Hobbies? With Kids?

My wife is very perceptive. Having said that, it probably didn’t need much for anyone to see that I was burning the candle at various points and not just at both ends. I was working lots of hours, with over an hour’s commute each side of that. My wife was in college and we have two primary school age children. It was a tough year…for all of us. 
My wife kept saying that I needed to get time for myself. The problem was, when? In my mind, I had to work. I’m self-employed. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I had to be there for the kids. Their Mum was really busy with classes, coursework, studying and vocational trips as part of her course. I had to be there for my wife. I needed to make sure that she had time to study, space to study. Food shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning (sometimes), tidying (sometimes), kids clubs & activities. They all fell to me. I didn’t mind, because it had been a joint decision for my wife to do the college course, but sometimes it was hard going.
But that’s what I did. I kept going. Ploughed on. Not quite going, going, gone, but I certainly wore myself down. I wore my wife down. I wore my kids down. How did I do that? Well, by not getting time to myself. I became tired. Grumpy. At times angry. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t deny it happened.

But I kept going.
Eventually, I listened. I listened and started to think of what I could do. I had stopped going to the gym and stopped my membership as I was so busy that I wasn’t getting time to go. Could I start that again? I suppose I could have done, but having been getting in shape, I was again badly out of shape and didn’t particularly have the desire to punish myself again. I’m still out of shape. What else could I do? I wasn’t sure how our finances were going, so what could be a relatively cheap hobby? Also, in the busyness of life, I didn’t really want to take loads of time away from my family. By this stage, I was working irregular hours. Some early starts, some late finishes, some very late finishes. A club or group maybe wouldn’t be the best as I might only be there irregularly.

As an aside, but one that ties in with my decision, have you heard of the “Five Love Languages”? Receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and, finally, physical touch? Well, what my love language is, is quality time. So I didn’t want to start a hobby that took me away from my family. I know, I know, you’re now shaking your head, calling me a fool. I was about to start a hobby, to get time for myself, which wouldn’t take me away from my family. Daft or what? Well, I did it anyway. With my wife and I being really busy, then our kids were spending a lot of time with electronics. They’d been banned from my wife’s tablet as she used that in college. There were still a laptop, a games console, television and DVDs for them. Handy at times, but not as much as they were using them. The solution, or at least part of the solution, was my hobby.

A cheap hobby, that I could do with some or all of the family if we wanted to. One that would get the kids away from spending a long time on laptops or in front of the television. I decided on trying Geocaching. I thought that the light exercise would be good for me, it would get the kids out and about, we could go to different places that we’d never been to and they could learn more about the places we went to. That was the plan anyway, when we started in July last year. We started in the local park, which has a reasonable number of caches ensconced within. I thought it would be quite easy… Out of the first three we tried to find that day, we found one. Still, one was enough for the kids to want to keep doing it.
I am actually enjoying having a hobby again. I’ve persuaded my family to chip in for a GPS receiver for my last birthday, which helps in remote areas, or when the kids are catching monsters, but on most occasions the GPS facility on my smartphone is good enough. I’ve even been exploring in some woods at night, with my son, while my daughter was at a pantomime. I’ve even been out with Mr DadsApp (Ryan), DadsAppBoy (Ray) and my kids. As far as DadsAppBoy was concerned, we were going treasure hunting and we could choose some treasure if we found any in the caches and DadsAppBoy was to leave elf keys that a certain educated aged elf had given me.
So, for the initial prompting from my wife, has it achieved the objective? I think the honest answer is, “it depends”. It has had to be an intermittent hobby, which I knew at the start, as it has to fit around the rest of life. The kids enjoy it, mostly. I’ve been geocaching with my wife, my kids, my mum and my aunt at different times. I’ve even gone on my own, which ticks the “time to myself” box. My kids have been to different parts of the countryside that they maybe wouldn’t have been to otherwise. When we went on holiday last autumn, I thought it was going to be usurped by a certain game involving trying to catch small monsters, which annoyed me a bit. In the end, when I go out with the kids now, they play that game until we get close to where the cache is meant to be hidden. We then switch to geocaching, before going back to monster catching on the way to the next cache.
So does this sound familiar to you? Do you have any hobbies? How do you maintain balance in your life? Do you find it difficult to find ‘you’ time as a parent?
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