A few months after I had my first child in 2018, I knew parenting wasn’t going to be enough for me.
I had finally found my way out of the dense, black fog of postpartum depression, and I knew I had to find a hobby — preferably, one that didn’t involve my baby.
When I wasn’t trying to keep my baby alive I was on my phone scrolling through Instagram. Aside from comparing myself to every single mother on there, I noticed there were a few moms who ran their own creative businesses. A B.C. mom-of-four made hand-sewn baby loungers or “nests;” another B.C. mother sewed gorgeous kids’ leggings, toques, and rompers; and a few moms in the U.K. were also making and selling beautiful children’s clothes.
And, because I was a bored mom on mat leave, I bought everything. OK, not everything, but my credit card bill made it seem like I had emptied the stores.
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So, one day, after feeling a wee bit guilty for buying yet another pair of handmade baby leggings (hey, they were really cute!), I thought I should try making my own. I found a sewing studio near me and that night, I told my husband I was going to sewing classes once a week on weekends and he would be responsible for looking after our child.
I remember how light I felt as I sailed out of my home, free from my responsibilities as a parent. Now, after having taken half a dozen courses and workshops at sewing studios across Toronto, I’m in love with my new hobby.
It’s something I take a lot of pleasure in; I make cute clothes for my son and other family members’ and friends’ kids, and Christmas gifts just became a lot easier.
Finding a hobby, whatever that may look like, outside of work and family obligations is paramount to one’s mental and physical health.
Research shows that people who have hobbies are less stressed, and are less likely to suffer from mood disorders and depression.
Leisure activities can include anything from doing yoga, listening to music, reading, writing, crafting, team sports; basically anything that you find enjoyable.
I find sewing, and more recently, cross-stitching, not only relaxing and fun, but it makes me feel more confident as a parent because I feel like I’m actually good at something other than my job.
So, what are you waiting for? Here are some steps to help you find your creative side after having a baby.
1. Don’t wait for parental leave to end
By the time I got around to even thinking about getting a hobby, my parental leave was almost halfway over, and I am so glad I had that extra time to figure out whether I actually liked sewing and wanted to pursue it more regularly.
If I had waited until I went back to work, I probably wouldn’t have even taken a class because now that I’m working full-time I just don’t have the energy to take a two-hour sewing class once a week plus commute there and back.
Mat leave gave me the time and energy to take weekend classes, so take advantage of your parental leave to figure out what you want to do, and do it!
2. Ask for support
Which brings me to leaving your child in the care of someone else while you get your creativity on.
Some parents feel guilty for pursuing extracurricular activities while leaving their little ones at home, and others don’t. When I first started taking sewing lessons, it was hard not to feel guilty about not being home with my kid.
However, I quickly got over it because 1. I knew that doing something just for myself was good for my mental health and therefore made me a better parent, 2. It felt so good being around adults who didn’t talk about kids, and 3. I had a partner who supported me.
Having a support system, whether it be your partner, family members, close friends, or a trusted sitter or nanny, can help free up your time to pursue your creative projects, and can help ease those feelings of guilt you may have.
Support can look like caring for your child while you take care of yourself, expressing encouragement, asking what you need, offering to do chores around the house, giving you positive affirmation, and being your cheerleader.
If my husband didn’t actively encourage me to get out of the house, it would have been a lot harder for me to feel OK about leaving my child at home. And I’m so glad I did.
3. Talk to other parents
Not sure what you want to do? Ask other parents how they get creative; this can give you an idea about how they juggle working, raising a kid, and doing things for themselves.
If you’re a new parent and don’t have any mom or dad friends, join your neighbourhood parenting Facebook group and ask its members what they like to do for themselves; visit your library and strike up a conversation with a parent; or make some new friends through a kids’ activity gym.
4. Ask yourself: what did I enjoy before having a baby?
Maybe you used to enjoy rock climbing before you had a kid. Well, there’s no reason you can’t do that now that you’re a parent. Whatever your hobby was pre-baby, you can almost always find time to do it as a parent.
Having a hobby before you had kids probably makes it easier for you to start it up again. You may already have a hockey league waiting for you to re-join, or your shed is still full of the wood you’ve meant to use to turn into a table.
Pick up those pieces and get moving!
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5. Look locally
If you want to try something new, start by looking around your neighbourhood.
Check out your library; they will have flyers up advertising events and workshops you can attend. Or, take a walk down the main strip of your ’hood; maybe there’s a cooking school, a dance studio, or a space that hosts game tournaments. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up being a pro at Magic: The Gathering!
Sometimes all it takes is a stroll around areas you never frequent to find a new idea that may inspire you.
6. Try a few classes
Don’t put pressure on yourself to go all in right away only to burn out or spend a lot of money on something you’re only kinda interested in.
If you don’t want to commit to something right away, look for one-off workshops or free classes so you can test a few activities rather than invest in an eight-week sewing class or a monthly membership to that yoga studio.
7. Gather a cheer squad
This kind of goes with point 2, but I want to specifically talk about surrounding yourself with people who will cheer you on during your creative journey. This can even include your kid!
As parents, it’s so important to have our village who will support us in all our endeavours, and when it comes to hobbies and our creative pursuits, having a cheer squad of people — whether they be your fam, your running group, your mom or dad squad, or a pal at work — can help motivate us to keep going and feel confident in our choices.
’Cause parent guilt is all too real.
8. Be kind to yourself
It can be easy to ignore the mental and physical toll parenting (and often working full-time jobs) has on our bodies. Far too often we forget to be kind to ourselves, but it’s so important that we take a moment to step back from our busy lives to do something that’s just for us.
Whether it relaxes us, motivates us, moves our body, works our brain in new ways, or simply gives us pleasure, a creative pursuit makes life all the richer.
So, what does being kind to yourself look like for you? The answer may change your life, or it may not; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you create the space to just be you.
20 Ideas For 2020 is our month-long series that explores easy ways to take action on the ideas and changes you may have already been thinking about.
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