One guess who gets it more
I would love you to also spend some time investigating the gendered role that golf plays in work ie corporate golf tournaments. As an elder millennial entering management in an industry where my bosses were so excited when covid restrictions lifted enough that golf tournaments were back, I want to burn golf as business development to the ground. It’s male and white and we are still telling young female engineers that they need to learn to golf instead of telling old men engineers that we shouldn’t be doing business on a golf course anymore. Anyway I hate golf.
Show me a group of four women of working age who all can schedule 6 hours of uninterrupted leisure time on a weekend. Half the issue is that in order to have the full “golf outing experience” is you have to find peers who are *also* available for that amount of time. Even if individual women desire to eschew societal norms and invest in their own leisure time, best of luck finding a critical mass of other women to participate with you.
In my working/welfare class neighborhood of origin, there was one non-productive, entirely recreational leisure activity that adult women blocked off time for: Bingo.
Much mocked, much derided, class-coded as fuck, if your Mum or Gran played Bingo every week, then they were the kind of people that were the butt of all the jokes about our neighborhood. But now I’m thinking that it was a pretty radical act to insist on this leisure time. It certainly cost no more than, say, a few beers at the corner bar of the weekend. And the bingo hall was a space free of husbands, kids, jobs, and housework, with an activity that required concentration, yet could be enjoyed even when exhausted from all of the above.
I've been thinking about something highly related lately in regards to my marriage and how my husband and I spend "leisure time" together. (This is going to be kinda long and rambling, so apologies in advance!)
We have two young kids, ages 4 and 6. Both of us work from home full-time—something that is "new" as of COVID (even though it has been nearly three years, it still feels new, and also somehow endlessly old!). We're spending more time together than ever before.
If anything, my husband is better with housekeeping duties than I am. He cooks and tidies, is often first awake with the kids, and manages our household finances. I manage kid appointments and the family social calendar, buy clothes and gifts for all the myriad kid birthdays and family holidays, and, of course, do my share of housework, too.
When it comes to individual leisure, on a daily basis at least, I enjoy taking walks and going to the gym (arguably, would these maybe be considered health maintenance? They certainly perform both for me nowadays.). My husband plays video games and watches movies. He's not super outdoorsy.
So, at a glance, it seems that our marriage somewhat defies the expected norm, both in terms of household division of labor and where our leisure occurs.
Here's the thing that I've been thinking about lately, and that has been a bit of a hot topic between me and my husband: our joint leisure time nearly always falls into areas of his interest instead of mine.
It's not that I'm doing things he likes that I expressly DON'T like. For example, we have a standing weekly PC gaming date with friends, and it's something I enjoy. We watch a movie every single Sunday night—again, something I like to do, but, because my husband is very media-focused, is a tradition he's quite attached to.
To be fair, some of the leisure activities I enjoy besides walking and going to the gym are fairly individualistic: I like to draw and write, which are hard to make social, but I also enjoy dancing and going to concerts. Of course, the latter two are difficult to do in the hours between when the kids are in bed and we have to sleep ourselves. But, in a general sense, I've been realizing lately that when it comes to the leisure time my husband and I have with each other, I am much more apt to support his interests rather than visa versa.
That's not to say he doesn't support me and my own interest in my hobbies. But he doesn't want to participate in them. And that is something that's bothered me ... For a variety of reasons, but it was tough to put my finger on as to why. After reading this piece, however, it strikes me that it may be the socialization aspect that's been nagging at me. Am I more agreeable to doing the things my husband likes because I just enjoy them? Or because of my gendered expectation to defer? And is my husband similarly just saying "no" to things I like because he has an easier time saying no to things he doesn't want as a man?
Obviously I don't believe our relationship, and especially this particular current issue I've been pondering, can be boiled down into such black-and-white thinking. But I am certain that this is related to this very topic.
Anyway, that's my piece!
It would be really interesting to look at quality of leisure as it relates to optimization, too. If you have less time for leisure it seems like there'd be a lot of pressure to "make the most" of what scarce time you do have (I wrote my dissertation on American travel journalism and this was the big theme from the findings). And even if you have a hobby AND the time for it, it still might not feel quality if you don't think you're making the most of the time (by being The Best at whatever the hobby is).
There's a wonderful book that a lot of serious textile artists and makers love — Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. When no one else was doing research like it, she wrote about how women began making textiles and clothing in early civilizations because they could do it communally, in courtyards, and keep an eye on the kids in the same time.
