Carolyn Hax: Will having kids take over all of one’s free time?

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 28, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Are kids just an uber-hobby?

Okay, that line was intentionally provocative, but it’s a crude way of asking my real question. Which is: Can you have a serious hobby that you’re passionate about while also raising children? Are children, in terms of time management, the One Hobby to Rule Them All?

I’m about to turn 30 and newly married. In my free time I’ve been pursuing dance, an interest I came to in my 20s but am just now able, physically, to really explore. It’s honestly the first time I’ve been truly passionate about something besides my friends, family or city.


(Nick Galifianakis)

It doesn’t seem possible to have a serious artistic pursuit while being a (present, not selfish) mother, at least for the first five (10?) years. If I’m going to have kids, which would need to be before my gonads get all dusty, do I need to be prepared to say goodbye to what has become an important, fulfilling part of my life?

Anonymous

I’m answering this despite what “dusty gonads” will do to various breakfasts.

The superficial answer is that kids don’t wipe everything off your calendar and priority lists and replace it with kids, kids, kids.

The more practical answer is that it depends on how many hours per week your dance habit needs to remain viable and fulfilling, and on the other variables in your life, like how time-consuming and stressful your and your spouse’s jobs are; how close you live to family and/or how able you are financially to pay for help; how many children you plan to have; how high- or low-need those kids turn out to be, etc.

Someone with a houseful of high-need kids and tight budgets and few local relatives and a high value on being available to your kids during scarce non-work hours — one extreme scenario — won’t be popping out to the dance studio four times a week, not unless your spouse is able and willing to absorb those absences for you. It’s not the most politic answer, but it’s an honest one based on possible variables. If instead you have a small family and/or an easygoing one, and access to affordable child care, and one or both parents can be flexible with work, and and and — the other extreme — then you can have kids and barely dent your dedication to your hobby.

Some of these you can control and some you can’t, so concentrate on the ones you can, anticipate the ones you can’t and see how you feel. The main thing you want here is not to be unpleasantly surprised, since that’s early stage resentment, something no kid deserves.

Re: Uber-hobby:

You might find that you’d rather enjoy watching your kids fall all over themselves playing soccer than go dancing — or not. But be open to the possibility that what you want right now isn’t what you’ll want once you have kids. It’s not all about sacrifice.

Anonymous too

True. However, having your priorities change like that isn’t something you need to plan for, where accommodating a pre-kids priority often is.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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