Of all the annoying things my husband has ever said to me (don't worry, he has a list much longer than mine), telling me that I don't have hobbies has got to be the most annoying. Let me set the scene. We are having a discussion about how I would feel about him going away for what feels like the n-th weekend since our baby daughter was born ten months ago. His trips have included visiting his brother abroad, playing bass in a spoof rock band at two festivals and an overnight surfing trip. My baby-free trips away in that time? Zilchio. And that's when he says it. As in: I'm totally happy for you to take time away to do what you want to do, but you don't really have hobbies, do you? I am not known for being a violent person but I could have smacked him one.
But - pen in my pout á la Carrie - was he right?
I was not one of those girls at school who wholeheartedly embraced sporting activities. I quite liked basketball, hated the endless rules and restrictions of netball (why can't you just run with the ball?) and had quite a lot of laughs attempting to send a shuttlecock the right way over the net, but I was too lazy to take any of it seriously.
Since then I have flirted with a number of activities linked with my fantasy about becoming a person who makes wonderful things that might sell well at Liberty's. But mostly I just like everyday things – playing with my daughter, reading the papers in bed, hanging out with friends, going to see films and art shows. The other things I find satisfying would probably be considered more housework than hobby: cooking, putting flowers in vases, reorganising my wardrobe. I know, my life is tragic.
Do these things count as hobbies? Probably not to some. But I know plenty of women who would be happy as Mary if they just had time to do those simple things without a mammoth to-do list running like film credits across the back of their brains. The trouble is, what with the never-ending nature of women's work (paid or unpaid) and the small matter of our biology, (if you've ever tried an overnight trip without baby while you're still breastfeeding you'll know what I mean), they don't. I am not saying my husband is some kind of unreconstructed layabout. Far from it. In fact, I feel lucky to be with a man who takes such an equal role with our daughter. But somehow like most men he seems to be able to find the time to do the things he enjoys. How do they do that?
Maybe it's a matter of interpretation. Maybe we women-who-don't-do-sport-or-craft-or-musical-activities (I realise that's not all of us) need to elevate what we like doing to the status of male-style hobbies. What do we want? Equal status for male and female free time! When do we want it? NOW! Well, just as soon as we've finished these chores...
By: Laura Smith