My son is almost 3. My wife and I are expecting another boy this summer.
Needless to say, having a child is an unparalleled life-changing event. There are numerous blogs, articles, and self-help books that are designed to help a dad cope with everything from his wife’s kaleidoscope of emotional/hormonal fluctuations, to the social challenges that a newborn can impose, but I have found one topic to be quite lacking in all of this rhetoric:
What happens to my hobbies when the baby’s born?
As a hard core geek with an awe inspiring collection of boardgames, video games, and miniatures, I was unsure exactly what fatherhood held in store. I imagined beating my forehead against my tear-stained keyboard as the vultures on craigslist & eBay scooped up my lifetime of treasures so I could afford more hypo-allergenic baby wipes and Teletubby videos.
As a new father, like all other aspects of your life, your geek life must also change.
1. Holy crap that’s valuable/fragile/toxic/a choking hazard!
Identify the collectables, toys, and hobby gear that you have that fit any of these criteria, and put them in a pile.
- Size up exactly how much storage space is required to contain it all, and consider how frequently you will need to access it.
- Install some tall shelving or add cupboard facings to existing shelves. Identify areas that cannot be accessed by a 3 foot tall gremlin.
- You must explain to your significant other that these secure shelves now belong to you, and may not be used for anything else.
- The space which your hobby is permitted to occupy is now clearly defined. You may not acquire more hobby gear than you can store in these places.
Important: Do not consider renting storage space. These hobbies are expensive enough as is!
2. I guess that does look kind of disturbing…
Some sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genre stuff can contain some pretty adult imagery. As you scan through your boardgames, role-playing books, miniatures, and video games, give some thought about which ones contain disturbing images or sounds. This is particularly true of vide games, as they can be very immersive.
- Be selective about what games, images, media you let your kid see. Gauge their reactions to things carefully.
- Sometimes kids will be particularly upset by a specific sound byte or picture. Avoid these images/sounds until your child is old enough to have these things explained to them.
- I found this to be particularly true of video games and monster compendiums. Even though my boy is really fearless and rough & tumble, he gets really emotionally wound up by some video games and monster pictures. He loves looking through the Pathfinder Bestiary, but there are a couple pages I skip past.
3. Make time for your hobbies.
This sounds simple… but, good luck.
It’s important that you discuss the importance of your hobbies with your significant other. Let them know that you don’t want to give up your hobbies, but you realize that as a team you need to plan this time so it doesn’t interfere with your family obligations and quality time.
- After the shock of the first few months, when your newborn starts to sleep a bit more regularly (hah!), try to figure out where you can fit your hobbies back into your schedule.
- If you and your partner both play, remember to make time for a game at least once every week or two after the little one is asleep
- You will find that some games are no longer viable based on your energy level and the time investment they require.
- During the first year or two of your child’s life, you & your partner will probably not play many long games together. For both of you to be involved probably requires a babysitter, which is often hard to justify financially.
- I must admit, the wife & I have taken a lot more interest in boardgames you can play in 1 hour or less.
- We also take turns sending each other off for hobby days of one variety or another. Or if we have people over for games, they are used to dialing down the volume “Ok now it’s whisper time while James falls asleep”
These are just a few thoughts to help new & expectant parents realize that having a child does not mean the end of gaming, just a re-tooling of how your gear is stored and when gaming is available. As a miniature hobbyist, I find that family life has me going out on the town less than I used to. This has inspired me to get into my painting more consistently. I’m watching more tutorials on how to paint, and arranging regular hobby nights with friends on weekdays that suit their schedules.
The exhaustion level is pretty daunting at first. The idea of picking up a brush after bath, snack, teeth-brushing, jammies, reading 5 bedtime stories, and handling numerous crying fits, can be hard to fathom, but if you just force yourself to get your hobby gear out on a regular basis, you can make some pretty impressive headway by whittling away at your collection night after night.
To all the new (or soon-to-be-new) geek parents out there. Good luck, and happy gaming.