It’s been a busy summer, but not for table tennis reasons. I actually took most of August off because of the birth of our 3rd child.
He was born 17 August and quite a feeding machine.
Whilst my head is completely wrapped up in the dramas of having a new-born baby in the house, I thought I’d write a blog post on the subject of parenthood and the difficulty of playing table tennis (or maintaining any hobby).
So please excuse the slightly self-indulgent article, but hopefully my thoughts will strike a chord with other new parents out there.
All work and no play
A baby is very hard work. Nothing can quite prepare you for how much your life changes. This is our third child, so we know what to expect, although each baby experience has been challenging in different ways.
Our first child, born in 2011, hit us like a bombshell. You go from having complete autonomy during your free time, to no free time at all.
New-born babies sleep for around 20 hours a day. But it doesn’t seem like it. There is a never ending cycle of feeding, soothing, changing nappies. Babies do sleep, but often you can only get them to sleep by holding them, rocking them, patting them.
You can try and put the baby in a chair or cot to sleep – but the baby knows. The baby senses something has changed. First you get a fidget, then a failing of arms, then the face screws up and then WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!
So you pick the baby up again and try to sooth it to sleep. So yes, babies do sleep a lot, but usually it requires constant cuddling from mummy (less so daddy!).
You struggle to find the time to feed yourself, clean yourself, get dressed, leave the house or even make a cup of tea.
And then there is the sleep deprivation. This really does destroy you both mentally and physically. It’s bad for both parents, but much, much, much worse for breast-feeding mums who just get no break at all and will go months and months before getting any kind of decent sleep.
It’s enough just to survive one day to the next.
Give up your hobby?
With such a major change in your life, it is very easy to stop doing your hobby. You don’t have the energy. You want to help your partner get through every day.
Taking time out of the house to do a hobby, like playing table tennis, feels like a luxury.
To leave your partner with soiled nappies, sick stained clothes, a grissly new-born who won’t be put down and a pile of dishes in the kitchen, whilst you go hit a small ball with your small bat, seems like a completely selfish act.
Table tennis, or any other hobby, just doesn’t seem important in the slightest when compared to the upheaval of looking after a new-born baby.
I know many people – women and men – who stop doing their hobby when a baby comes and never pick it up again (at least for a few years).
I completely respect and understand this.
Keep doing your hobby?
Even though it can seem really hard at first, I personally think it is so important to maintain a life outside of the family home. To keep doing your hobby.
You may not be able to do your hobby as much as before and you certainly may need to take a break during the first few weeks of a new-born’s life. But if you can carve out some time to do your hobby, then it can have great benefits for both your mental and physical health.
For me, I kept playing table tennis after the birth of my first two children. I had to cut down but I kept on training and playing league matches.
It was an opportunity for me to be active – to get those endorphins released in my body – to focus on something other than feed times, pooey nappies and rocking the baby.
And quite honestly it’s nice to talk to other adults about adult things and not just talking a language of goo-goo-gaa-gaa.
After a table tennis work-out I would return to family life refreshed and ready to get stuck back in to the baby routine.
And this advice is most definitely not aimed just at men, who get easy ride compared to women.
It is doubly important for women, I think, to try and maintain hobbies outside of the house. Women feel the burden of parenthood more than men and it can be quite suffocating and isolating if your entire life is focused on the baby.
A break from the house and the baby can work wonders. For both our first two children, my better half, was quick to get back to her hobbies. Like me, she couldn’t do as much as before, but we have always tried to give each other some time off, so we can keep our interests going.
It’s not all bad!
So this may seem like quite a downbeat article – a bit negative – but new born babies are really hard work!
I find the first 6 months the hardest. But it does gradually get easier, especially when the baby sleeps for longer through the night.
And you get massive pleasure from the first smiles and giggles and when you can interact with your baby in a more playful way.
So whilst it seems like you have no energy to continue your hobby at first, try to keep going. Work together with your partner. Give each other time off. You have created a wonderful new life which needs constant nurturing, but don’t forget to nurture your life too.