This vocation/hobby balance thing is hard. I tend toward extremes in my life—either entirely melancholy and bored or super fired up and passionate for my hobbies and vocation.
As you can probably imagine, this dichotomy makes for some pretty stressful times when Abigail is having a tough/tired day. It took me 4 months to realize this, but the ONLY way to assuage my stress and have a peaceful day is to fully embrace my vocation–that is, devoting my time to God, then Caleb, then Abigail, the care of our home, then my hobbies.
I truly believe the secret to a good vocation/hobby balance is sometimes sacrificing those hobbies I (oftentimes) would rather be doing (writing on Graceful Catholic, posting sweet pictures of Abigail on Instagram, playing Red Dead Redemption, singing, etc) and instead taking care of what God is calling me to do (take care of Caleb, Abigail, and our home!)
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla knew a Thing or Two About Vocation/hobby Balance
“Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.”Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
You can glean a lot of wisdom from the saints on this vocation/hobby balance thing. Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was a pediatrician and (courageous!) mother of four kids. She knew a thing or two about love and sacrifice: she sacrificed the security of her own health to save her daughter’s life.
(As usual, my mundane sacrifices and selfish desires pale in comparison to the incredible feats of the saints, but I can only speak on my own experience of striving for sainthood!)
The past couple of weeks, Abigail and I had adopted quite the rhythm of 6+ hours of sleep & *almost* regular naps at the same time each day. For a second there, I thought she’d made a permanent 180 from where she was at 2 months (I was up every hour to a sobbing tiny baby. Not pleasant!)
Buuuuuut she’s still a baby. And babies sometimes do this thing called a ‘sleep regression’ at 4 months old.
And since Abigail thinks just about everything (including her sleep-deprived mom) is giggle-worthy, she’s recently decided to eat about 3-4 times per night. And she doesn’t want to go to sleep in her bassinet. And is just generally stubborn about *things* like car rides and getting onesies pulled over her noggin’.
I could just ignore her. White noise machines are pretty amazing like that. But that is certainly not loving my baby the best that I can. To truly love Abigail, I have to sacrifice my own rest. Similarly, during the day, I have to sacrifice much of the time I would rather spend on my hobbies on the things that actually matter–my vocational duties!
Our best days are the ones that I follow my Vocation/Hobby balance priorities list!
Sometimes, our family has really great days:
- I dedicate my day to God through prayer and meditation.
- I make sure the house is picked up and I have everything I need to cook dinner.
- Abigail is happy, fed, and comfy.
- And I get lots of my fun hobby projects done!
Yesterday was not one of those really great days.
Toward the middle of the day, I began to feel suuuuper overwhelmed by it all (Graceful Catholic as well as helping Caleb do music; and my part-time work and caring for a baby; AND I started a new intolerances diet (no gluten, no cow’s milk, no corn, no almonds, no wine, no chicken, no pork).
After cooking dinner, I realized that I hadn’t prayed all day. The house was in shambles. My priorities were all out of whack–so there was no vocation/hobby balance. All it took for me to return from stressed-outville to my mommy homeostasis was remembering the order in which I should be focusing on things!
God > Husband > Kids > Hobbies
Life goes quite smoothly for me when I’m following my vocation: aka being obedient to God first and to Caleb second. I think this little umbrella picture makes these levels of importance pretty clear.
So how’s an anxious momma to implement these priorities?
First: pray as soon as you wake up.
Try praying a morning offering like this:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
Notice in the example actions I added under the “God” umbrella, I included loving neighbors AND loving yourself. Self-care does NOT go under the “hobbies” umbrella. In order to serve and love others, we must take care of ourselves. This includes (but is not limited to) keeping tabs on your spiritual health, staying well-hydrated and well-fed, taking breaks from chores / hobbies when needed, good hygiene, & taking the time to put yourself together in the morning.
Second: Take care of Your Husband and Home (Sometimes This is A Sacrifice!)
Let’s face it–our husbands need our help! We were literally created to be their helpmates, subordinate to their goals & mutually self-sacrificing for one another. Do I want to cook dinner every night?
But if Caleb has been at work all day and I need to choose between finishing a blog post and cooking dinner at a reasonable time–in the name of vocation/hobby balance I must must must cook that dinner! (To be honest, I’m just now finding the discipline it takes to do this–I’m nowhere near perfect on any of these things.)
Thankfully, Caleb enjoys cooking! So some nights, he’ll take care of dinner while I get to play with Abigail or get some laundry put away. As long as you and your husband are on the same page, it’s wonderful to share responsibilities! (Just don’t do what I do and get used to your husband cooking dinner and then wonder why when he goes back to work full-time there’s no meatloaf magically cooking in the oven at 7:30 p.m.)
Third: Don’t Fight Your Little Ones!
Babies need about 5 things: to eat, to sleep, to burp, to poo (and be changed), and to play. Sometimes they need a bath. Other times, they need to be bounced and soothed. It was certainly a transition for me to be alone with Abigail during the day. But, like most things, it just took a couple of days of practice before we got into a decent rhythm!
The most important thing I’ve learned recently is: don’t fight your baby. Work with her.
Babies cannot be expected to get on their moms’ work/hobby schedule (nor should they! It’s not Abigail’s fault we brought her into this world!)
They can, however, be expected to take a nap within an hour or so of waking up. At first, I was banging my head against the wall with caring for her and pursuing my hobbies. She’d wake up & eat. Then she’d be happy on her floor mat looking around. I’d try to start working again. Then twenty minutes later she’d fuss. And I would pick her up, calm her down, and then try to set her back down on the floor mat. Get back to my computer for five minutes. Aaaaaaand then she’d start fussing again.
I don’t know why it took me 3.5 months to realize this, but it’s so much easier to just stop the hobby/chores I’m doing and hold her until she falls asleep when she’s tired! I can then set her down to nap and get back to whatever else I was doing instead of being interrupted 5 times because she is upset on her floor mat.
Now, I work with Abigail’s sleep cycles. She eats, is up and happy alone for a little bit, and then I pick her up when she fusses and in ~10 minutes she is napping! Highly recommend.
Fourth: Take Time For Your Hobbies!
Once I’ve got my other ducks in a row, I find that I actually have plenty of time, energy, and peace to pursue my hobbies. Peace from continuously striving to improve my prayer life. Energy from a home that is tidy and organized (seriously–constant clutter takes a lot out of me!) Time from the transition of struggling against babies to working with their little schedules.
When I’m stressed and feel like there’s no balance between my vocation and my hobbies, it’s usually because I am neglecting my responsibilities to God, Caleb and our home, or Abigail. And the best fun I have pursuing my hobbies is when I’m in a state of grace, have a clean home, am encouraging and loving Caleb the best that I can, and have a happy baby sitting on my lap.
“We cannot love without suffering” rings true in the vocation to marriage and motherhood. But don’t fret. The sacrifices we make to fulfill God’s will in our lives are the fuel that sanctifies us!
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