teaching your child that they need to wait a few moments for attention—or a few days for a trip to go shopping—is not neglect, but rather, teaching them that scheduling and care are not always immediately gratified.
Sometimes we need to plan, and planning also involves working in the fun times and the reprieves.
5. You’re Not a Super Human
Even if you thrive on meeting your kids’ needs and you don’t one bit feel like you need hobbies or a break, I am still talking to you.
You’re not superhuman. You’re not void of needs. Maybe right now you love being super organized and playing chauffeur for kids.
Maybe you are homeschooling your kiddos and you couldn’t think of anything better. Regardless of how your mom role is playing out, you still need non-mom things in your life.
You may show no signs of burnout now, but mental health issues are sneaky and can flare up with no warning. Taking care of your own mental health and individual needs before you show signs of needing them is ideal.
So even if you’re feeling well-balanced and have no need for “me” time or alone time, you need to take it and use it and grow in it.
What Counts As a Hobby?
If you’re reading this and realizing that you need more non-mom things to identify with in your life, don’t worry, it’s not like you have to suddenly take on a new career, learn a new language, or do something that requires hours of mental space you may not have.
It doesn’t even have to be something that requires a lot of consistency or thought. When you have a newborn or a gaggle of small kids, alone time might come in five-minute chunks of time after being up all night.
Your hobby does not have to be complex. It doesn’t have to involve appointments, clubs, or even leaving your house. It doesn’t have to be a formal event, although I do suggest adding reminders to your list or calendar so that it actually gets done—however you do it.
The type of hobby that you need is something that promotes relaxation, something that allows you to focus on you as a person (i.e. reading parenting books doesn’t really count as your non-mom reprieve), and something that helps to reenergize you as a person. That’s it.
Even on days where things are exploding all around you, instead of viewing hobby time or recharge time as the easiest thing to cross off the list, you should instead view it as a vital prescription you’re taking on a regular basis. It’s the whole “put your oxygen mask on first” concept, and it’s not wrong.
Whatever your hobby, even on the worst and most chaotic day, it could be the thing that makes the difference between yelling at your kids all afternoon or crying by the sink because you have too many kids to handle.
Even when the schedule is demanding and the kids even more so, when you’ve taken five, 10, or even 15 minutes for yourself, you are reminding your brain that this is not an endless cycle.
In fact, you’re telling it that it can make it through the next however many trying hours because it will get its regularly scheduled reprieve.
This is especially true when you’re having sleepless nights from the kids because a sleep-deprived brain is more easily going to default into the catastrophic cycle of thinking that the madness will never end.
Hobby ideas for especially busy moms can be simple. You probably have an idea of your own, but if you need help getting started, consider:
- Games on your smartphone
- Reading a non-parenting and non-educational book (unless education IS your hobby)
- Listening to a podcast or audiobook or favorite music
- Doing yoga or another energizing and preferred type of movement
There are endless options for investing in yourself as the wonderful human that you are. Motherhood is amazing, but boosting your personal self-care will only add to your ability as a parent, even if it feels like it takes something away in the short-term.