As a single person, not a mother (and I'm grateful, Anne, that you remember and include us at least sometimes, and acknowledge that not all women are mothers) I don't have "hobbies," and I find making art and working with textiles, my lifelong practices, increasingly difficult when have to wear every single hat of financial security and life maintenance all the time and also deal with extreme solitude and the limited space that I can afford. The women I know who are successful in art very often have partners who help support their work. I don't say that to diminish the work in any way, but to acknowledge the reality of a culture where if you're not partnered, it's not easy. And then the culture within art making, and especially textile art and craft, is heavily mom-ified, so I often don't fit in there either.
Oh, man. In peak child-raising years, I felt hugely resentful that my partner spent two nights a week at a gym (where he coached), which meant that he was unavailable for all manner of family activities--and I had nothing comparable. Not even pursuits that I could squeeze in around other things. A little writing, but that was it. Now, I've retired and he's still working. I spend 3 mornings a week ice skating, and I've caught myself feeling like I have to justify it as something I do for my health, not just because I love it. It's almost like, because I love it, there has to be another, more pragmatic reason. How f'd up is that? At my rink, there is a club of older women who skate together one morning a week. The club's name? Hooky Club. It dates back to the 70s or 80s, when the women were "playing hooky" from their "wifely duties." (That's how it was explained to me.) I'm not even going to get into class issues; these were women who had the money to skate--an expensive sport--and weren't working for pay. So many layers questions about leisure and gender.
20 something me could have me could have saved herself much misery if I had figured out that golf in particular and sports in general were a reason that a particular guys I dated on and off from like 18 to 32 were bad together.
There was just so much golf (and associated trips) and so many televised sports events that were “not to be missed” that gave me this sense that something was off but that I was being too picky because after all men like sports.
It was the amount of designated and some what immovable time that all these took. It was this nagging feeling at 26 that if this guy and I got married I was going to spending a huge number of weekends being the primary parent. And I was going to spend an awful lot of vacations supervising kids at the amusement park/historic park/beach/pool around golf courses.
That he’d be game for a theater subscription, but that I’d be exchanging tickets around various and sundry can’t miss events. That there would be pouting because someone else had an important life event during some kind of sportsball playoff or during a Duke - UK game.
BTW sometime I’d love to read something on all the supposedly “picky” reasons to break-up with / not date someone that can actually be some kind of fundamental incompatibility.
I appreciate these ideas conveyed here - feels so validating, most particularly the quality of leisure time. Two thoughts from my own home: I'm (a woman) married to a man and we have two kids, 3 and 10 months, so a lot of caregiving required.
One thought: I'm pretty fiercely protective of my main leisure activity, which is usually running, but am constantly calculating how much time and when is the best time to be gone (especially since I'm not a human who will willingly get up at 5am, lol), and as soon as I come home, it's back to stress and chaos. My husband does not have many leisure activities but this is mostly because he struggles to multitask or coordinate how/when to do what (which my brain is doing all the time, and apparently is a female-coded activity *rolls eyes*). So, he doesn't do things, and I can't coordinate it for him (much as I'd like to, actually).
Second: after spending time with my lesbian-coupled best friends with a kid and learning how they delegate tasks, just this week I decided to try similar and allot my husband and me two weekday evenings each where we get to do what we want without feeling guilty for not putting kids to bed. Because if we're both home, I'm still the one "in charge" and it's not fun. It went great! Sort of. I saw a friend one night and went to yoga the other, and when I came home, no, both kids were not asleep and things were still a mess.... but an older mom friend wisely told me that you have to just let them (husbands) struggle to figure it out themselves, and eventually, they'll get it. Luckily my guy's a good guy and I trust he will. And I really enjoyed my couple hours "off." :)
My husband's leisure activities? Gaming online with his friends (who all also have kids). They block out every Wednesday night for three hours to game, and during that time, short of like, projectile vomiting from a kid, I'm on my own for parenting. Yes, the kids go to bed at 8:30 but everyone knows that if a kid doesn't want to go to sleep, they'll find reasons to be up, so what I hope is going to be an evening to myself often ends up being a terrorist negotiation with my 8yo who "heard something". Every other weekend on Saturday night is also a gaming date, and that's easily four hours because none of the participants have to get up in the morning. Then there's an hour of weights three days a week at home, that sometimes can happen during work, but is most likely after work, when the kids are home and need help with homework. I work a weird schedule so at least one of those weights afternoons is now on me. Meanwhile, I get up at 6am (or earlier) to go to the gym so I have time to get kids ready for school before I go to work. I don't think of the gym as a hobby-- it's brain/body care, but it's not fun.
