You may have noticed that my Facebook and Twitter feeds lately have been less about music, and more about the fact that I am currently consumed with the thing called “life”. A.k.a. having kids, making food, spending time with family, and whatnot.
I see my piano every day sitting in my living room. It says “Pssst, hey you, wanna come play me?”.
I entertain the thought, but then reality hits.
Playing with a big hard unrelenting 7 month-along baby-belly in the way makes playing the piano incredibly, utterly UN-enjoyable right now. So I pass on my 6 foot grand piano’s offer, while it sits collecting dust and probably going out of tune.
I can feel it’s sad lonely eyes staring at me as I ignore it with immense guilt.
Not only do I NOT have the desire to play right now out of physical discomfort, but it’s like I can’t get my brain to even think about music either. The desire is not there. At ALL.
When I think about my 2014 goals, the idea of NEW music, or NEW album, or NEW music video just makes my head hurt.
Is it burn-out?
Is it the over-whelmed factor?
Oh for sure.
I remember my mom telling me that she once didn’t touch the piano for 6 years. “Impossible”, I thought. “It’s part of who she is.” I also for years judged her for giving up her music dreams during the prime of her life in order to be a stay-at-home-mom. “She gave up years of pursuing music professionally and then regretted it later in life.” I often thought to myself. “I will NEVER do that.”
Out of the 30+ years I’ve done music, about 20 of those years were strictly Classical music training, and the other 10 have been composing and producing my own music.
The last 2 years of my life in particular have been the MOST involved.
It has included balancing a life of 2 young children, husband, releasing a 3rd album in Q3 of 2012 (which took me 4 years to write/produce) and then spending the following year and a half promoting it with trips to Los Angeles, New Orleans and more, receiving nominations, winning awards, walking red carpets, filming music videos, performing, meeting and working with renowned musicians and producers, and being on the receiving end of many more project requests.
I have worked very hard. When I put my mind to something, I go for it.
I have always been my own producer too. I have invested years into my home studio – where I work when the inspiration hits (convenient to me as a mom with kids at home, where I can control my workload).
I have been choosy with the people I work with, how I present myself and my image, and I’ve also been very careful to TRY to maintain a sense of balance when it comes to my personal life.
I’ve somehow miraculously been able to pull off motherhood/wife during the day, and musician by night for several years. I’ve never had a manager, or an agent, or outside funding, or a wealthy investor. But what I HAVE had is fans and supporters of my music throughout the years to keep me going. I’m married to a super smart guy who advises me very well with how to spend the money I earn from my music and make it go further. I’ve never gone into debt to produce an album or a project, and I have been very careful on what I spend money on – always with the intent that it is an investment towards my music and career and my family. I do a lot of things myself, and then hire out for the things that I truly do not have the talent to pull off.
It is a lot of work and things do take longer with DIY, and also balancing life. I have thought “Wow, I am actually pulling this mommy-wife-career thing off.”
Lately as I’ve been enduring the last trimester of my 3rd pregnancy (due in 11 weeks from now), I admit, I’m FREAKING OUT just a tiny little bit.
I have found myself wondering “How in the world, do I continue to do this with a 3rd kid?? How does ANY woman in the music industry keep doing this with kids? Am I crazy??”
And then the fear of becoming my mother goes through my head quite often. “I can’t give this up just to be a stay-at-home-mom. I’ve worked too hard.”
And yet, while I do love babies, I feel this way about pregnancy…
And yet during my 2nd pregnancy, I somehow managed to teach 30 piano students up until I was 7 months along, complete an award-winning film score and finish it 2 weeks before I delivered, as well as another commissioned project. Music just seemed to flow from me.
But this time?
Ha. Ha. Ha.
I can’t seem to get myself motivated physically, emotionally or otherwise to work on music during this 3rd pregnancy. I should say to work on my OWN music, that is. And it has sort of left me feeling…well, quite guilty and like I’m not doing enough.
