Mom, Get A Life

Back in the old days, when I only had one child, I happened to overhear a conversation between two coworkers regarding a less than flattering Mother’s Day gift. My  coworker’s daughter had made a book in school “All About My Mom.” My coworker shared how dismayed she felt because under “What my mom likes to do,” her daughter had drawn a picture of her cleaning.

I vowed at that moment to make a lasting impression on my children beyond how I cleaned the toilet or baked a tuna casserole. And then within the first nine years of my marriage I found myself with five kids. I’d stopped writing, taking pictures of anything but my children and crafting came in bits and spurts that usually just put me in a foul mood. (But Addie does have one ugly baby quilt to prove I at least tried.)

I love reading and manged to keep up with that (one of the good things about bedrest and nursing non-squirmy newborns) but all my time outside mothering, homemaking and teaching went to activities for my kids, work (for varying amounts at varying times) and church functions.

Now none of those things are bad, but for a long time there was a creative side of me that needed an outlet. I wondered if I should get a job or try to start my own business. (Ugly quilts anyone?) I actually had another blog a few years back that was even more niche than this one, if you can believe it. But the site’s serious nature demanded long, in-depth posts which, after a several enthusiastic months quickly dwindled because 1. it’s hard for me to maintain seriousness in just a stare-off contest, and 2. I was pregnant again. (Pregnancy brain 1 , coherent train of thought 0.)

After Fulton’s diagnosis I even went through a period of  feeling like I should live each day to the fullest by cutting out everything that distracted me from my children. Life is too short and too precious to spend it planning homeschool conferences (which I did, twice) or organizing playgroups or running sports teams. But I like organizing events and leading things so then I was unhappy too. I felt guilty because being a SAHM just wasn’t enough, as much as I wanted it to be.

After many nights scribbling on a legal pad, I finally settled on how I wanted to spend my free time. I created this blog, and I perform once a year in my church’s dinner theater production. I still love to read and occasionally I will attempt to make something (don’t ask me about the two-year t-shirt quilt project) but I narrowed down my interests, picked the most important things and let the rest go.

Now when I have free time, I know how I’m going to spend it. Afterwards,  I feel refreshed and satisfied and better prepared to tackle the rest of my life. Previously, when the creative juices would start to boil over, I’d get an hour free and I didn’t know how to spend my time, “Should I make some jewelry? Take pictures of the sunset? Learn the lap harp? Redecorate the living room?” And ultimately I’d feel more frustrated after the hour was over than when it began.

Currently, I’m trying to balance all my dinner theatre rehearsals with blogging. Practice is taking up a lot of my free time so, as I can’t replace dinner prep or laundry time with blogging, writing has dropped off. But I know I’ll come back to it when the time allows and in the mean time, acting is satisfying my need for personal expression.

But despite straightening myself out, I was still on track to get my own disappointing Mother’s Day present and I didn’t even know it. The other day when I asked my daughter what she though my hobbies were, she quickly answered “Facebook.” I quizzed her further and she guessed I also liked acting, since I participated in the church’s production but otherwise she elaborated on her earlier answer by adding that “the computer” was my hobby.

Wow. What an awesome legacy.

Besides immediately launching the offensive on how I’m not on Facebook “that much” I showed my children my blog. This is what I do on the computer. I told them approximately how many words a week I write. I explained how I designed the site, added links and advertisements. I showed them my site’s stats and they learned that a bunch of people visit my blog every day to read what I post.

I think it worked. Just like Byron enjoys movie making, Addie lives for baking and Edie colors like a pro, they know Mama loves writing online (and taking weird pictures, too.) I’m glad they can see me as something outside of a baby maker, teacher, housekeeper and cook. While ‘Catholic Wife and Mother’, are my favorite titles, they don’t paint the complete picture of who I am. I want to fulfill God’s plan for my life by using the talents He’s given me, not by sacrificing them.  The next step is making sure the kids know Papa’s interests aren’t limited to work, commuting and hording old Star Wars action figures.

Now go ask your kids what your hobbies are, and see what they come up with.




  1. If my daughter could speak eloquently enough (she’s only two), I’m sure she’d say the same as yours. It bums me out sometimes, that much of my life has been reduced to sitting in a chair and poking at a tablet while I watch over the baby and the toddler, and grow a brand-new one, all at the same time. Beyond wanting more from my own life, at times, I want more for them. I want to be one of those crafty super-moms that comes up with awesome activities for each day, and gets down-and-dirty with the kids for hours at a time. I just can’t seem to find the energy. I keep hoping that as they get older, it will get easier, and maybe it will to a degree. But there are changes that I need to make, too, I know. It’s one reason that I started my own blog, against my own expectations of my capability. Much as I may wish it were better, or cleverer, I can at least look to it and say, “Today, if I did nothing else productive, I did that.” I’ve captured a memory, written a story, and maybe, even if no one is reading it now, my own children will enjoy it someday. I try to stay involved in singing, too, though I can only handle it in the short spurts, so I’ve joined a concert choir that performs only twice a year. Though there’s something to be said for being a homebody, too, to the extent that you’re not sacrificing every desire that you’ve ever had. My mother was involved in extracurriculars to such a degree that as a teenager, I felt she was not around for me when I needed her. So, I’ve learned that even if my children can’t see many sides of me outside of motherhood, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means that’s the way they see me, first and foremost- their mother- and that’s the kind of mother I hope to be.

