Work-life balance is hard. If you are passionate about your work, and your work involves long hours, life and death situations, and tight deadlines, how do you fit life part of work-life balance in? And, as much as you love your family, if you have a working spouse and kids with schedules about as full as full time jobs (and that’s only after school), how do you have a life outside of work and family?
I will confess, I have no idea what the answer to those two questions is. I am trying, as many of the posts on this blog might suggest, but truthfully I feel pretty clueless. I am in awe of those friends and colleagues who spend quality time with their family, set age group records in triathlons, take a ton of in-house call, get a decent amount of federal funding, and then take on a hobby or two. They knit, they golf, they collect stamps. I have honed no such skills or interests (unless you can count shopping as skill but my husband calls it a bad habit for which I need an intervention).
A few years ago at a job interview I was asked what my hobbies were. I had prepared and prepared to be drilled on why I wanted an academic career as a trauma surgeon and how I was going to achieve my academic goals in a modern medical environment. I was ready to talk about my growing family. (Nothing like asking for extra time between back to back to back interviews with senior male surgeons so that you can, ummm, pump breast milk.) But I was literally catatonic when it came describing my hobbies. It didn’t help that the person interviewing me was a nanogenarian who avidly road his bike for miles daily and was an antiquities collector. “Ummmm, I guess my kids are my hobby,” I said without the least bit of conviction.
Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love my kids. The decision to have them was not one we made lightly. I absolutely wanted to be a mother and luckily my husband wanted to be a father. Happily, we were able to discuss and modify our professional priorities to make the life part work for our family, especially when the kids were really young. While it has very hard over the years for me to find time to really *be* with my children (e.g. to not just be near them whilst half asleep, or worse yet fully dead to the world recovering from a brutal call, but to really engage with them), is “being” with them really a hobby?
A quick internet search reveals that:
A HOBBY is a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation; an activity or interest pursued for pleasure and not as a main occupation.
But honestly, though being with my children is my number one priority when not occupied by my occupation, some days being with my children is the furthest thing from relaxing. Bedtime routines, presence of green vegetables, absence of digital screen-based stimuli, etc. can often be infuriating. As a family we have kayaked in the ocean, gone to Broadway musicals, and engaged in arts & crafts. But none of these activities would qualify me as a kayaking, show tunes, or crafting enthusiast. Would I do more of these if I could? Quite frankly I am not sure. These and other family activities have definitely been a lot of fun and provided great respite from the work part of work-life balance; however, none have really sparked a passion in me. For me the these activities are not for the pleasure of the activity itself but for the joy of being together. (Of note, I have tried being to together on shopping trips as a strategy but it brings no one but me joy and eventually the vociferous protests of the children sap that too.)
So, between the challenges of balancing a demanding work schedule with the unpleasurable tasks of parenting and squeezing in those moments of togetherness that do bring pleasure, I am at a loss for hobbies. (I wish I were at that point in my life with exercise and fitness were a hobby but quite frankly they remain a chore; I am working on that but that is a topic for another blog post.)
So for now, I suppose I will settle for a reasonably well-balanced hobbyless life. When I perfect that, I will move on to cultivating some hobbies.