Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Keeping Creative: Five Strategies for Musician Parents

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights:

My friend Norah just wrote, "I'd love to hear about more women who are having amazing artistic careers while raising children."

Me, too! I wish there were a manual...

If I had to write a very short rule book today, here's what I'd say:

Rule #1:
Work while your child is engaged (or sleeping). Just bang it out. Do creative work first, then cram in your dumb emails. Ger 'er done. It's all nice and well to "sleep while your child sleeps." But this advice doesn't hold when you have music to learn/write.

Rule #2:
Sing, compose, arrange, collaborate, do a show, or practice--even if you "don't feel like it." You always feel better when you make music. Or, if you don't, at least you made some music. Just 15 minutes gets the cobwebs out.

Rule #3:
Remember that most things that are deeply worthwhile aren't easy or convenient. Playing gigs while schlepping kids along (and/or making child care arrangements back at home) can be exhausting, challenging. But it is also wildly beautiful and hilarious to be able to share your music and travel with your family. Tough? Who cares!

Rule #4:
Healthful snacks and travel toys/activities (books, compact travel art supplies, small bag with cars/road) are great for backstage and in hotels. But animal crackers and an ipod loaded with kid videos can make the travel day less stressful for everybody. And so lightweight for your carry on.

Rule #5:
Even though I only "need" a sitter during my time onstage, I am learning to arrange for childcare to begin at soundcheck through 30 minutes after the show. This builds in downtime before the performance, and allows visiting with people/presenter after the show. I've gone onstage with my bra a bit disheveled (from a pre-show nursing) too many times. Not recommended.

Bonus Rule:
There are no rules. Do whatever works for you--and then let me know about it!


  1. What works for me (with a 3.5 year old and a 21 month old) is having them in day care part time. It is the only way to concentrate on booking, promoting, practicing and planning. I teach lessons to pay for the day care and then my husband or parents keep the kids while I perform. I can not concentrate and give my music 150% when my kids are around. As you all know, being a musician means you never have enough time even if you worked every waking and sleeping hour. So I just had to accept that I will never have enough time, but to make the best use of the time I do have. Good luck to all of those musician moms!

  2. Great ideas, Jennifer. Thanks for sharing. Since I mostly perform with my husband, we do have our kid with us most of the time. And as a result, I don't feel like anything gets 150% (i.e. I simultaneously feel compromised as a musician AND parent AND spouse). For me, this has been an interesting lesson in NOT giving my all, all of the time... and I really like your reminders and thoughts, too. It's all a work in progress!