Stress. This word describes an emotional state that can have repercussions across your entire life. Some people’s tempers flare over ridiculous things. Some get eczema. Some become extremely ill. The thing is, you can’t escape stress, it’s an inevitable part of life and, sometimes, parenthood can only serve to make things worse.
Parent pampering isn’t just about quiet nights in, sultry baths or falling asleep on the sofa. It’s also about finding something that belongs only to you and making sure you keep on doing it. One such ‘something’ is a hobby. Hobbies are activities that we undertake in our free time. We enjoy them, we get pleasure from them and, usually, we learn from them. They are also one of the first things to go out the door when the new baby comes in that very door.
So, as you embark on the rest of 2010, say goodbye to snapping at your partner (or your child), constant ill health and all sorts of other stress-related symptoms, and say hello to a hobby. Taking time out for yourself isn’t selfish or irresponsible, it’s essential. You need this escapism to forget about work or money worries (among other things) and to do something that is uniquely and utterly your own.
There are plenty of hobbies for you to choose from, but many of them can seem rather expensive. Most of us fantasise about becoming the next big name in photography or fly fishing but few of us think we can afford all the kit we need to get started. Not true. To take the photography analogy slightly further, if you go on to Flickr you’ll see that some of the most stunning shots have been taken by amateurs on cheap digital cameras.
To start with, sit down with a pen and paper and write down exactly what activities interest you. Don’t worry about time constraints or money just yet. Let your imagination carry you away. If, like me, you go blank the moment you need to think of something, then keep a notepad handy for while you’re ambling around and take notes when inspiration hits you.
Try not to let your inner voice judge your ideas too much. If you’ve always wanted to start a gnome collection or participate in war enactments, that’s fine! It’s your hobby and if it makes you smile then it’s perfect. Nobody else need know what it is you get up to in those precious hours, even if you want to dress up as a gnome and do war enactments.
Once you’ve decided on your pleasant pastime you have to work out exactly how much it’s going to cost. Don’t forget to unearth all those little hidden extras that nobody thinks to tell you about. Many courses, for example, don’t mention that you need to provide all the equipment and this isn’t a wise idea until you’re one hundred percent sure that this hobby is for you.
Some courses will allow you one free taster session. It’s a good idea to go to several different ones until you find a course and instructor that you feel comfortable with. Some hobbies don’t even need you to spend money on anything but the starting out kit. You can nab everything directly from the net. Photography advice, trainspotting websites, gnome collection forums, Star Trek forums and other such things are all over the internet. You can even get tips and tricks from the masters in your chosen field for free.
If your hobby really appeals to you, and you’ve spent at least six months immersed in it, then you can start getting the necessary expensive bits. In some cases you can even rent them for short periods of time. This may well be an excellent option that saves you a ton of cash and yet you still get to practise on the right tools for your level of expertise. Consider sharing equipment with other members of your group or course. You can all put in a percentage of the costs and share the items as, and when, they are needed. Some things can be bought second-hand or on auction sites like eBay but, be warned, there may be warranty and service issues in some cases.
Spending money on the essentials is not an extravagance; it’s an investment in your life. You only get one chance to explore this world and your talents so put it to good use. As you get better at your hobby you can even start making some money. After all your research and hard work you'll be in the unique position of knowing exactly what other people in your field look for, and you’ll be able to deliver services and solutions that fit the market perfectly.
Don’t pass Go, don’t collect your £200. Get yourself a hobby and some Me Time immediately. You’ll be a better parent, and person, because you’ve allowed yourself some time to unwind.