I didn't have a plan. My therapist tried to convince me I didn't need one, that there are always parts of the tapestry we can't see before we take a step. This is the same therapist who encouraged me to take the "or's" out of my sentences and replace them with "and's" i.e... I can be a mother OR musician vs. mother AND musician. I became better friends with the unknown. I watched on social media as other musician friends became mamas. Surely if they could make it work, so could I? It turns out social media is excellent at showing us other people's highlight reels and hiding their brutal realities. (And never forget dear ones, comparison is the thief of joy.)
Before I had my kids, there was a revelation that had never fully dawned on me: Every. Child. Is. Different. I mean, I'm no idiot, but the extent to which not knowing what kind of kid you're going to have can interfere with expectations and the making of plans really can't be understated. It wasn't until I met my children and loved them in their glorious differences that I truly understood: Making big plans for what your life will be like after you have a baby is a ridiculous concept. Because you don't even know the kid yet. And news flash: That kid and their temperament might not agree with your big plans.
When Beatrice was 7 months old, we ventured out on the road for our first short run of shows since her birth. As this picture reveals, we expected her to pull her weight immediately by doing her share of the driving. It bears mentioning that we could not afford to bring childcare with us. The economics were just not there, and so often aren't, and we did not have any willing or available friends or family offering to tag along and help out. As an independent musician, things like tour buses with nannies generally aren't a reality. What ensued on the run of shows was one of the more exhausting tours of my career. First of all, show time is.... bedtime. Since David performs as a sideman with me, we are both on stage. Luckily, we had family in the places we were playing that time around, so we had someone we trusted to watch her. But they didn't know her, and she didn't know them, which was not really ideal. Sleep was a real struggle for Beatrice for her first four years of life. Imagine you're standing at the microphone performing an evening of music and hearing your baby screaming in another part of the venue. An audience full of people who paid to hear you play. And you know full well that YOU are who your baby is crying for. It was an awful, awful feeling. I was torn in two: mama and musician. The tension between the roles left my attention divided in a way that I feared was no good for anyone involved: myself, my baby, the audience, and even my marriage. I could no longer bring my whole self to the stage. And I couldn't be present for my daughter when she needed me.
Some of you are thinking, but couldn't you just wear her on stage, tucked in sweetly behind your guitar as you lull her to sleep with your lovely tunes? To that I say this: Have you ever bathed a cat? Beatrice liked being worn in a carrier as much as a cat likes being bathed. I had such an idealistic picture of our times together. But hey, it was not her thing. In the least.
This one may sound trivial, but there is no such thing as a baby proof green room. Bea was into everything. Everything went in her mouth. She had started to crawl and explore, and music venues are just not made for the safety babies require. Who can put on lipstick for the show when the baby is eating beer bottle caps and guitar picks off the green room floor? There's not enough Xanax in the world for babies and green rooms.
Have you ever traveled with a baby? The gear. Oh my, the gear. I thought load in was a lot before- 4 guitars, amps, keyboards, stands, dulcimer, etc.. Nothing rivals baby travel. Except baby tour travel. You get to schlep the stuff in and out of a new place every single day.
More than any of this though, that first tour was our initial glimpse into how much Beatrice loves home, with all its comforts and predictability. Beatrice thrives in structure, when she knows what's coming. She craves routine, and change is hard. Transitioning from environment to environment is a challenge. She is our kid who NEEDS to have time at home, playing, exploring her vast imagination, in a place she feels safe. Beatrice was not an easy baby, and she was not made to be a road baby. Who's to say how she will grow and develop and who she will decide to be? But so much of the big plans I conceived about how it would all look after she came changed when I understood more about who she was, and what she needed. As a mother, I believe that our kids are these beautiful, complex tiny humans. They have all that we grown-ups have (minus some executive functioning and reason) but they're packaged in these precious little bodies and minds. Some parents may strongly disagree, but I did not view my career and artistic goals as more important than her feelings. I wanted her to feel seen and heard and valued- yes, even at 7 months old. I believed she deserved to have a say in her life, and I was not prepared to drag her around the country when it was making her miserable. Beatrice's first, and only, tour to date taught me that it was not what was best for her.