I did finish some commissioned recording/composing projects and also perform a little bit up until my 5th month…
(After performing at Benaroya Hall with Grammy nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker)
And while I said “no” to many requests to perform this Christmas, I did agree do two concerts in December at 6.5 months pregnant…
But my inbox continues to fill up with messages from people almost on a daily basis asking when am I am going to come perform in their town, when am I going to hurry up and finish my songbooks of sheet music that I’ve been promising for the last year, can I collaborate with them, would I produce an album, when am I going to release a new album, when will I do a Christmas album, am I submitting to next year’s Grammys, and more.
…And while I am so incredibly flattered, I have to message them back and explain, essentially, that in all reality – I’m just a normal person with a family to look after and I have no “team” to do any of this for me and any project I do is time-consuming and they would probably have to wait. And then wait some more. I wish I could do more, but I start to get that “I’m so overwhelmed” feeling again.
A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I actually UNDERSTOOD my mother and why she gave up what she did. And why.
And I have realized I may have completely, utterly, misjudged her for YEARS and years.
She wasn’t “giving up”. She was sacrificing.
She decided to forgo the craziness of a music career so she could enjoy the years of being a mother to my three brothers and I. She did it because it was important to her. And instead of me feeling sorry for her giving up her dreams, it’s taken me 36 years to realize I should be thanking her for the sacrifice she performed so that we could have a healthy full childhood.
Because you see, there is really no such thing as being “JUST a stay at home mom”, in case you didn’t know. It’s important stuff. And most of what our moms do for us we don’t even truly understand until we become parents ourselves.
So even though in this moment of time, during this “season” of my life when I am feeling overwhelmed with the idea of how to keep doing it all and doing it successfully, and often feel guilty for not living up to expectations or putting out enough new content, material, and more — I see moments like these…
Where my boys try to copy me on the piano by flipping through my book of Beethoven Sonatas and perform “duets” together….
…the time when I hired a fun babysitter (with pizza and movies!) for my two boys so I could perform at my CD release concert and have my husband there as well – but my older son cried because he wanted to come sit in my concert so badly.
I relented and let him come, and my favorite moment of the evening, hands-down, was when he came running up on stage to give me a bouquet of flowers that he and my husband got for me. He was so bashful he was on and off before I could even give him a hug to say thank you.
It meant more to me than anything else that happened that night.
…and then afterwards he was so tired and all he wanted to do was snuggle up next to me. Not next to Dad, or Grandma, or Grandpa, but ME.
When my younger son was so excited to come see me play the violin, that he just HAD to bring his miniature violin and stand on his seat during the concert pretending to play it along with me…
And the time when he was at my parents house – and my mom heard “Help! Help me!” from the other room, only to come in and see that he had been trying to play the bass fiddle and it tipped over on him.
Preston’s very first piano lesson with me and how eager he was….
And then there are all of the moments when my mom has supported me in my music career and performed with me as well. Sometimes even though she didn’t always gush over me, I could see in her eyes that she was proud of me. And I have to say, I wouldn’t be what I am today without the years of music lessons she gave me, and again…for supporting me in my career while she gave up many years of her own.
I think of all of these things and realize, you know what, it is OKAY. For one, all those moments actually meant 100 times more to me than walking any red carpet or receiving an award.
It is okay to take a break and not meet the world’s expectations for how they define success.
It is OKAY to be enjoying my down-time.
It is okay to not be putting out a new album any time soon.
It’s okay that right now I am 90% mom/wife, and 10% musician. Because frankly it’s extremely hard to be 100% at either all of the time.
And it’s even okay that I haven’t really practiced more than a few hours in the past couple of months on my piano. I won’t forget how to play. The piano will be there WHEN I AM READY AGAIN. 🙂 And yes, that day will come and I will be come back strong.
But for now…being a parent is important. And “No amount of success can compensate for failure in the home” – David O. McKay
No more apologies for “not being enough”.
No more feeling bad because I’m not busy in my music career right now.
God has a way of molding us into what we are supposed to become, even if it is not always in our own timeline or exactly how we want it.
In retrospect, it all works out perfectly how it should.
P.S. I almost forgot, you can check out my mom’s beautiful music at http://www.carolynsouthworth.com