Having a life outside the family and wife unit is critical for
A) Mental health of getting away and doing something for yourself
B) Establishing interests that will impact your life after kids leave the next
C) Feeling good about yourself and/or acquiring new skills
D) Creating a small amount of distance for yourself, tends to create a very small amount of tension which is often good for the relationship
I’ve seen and talked to many other dads. Family men seem to sacrifice and contribute so much of themselves, often without appropriate recognition, for their family. Coaching their kids’ sports leagues, hours spent at work, the new paradigm of the father who helps with housework, family vacations, yard work, weekends doing kids birthday parties, and so forth. Because of this constant pressure to be a great dad, often the easiest things to cut or get pressured from the wife are hobbies or interests that we used to enjoy. Used to love fishing, sorry, we’ve got my nephew’s birthday party. Want to go throw some steel around the weight room, sorry, I’ve got that meeting scheduled in the afternoon and someone has to watch the kids. Often these dads get pigeoned holed into this role so much they entirely lose themselves. Subsequently, they lose the alpha-ness and interesting things they did that probably attracted the wife in the first place.
Having and fighting to have hobbies is important for the health of yourself and your family and marriage. How can you introduce your kids to cool things if you don’t do any cool things yourself? How will they learn by watching you, if all you do is place them or the family at the center and do entirely kid-centric activities? I think having hobbies are what keeps life, the marriage and family activities interesting, gives you things to focus on that aren’t work or family related and gives depth and purpose to your life.
Now hobbies usually fall into two categories: passive or active. Passive is one where you sit and let something happen to you, or is dictated by someone else’s contribution while active is one where you are actively participating in an activity. Examples of passive hobbies would be going to shows or concerts, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. Active hobbies would be working out, fishing, hunting, rebuilding a classic car, playing guitar, volunteering or taking an improv class. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but it’s good to have a few of both.
Passive hobbies tend to allow us to relax and either be entertained or gain some new knowledge or skills. If you enjoy reading, you could be learning about investing, gardening, parenting, building a better marriage, or any number of topics. Or you could be reading fiction to be entertained and feed the brain that is probably engaged in serious activities most days. It’s good to unwind, but if this type of entertainment-oriented passive hobby is all you have, it’s relatively low value in compared to most active hobbies.
Active hobbies often get you out of the house and away from the family. The absence makes the heart grow fonder certainly is a part of this, but so is not hang-dogging it around the house every weekend day, shadowing your kids or wife. Having interests where you work with others towards common interests, or engage in obtaining new skills or improvements (guitar or working out) are nearly always a better option than sitting on the couch and watching sports. This minor amount of tension created often tends to spur the other into being a better person as well and having a wider variety of tastes and interests. They don’t always have to match up in marriage, but they are all like spices in life versus the bland existence that most suburban family men fall into.
The hobbies I have tend to wax or wane depending on things, but I usually have a mix. I’d like to increase the amount of time I spend on active hobbies as right now they’re mostly limited to lifting and exercising. I had planned to take an improv class this summer, but the scheduling of the few in town didn’t work. This fall I’m guessing this will be a good opportunity to try something new and get out of my comfort zone a little. Rolling BJJ and doing MMA is something I really enjoyed, but after much of the spring and summer being injured (including from said activities) I’m a little gun shy.
Finding time to do these things is often difficult and sometimes after a hard week you just want to relax and lose yourself. Doing so is a good way to escape, but having a variety of activities will provide you with things to keep conversations interesting, provide you with some high-value compared to the normal family man, may assist in keeping your wife attracted to you and may give you some new skills to pass down to your children. What you do isn’t important, but having a passion to do something is. Don’t use your family as an excuse as to why you can’t do something. Dust off that equipment or guitar or bow and just cut out time to do it. You’ll enjoy the results.