Which woman has time for hobbies?

St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper-Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald.



My friend Julia is an avid knitter. She doesn’t fit the traditional stereotype though; one can’t, actually, picture her clacking needles, slipper-clad, in front of a roaring, fairytale fire, humming tunes from the war and churning out snaking scarves and jolly jumpers for relatives abroad.

She’s a sexy, smart brunette, dresses to die for and would seem to have a million better things to do than dropping stitches and untangling webs of wool from her cat.

But because she’s a smart bird – I only learn from the best – she’s gently influenced me to change my opinion of what I will become if I choose to take up a hobby. Something I only ever expected to do once the kidlings had flown the coop (oh, glory days) and I wrestled with dentures at night and dreamed of my missing firm bits.

It dawned on me quite recently that I should have the time to paint, or play piano, or potter (the fancy term for mashing clay into pulp and calling it an ashtray).

It’s just that, admitting you have time to fritter seems sinful to a corporate swat team type like me, who also, just for the hell of it, tossed two kids into my bag of tricks for good measure.

Before succumbing to the hub and impulsively suggesting that we could both parent and have lives, I was quite an interesting person.

I have a Grade 8 in piano (I love telling people that, as boasting about past achievements seems to make you relevant in the now, at least to yourself), started a women’s cricket team when it was clear that South Africa languished in a patriarchal black hole that decreed we should do netball instead (and if you’re short – then what?) and used to cycle (a bit).

I also wrote movie reviews, both for fun and profit, and could debate the difference between film noir and action, despite a bottle of wine.

Now, I’m just a human taxi. The small sliver of me-ness that survives writes this column, gladdens clients with beautifully churned-out copy on all manner of stuff and, occasionally, makes Chinese lanterns for my seven-year-old and her friends, who believe, momentarily, that I am a creative goddess.

Apart from that, my day is a routine Ferris wheel that takes little people here, drops them there, cleans and feeds them on an irregular basis, and barks orders at everyone from the baker to the truck in front, which is obviously driving slowly to make me late.

So how, in the name of this good green earth, could I possibly focus an iota of time on learning to embroider, or fish, or paint technique? And wouldn’t this brand me a lady of leisure, when fact says I pack more into my day than a Paris Hilton overnight bag?

It’s a simple equation, reckons Julia. Do what you love and what gives you pleasure – and accept that the cult of modern multi-tasking is the only way for women like us.

If surfing Facebook was a hobby, I’d be a-okay. But since it’s not – well, not really – I’m going to learn to status update with one hand, while crafting doilies with the other. Then, at least, I’ll have something useful to teach my kids when I’m old, they’re not, and I’m giving thanks that my legacy is more than a battered old diary stuffed with other people’s schedules.

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