I don't even know what my hobbies are, I'm 42. I read? I like driving around back roads and looking for local history? I'd like to hike more but without two kids acting like it's the Worst Thing Ever to walk three miles, so it requires childcare (and my husband would also like to hike more, so it's definitely a childcare thing). My husband and therapist keep telling me to find something creative, but yall, I am too damn tired to be creative beyond excessive doodling during zoom meetings.
First, I very much appreciate the specific callout of evolutionary psychology here. It's all socialized, all the way down!
Every very time I see one of those leisure charts I think about cooking/baking and the weird space it occupies (for me, a partnered & childless person with a pretty good balance of labor at home) between leisure and household work. I usually enjoy doing it, I find it relaxing or creative or educational depending on the meal, I like to watch TV and read books/articles about it and improve my skills, I like to allocate extra money to it than it strictly requires to meet our needs. And none of that negates the fact that I gotta do it most days even when I don't feel like it. And the fact that while I get joy out of the process more often than not, my husband gets the benefit of the product just as much as I do. If I were filling out one of those charts, where would I put those hours? All household work? 50/50? Household work when it's a post-work pot of soup and leisure when it's a 4-hour marathon of reading lovely cookbooks and buying fancy things and preparing them with my favorite music on?
So many gray areas around things that are obligations but also enjoyable - family visits? gardening? practicing a language? exercising for one's health? the office bowling league? I love this idea of "1/2 leisure" not just for stuff that's contaminated by ongoing care duties but also contaminated by the fact that it's not 100% your choice to do it.
Interesting ideas here.
Last year I knit almost everyone in my extended family hats. Three family members - all female - none particularly close to me - said thank you - along with a variation of this line - your husband is so great for giving you all this free time. It felt ridiculous - all my hats were knit while doing childcare (my kids spend a lot of time eating dinner!) or while watching tv with my husband when the kids are in bed.
At first I was annoyed but then I realized I'd come to similar incorrect conclusions in the past.
I think it's interesting that as woman some of us are so quick to judge/be jealous of one another.
I wish I could decouple my difficulty with leisure time from my difficult childhood and how, at any moment, I might be called on to justify how I was spending my time. So much of what you said in this article about the gender divide resonated with me, since my husband feels very entitled to his own time in a way that I can't seem to manage—even now that the youngest of our 3 children is a senior in high school.
As a horse person who largely gave up riding for six years after having a child, I also see many women who are serious about riding (even like, passionate at a hobby level, not competitive at any high level) choosing not to have kids. I suspect it’s because kids and this hobby are not really compatible, even after the obvious “give it up while you’re pregnant” period.
Single woman, mid-forties, unmarried, childless, with recreational activities ranging from the solitary and non-communal to the team (off the top of my head: quilting, gardening, cooking, reading, writing, hockey, brunching). And my observed anecdata from my life compared with the lives of my married/family friends absolutely, unequivocally lines up with the research. How many times have I gone away on vacation with women from my church and heard "when I get home, I'll have to do all the things that weren't done this weekend"? How many times have I been away for a sewing day (10-4, but nobody stays for the entire day) with my "young quilters' group" of thirty-fortysomethings only to hear someone's phone ring and a whole conversation ensue about Where Is The Childers' Socks, I Can't Find Them? I recall unhampered weekends away with female friends...who were all childless, or sewing days with my "older quilters' group" of sixty-seventysomething ladies whose children grown beyond needing instruction or management. But for women with families, their leisure time is eked out, painfully mined - and even then, the precious mingled with the everyday - and half the emotions of that time away is guilt at being away, while the other half is worry about having to come home and deal with all the things that slipped and fell while they were gone... It makes me want to scream.
fantastic piece. The quality of leisure is a huge dilemma in modern families. The Onion article above nails it. And the kids often pressure Mom into coordinating their leisure. The ‘involved’ parent trend has also contributed to this. My mother happily ignored the children and read books all summer long. It was normal in the 1970s. I’ll be writing about how older Americans define fun very differently than younger folks and how this life stage difference actually reveals a major historical decline in the quality of older people’s social networks.