Working as a musician with a little one and juggling life...
I am always asked in press interviews, "How do you juggle life with a little one and being a touring artist?" If I'm being truly honest, the simple answer is 'I just do it' (a motto that I hold close!) However, after my 10th (or 16th?) time of being asked this question, I actually paused to think... logic kicked in and my heart started to beat a little faster. I am a Musician, a Wife, a Mum an artist, writer, presenter, racing driver, educator, daughter, sister and friend. Pausing to think of these titles that make up Yolanda Brown gave me a strange feeling... was it stress, anxiety? How do I do it? Am I ok doing it?
When studying for my degree and going through all the identity confusion that brings, I used to doodle. Not the usual, "I love..." but I used to write (over and over again) who I am. A daughter, a PhD student, a saxophonist, a sister, a friend, etc. Though these roles feel a lot clearer now than when I was a student, it seems that the act of juggling these titles is still the same. Making sure that they all get the right attention and balance with each other... it all seemed to go hand in hand. It's the work / life balance after all. However, adding the 'Mum' title was bound to make the scales heave a little!
Reeds, F sharps and sound checks are my usual vocabulary as an artist, I was about to swap them with Ultrasounds, Contractions and Bugaboos as a first time mother... It was all exciting, strangely no fear! Just excitement.
I needed to prepare for my biggest gig yet, a headline concert that will last a life time, except the star would not be me, it would be this amazing child that was about to bring so much joy.
Time to get things in order, I needed to make sure I was fit and healthy and well researched for this important cargo I was carrying; pregnancy yoga - check, aqua-aerobics - check, baby apps - downloaded, breast pumps - check, and the list goes on.
Next step, as an independent artist with no major record label support, I needed to plan my online absence or presence depending on how you looked at it. There is no maternity leave for the self employed and thanks to aqua-aerobics and pregnancy yoga I was fit and strong an able to perform into my third trimester, hanging up my saxophone 2 months before my due date. I think my only anxiety was that I already had my next tour booked in to start 3 months after giving birth and baby would be coming on the road for the ride! Nothing to do but pray for no complications.
In Feb 2014, my beautiful daughter Jemima was born. I felt every emotion possible, smiled myself to sleep daily, she was everything I dreamt of and I was so grateful. I had often thought about the type of parent I wanted to be but seeing how much she knew what she wanted I knew that if I followed her lead things were so much easier. From the first month I decided on adopting a Baby Led Parenting style (another blog entry on this I think!) from breast feeding to weaning to sleeping, she led the way!
As planned, I was touring 3 months later and she just felt like she had always been there. She loved the road, the tour bus, the band and the music - she already knew the songs from touring in utero and still did her special jig (that used to be our little secret) to her favourite song in the auditorium!
Yes, sleepless nights, chicken pox, worrying about colds and balanced diets, all the first time parent jitters were there, but forums helped me realise everyone goes through that. I love being a Mum, as much (if not more) than all my other roles and so it slotted in just right! Sleep is for whips anyway!!
So why my quickened heart beat, the anxiety or stress when thinking about juggling it all? After some thought, my hesitation led me to realise that I had left one role off the list... ME. In the task to make Wife, Mum and Artist balance I forgot to add the 4th title that holds them all together. By remembering me and taking a few hours (usually between 1am and 3am starting with a binge catch up of Eastenders). I am then able to breath, enjoy the silence and prepare to get juggling again the next day!