Mom musicians share their hard-won insights on navigating their careers while raising children.
Ciara, like all mothers, has learned, “there’s really never a perfect time to have a baby.” And when you’re a working musician, motherhood presents a unique set of challenges… and opportunities.
“If you want to take on that chapter as a woman and still work, still be your own boss and still thrive in your work world, you can do it all,” says Ciara, who is the mom of three kids under 10, including a toddler born in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a learning experience for sure,” explains Grammy-nominated artist/songwriter/producer Victoria Monét, who has worked with Ariana Grande, Machine Gun Kelly, Khalid and many others. She calls balancing motherhood and music, “a new way of operating. I feel like I always have to remind myself because there’s a lot of emotions that come with having a baby, especially in the first few months. I have to remind myself that everything is going to be ok.”
It’s a powerful point considering that Monét, whose daughter Hazel was born in early 2021, faced remaining an active songwriter while navigating pregnancy during a pandemic. She was “very pregnant and quarantined” when she wrote her single, “Coastin’.” “I had to use the song more as escapism and try to imagine a world musically that I wanted to experience,” she says.
Body of Work
In recent years, huge stars like Beyoncé and Cardi B have gotten really real about how the physical demands of being a woman and an artist, where there are often incredibly high image expectations, have intensified the very physical process of pregnancy and childbirth.
In her Homecoming documentary, Beyoncé famously detailed what it was like to go from 218 pounds and pregnant with twins Sir and Rumi, through a c-section, and quickly into rehearsing herself back into shape for her epic 2018 Coachella headlining sets, all within a grueling 10 months. "I had to rebuild my body from cut muscles,” she said in the film. “My mind wanted to be with the babies."
“What people don't see is the sacrifice,” she added.
Cardi B, for her part, pulled no punches about how having her daughter Kulture in 2018 impacted her body. “I feel good, but sometimes I feel, like, not, you know? [When] your skin is stretched out,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “Yes, my daughter f–ked me up. She did, she so did.”
The Opportunity Costs of Touring
The postpartum period, which often includes breastfeeding, is always just the beginning of the juggling act for musician moms of every genre.
In the same ET interview, Cardi B chimed in about the “mom guilt” of “all that traveling.”
Sharon Van Etten also experienced the effect of motherhood on the road when she brought her toddler on tour.
“I didn’t know how to be present for my band and my son, and to help the sitter,” she remembers. “I felt like, all of a sudden, my roles were divided. And it was hard for the sitter to take him out all the time when he just wants to be with me. Most venues aren’t really close to anything, and if the weather was bad, there was really nowhere to go. Seeing how limited he was in recreational access, I just felt it was unfair to him and the band.”
Single mom Heather Gabel, of Chicago industrial dance duo HIDE, notes that it’s important to do a complex cost-benefit analysis when choosing touring opportunities as a mother.
“Weighing the pros and cons of being away from home is challenging,” Gabel says. “I plan in ways that yield the most quality time with [my child] Evelyn. Working a festival close to a tour isn’t always worth it. Even if I need the money, it means an extended amount of time away. There are times, however, when I will choose being away from Evelyn for shows or festival work because it makes it possible for me to not have to work when I’m home with them—over summer vacation, for example. Or, it makes it possible for us to take a trip together.”
“Even though it’s more lucrative to go out for three or more weeks and cover more ground, the emotional cost of not being physically present outweighs the money you make,” adds Van Etten, who opted for shorter stints on the road at the time.
Safe and Sound
Rock veteran Sheryl Crow, who adopted her sons in 2007 and 2010, finds that she’s, “the most creative and productive between the hours of 8:30 and 2:30 because my kids are at school. And that may sound really lame, but there was a time in my life where I thought if it wasn't in the middle of the night, if it wasn't 2:30 in the morning, I couldn't write a song.”
She also mentions that, as a mom, “I need to know that everybody's safe, and is occupied, so that I can really just close everything off and finish my project.”
Find Your Why
“Creativity is something that you tap into,” Crow continues. “And part of that is being able to access your emotion and your life experience—and it's also a discipline. Showing up and writing every day is a discipline.”
When that life experience includes motherhood, it’s both an inspiration and a driving purpose in your work, both Victoria Monét and Ciara agree.
“As hard as it is sometimes, I have to be another example for someone else who wants to do both,” Monét says. “You shouldn’t have to decide between career and family. So I’m happy to see Kehlani, Cardi B, Teyana Taylor, all of these women that I can look at as examples…. And I want to be a part of that list as well.”
“I have my... babies at home: that’s my why, because that’s real.” Ciara says, getting emotional. “I have more of a reason for what I’m doing. It was one thing when I would celebrate my successes by myself. But my babies, they look at me and they’re so proud of me. And that makes me feel like I’m really doing something in this world.”
Watch Ciara's 2019 Best Advice interview below: