"Working in a gig economy is extremely difficult, and there is little to no security for things like parental/maternity leave and flexible working arrangements."
Being a parent in the music industry is a new juggle to add to the toolkit that trumps all the other juggles! It is a total readjustment of the order of things and forces a swift and 360-tightening of all aspects of your life.
It also has the double edge of boiling you down to your most essential. The fat gets trimmed almost immediately. I stepped into an overdrive setting I wasn't aware that I was capable of, and it's defined my work life ever since!
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I have an eight-month-old and a three-year-old boy, so I'm very much 'in the trenches,' as they say. I imagine it would be much harder to be a parent if you were solely working within the live sector.
The live industry is by nature mostly a 'nighttime economy' which really doesn't lend itself to parenting small humans. Luckily for me, I am mostly in the recorded music space and in a supportive workplace with business partners who have gracefully carried the load when I've been off on maternity leave, and our company is now big enough to survive without me for a while.
I do really feel for the sole traders and contract workers in the industry. Working in a gig economy is extremely difficult, and there is little to no security for things like parental/maternity leave and flexible working arrangements.
In addition, it's an industry where as a parent, a huge chunk of the workforce are generally childless and younger than you. Whilst most people are understanding, many have absolutely no idea just how difficult the 'juggle' can be, and that is a real challenge.
Making space for parents and educating around the need for the industry to hold on to the knowledge that a Mum (and Dad) workforce can provide so parents don't leave the sector is vital. Plus, there's nothing more rewarding than being able to take your baby or child to a gig and show them what Mummy does for work.
My answers obviously come from a father's perspective, where although in it together with a partner, it is not the male body that is ravaged during the process of birth.
No one tells us that it is a never-ending and often thankless pursuit, but it's all the trivial stuff that ends up meaning everything and compounding to develop the relationship that you have with your kids in the long run.
Managing levels of guilt for having to go away on tour and be away from your kids and leaving your partner to have to look after everything is one of the biggest challenges about being a parent and a musician.
On the flip side, when you’re off tour, you can be more present than a father with a regular job. Most Dads only get to see their kid for a moment at each end of the day and on weekends. The common misconception, I believe, is that musicians are unable to be present in their kids' lives.
I read books to my older two kids every night and took them to every sporting training and event. Unless you are in a band that is on the road ALL of the time... Then you just have to deal with the month away a couple of times a year. The rest of the time... you are there! One piece of advice I’d pass on to musicians/music industry folks who are about to have kids is that there is never the “right time.”
There will always be the next thing... and having kids is hard but rewarding... And it’s not something you wanna put off till you make a particular goal... Because the goal may never happen...
[Big caveat – I’m not a parent, so this is purely coming from the research I’ve done with parents in music] During a research project on why women and gender non-conforming people take breaks from music work, we found that becoming a parent is one of the key events that leads to people taking time out from their careers.
This isn’t uncommon, of course, but coming back as parents was harder than people expected. They found that it was very difficult to balance parenting with the structure of music work, which so often involves working outside ‘normal’ hours and frequently late into the night.
Finding childcare or help was not as easy as for people in 9-5 jobs. Mothers also told us that the music industry just doesn’t have their needs in mind for the most part – they couldn’t access things like changing rooms or places to breastfeed or express.
Parents were also very worried that any time they needed to take away from their jobs would mean they would lose connections to their networks, which are vital to maintain to keep up with what is happening and where the work is.
Improvements have been happening though, and moving towards normalizing parenting in music spaces will help bridge the gap between these worlds.
Want to learn more about parenting and the music industry? BIGSOUND is hosting the ‘Parenting - Releasing the Career Handbrake’ panel on Thursday 7 September. For information, head to bigsound.org.au/