No Man’s Band: Music industry mom’s find silver lining during pandemic

No Man's Band

No Man’s Band: Music industry mom’s find silver lining during pandemic

There’s no doubt that this time of social distancing is difficult for everyone. But, for working musician mothers with kids at home, there are several added stressors. Not only have all of the music performance and much of the teaching jobs dried up, but even before the pandemic, there were already fewer well-paying opportunities for women in music. Plus, the demands put on full-time working mothers were already unfair to begin with, and now they’re home 24/7 with their kids.

According to a 2015 article by Pew Research Center, “Among working mothers, in particular, 41% report that being a parent has made it harder for them to advance in their career…and even in households where both parents work full time, many say a large share of the day-to-day parenting responsibilities falls to mothers.”

Hence, as they attempt to keep up the housework, their kid’s homeschool education, and their own self-care during the pandemic, music industry moms are struggling to find time to spend on their music careers without feelings of guilt, overwhelm and worry.

“Mom of 3 here! Youngest is 7. It’s been a challenge balancing school at home plus fitting in music and teaching online now, it’s a weird time for sure. Sometimes feels like I’m ignoring my kids to get work done which I don’t like but is necessary,” said Yakima, WA-based singer-songwriter Angela Soffe.

Other music industry parents have even been forced to pivot into other industries to keep money coming in during the music industry freeze.

“I have an 11-year-old son and I juggle teaching a small studio of music students with my personal recording and collaborative music projects (mostly projects done remotely/online with producers),” said one Seattle-based woman musician who preferred to remain anonymous. “With my son home, I’m needing to help him with keeping up with school work and transitioning to the new online format for his school. Most of my music students aren’t willing to switch to remote video lessons, but I’m still teaching that way for those who are willing. I’m considering trying to find side work as a math tutor since so many kids are switching to online school right now, but it’s pretty challenging keeping up with the income generating projects, passion projects, homeschooling & parenting, housework and everything. Not sure how long it’s going to be sustainable, but I’ll keep trying until I find a balance that works.”

Still, many musician parents have also noted a lovely musical surprise as a result of social distancing: Their kids, also restless in this new normal, are playing much more music with them. This not only gives the parents a chance to practice and bond with their kids, but also helps occupy and soothe the whole family during an uncertain time.

Abby Karp, a Seattle-based musician and mother, said she just about “fell off her chair” when her child joined in with her in a practice session.

“The other day I was playing a song I had just written and my 13-year-old came in and just picked up his bass and started to join me without a single word mentioned between us!,” she said.

Karp was so inspired and motivated she recorded a demo of their jam session, and then her older child joined in with his violin, too.

“And getting that one to play with me is worse than pulling teeth!,” Karp said, laughingly. “I’ll chalk it up to the fact that they love music and miss it dearly since all they really can do is practice on their own lately. That and the fact that with this gift of time, we all have the luxury to have the time to do it now without feeling stressed or pressured with the 100 usual things going on that we don’t now. We are all appreciating things and activities we don’t usually get to do together much more.”

Shannon Cook, music producer at Seattle’s High Plateau Productions, has used this downtime with her kids to explore music technology with them—and she’s found it gives them a creative, joyful way to spend their time.

“We’ve been exploring Garage band and The free Moog program. It’s keeps them occupied and is creative too. We play back their creations and dance in the kitchen,” said Cook.

Lori Goldston, a Seattle-based songwriter and cellist, even hired her 15 year-old son to help her make a music video to continue to support his filmmaking studies. She’s also found this has been a nice time for an intergenerational music exchange.

“[We’ve also been] listening to lots of records and having increasingly nerdy music conversations, and [he’s] steering my listening choices toward cheerful/rowdy crowd pleasers (lots of garage and psych compilations, etc).”

And beyond keeping kids busy and engaged, parents say making music with their kids been great for calming their own nerves and creating pockets of joy during an increasingly unsettling time. It’s not surprising, as research shows that making music in groups can help a person’s well-being.

“We make up songs, dance, be silly, and do music time together. I actually love having them home with me!,” said Soffe.

Likewise, Karp said, “They seem to be suddenly interested in jamming, accompanying and recording with me. Perhaps they are bored? Either way, this has been the greatest silver lining in my life the past 2 weeks.”

Alexa Peters

Alexa Peters

Alexa Peters is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor with a specialty in arts & culture, wellness, and lifestyle journalism, as well as marketing and content strategy. Alexa’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, No Depression, Audiofemme, Fretboard Journal, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and many other publications.