  2. Okay- I asked 3 of my kids what my hobbies are. I got an “I don’t know”, and then-“collecting die-cast figurines that I keep on a shelf in my closet”, and finally, “playing with my babies”. This last one is my favorite! The “collecting die-cast figurines” is the imaginative (smart-aleck) one that my teenaged son came up with. (No die-cast figurines in my closet, sorry!) He said he could come up with more ideas if I wanted him to. At least I’m teaching him creativity! Now, the” I don’t know” kind of hit home.

    I really liked what you said about using the talents that God gave you, not sacrificing them. It’s such a balance, isn’t it? Based on my kids’ answers, I haven’t really figured it out yet.

    Great blog again, Kelly!

  3. My kids are too little to know what “hobbies” are but I completely agree with you. My mind is kinda boggled by moms who have no hobby outside their children. I think they must go crazy on a daily basis. Its great advice to narrow down your interests to what you enjoy the most and can do the most to best take advantage of your time, and then it actually helps with stuff like…stress….and not losing your mind, instead of contributing to it!

    Thanks Kelly!

  4. “I felt guilty because being a SAHM just wasn’t enough, as much as I wanted it to be.”

    I don’t think hobbies are disconnected from our role as parents (stay at home or otherwise). Children always learn from their parents example, and hobbies are just part of that. Indeed there is no way to totally separate our activities (whatever they are) from our children. Some people need a creative outlet. Fulfilling that in a constructive way is a good example for the children. The important matter is setting the right priorities, which you do. Well, as long as I keep an eye you 🙂

  5. I asked my kids what I do for fun and I got one “I don’t know” and one “nothing.” On further thought my son who had said “nothing” was able to come up with “well sometimes you play that game on your Nook.” (Spider Solitaire) That response gave me a bit of an insight into their thought process. After all, I remember being a kid and not understanding my dad’s obsession with watching football. If asked what he did for fun I would never have said watch football because to me that wasn’t fun. It would never have occurred to me that it was actually fun for him. So, I think maybe it has less to do with the kids not thinking you do anything but that it doesn’t occur to them that those “boring” hobbies are fun. Of course mine are still only 4 and 6. That might change as they get older.

  6. Striking the balance between caring for ourselves while giving our families top priority is an ongoing process and I’m thankful for all the comments and insights into how that’s working in your families. Thanks everyone!

  7. Oh, interesting. I will have to ask the three year old (my biggest). I bet the computer would be on the list, and cooking. My main outlet is playing viola in a community orchestra. The guy who runs that orchestra had an interesting comment related to this. He sees teaching kids to play music as giving them a fun hobby they can have their whole life, as well as a way to potentially serve (and in unusual cases make a living 😉 ). I think we show our kids how to have fun too. I think my husband and I can do better at this, we tend to be a little too serious, so thanks for the reminder.

  8. I read the link to Cari’s blog, too. It seems to me you’re not saying that your children’s view of you is what counts, but rather the simple fact that there is more to you than what they immediately see. They will see that you are more than your cleanest kitchen or your most pregnant self, but that will take awhile. I think, especially when it comes to blogging, it is easy for kids to think mom isn’t really doing anything productive at that computer. When they’re little, they think you’re only doing something if you are moving your whole body (see references to cleaning, cooking, etc.). So it’s great that you showed them what you are doing at the computer, that doing something with your mind is just as much “doing something” as working with your whole body.

  9. Never mind asking my kiddos. I overheard my 12 year old telling someone that I spend allllll of my time on the computer or lying on the bed reading. When, you might ask, ’cause I sure asked!!!!!!!!! Turns out that once in a blue moon opportunity to read something “fun” happens all the time in my boys’ minds,- that’s why we can’t do more of the things they want to do!!!??!!! Must say that was a slap in the face!!! Especially since i feel like I do most everything for them — previewing school books, reading stuff to give them to read, taking them to their 101 activities, sitting a LOT and watching them do xyz. Yeah, I was mighty dismayed and even a bit irritated after I laughed at the absurdity of it all. Oh well. BTW, my 10 year old thinks he’s going to find a wife that is going to work and leave him home all the time to do what he wants. Oh, the children? Yeah … not going to homeschool time (too much work) — he’s going to send them to school and aftercare. ha! Does he wish to go to school and aftercare? Oh no … of course not! My golly, I fear I’ve created a monster!!!! Two of them!!!

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