A couple of recent online discussions about singing and having a family prompted me to think harder about all this, and HOW exactly does one do it? I do it each and every day, and each and every day I ask myself, "How on EARTH am I going to make today work?"
The answer is: I have no idea until I get there and do it.
Sometimes it's really hard, and I truly wonder how I can juggle the logistical complications, never mind finding the time and internal focus my professional and artistic life demands while still giving my daughter the attention she needs and deserves (and vice versa, because it does work both ways). But the deal is... it generally DOES work out, and I can say with absolute honesty that my performances have not suffered, and my daughter certainly seems a thriving and affectionate child so I have to assume that she doesn't feel slighted. Sure, there are compromises (usually me giving up something social, or my own "free time" rather than shortchanging my family or my career). But when the rewards from both parts of my double life are so tremendously satisfying, I don't generally find that a hardship. Complicated: yes. Depriving: NO!
One thing I HAVE learned since having a child is that I am capable of much, much more than I ever thought. Example: All my life, I have been the ULTIMATE "needs sleep" person. The running joke among family and friends was, "Let her sleep and nobody gets hurt"! Before having children, the thought of broken nights and sleep deprivation scared me half to death, particularly as a singer. How would I manage the physical requirements for my singing with limited sleep over long periods of time? Well, guess what - you do what you have to and, while I still prefer my 8+hrs a night, I found I was able to sing just fine even when I was tired and it was, in fact, a useful way to learn to cope with the less than optimum circumstances one often encounters while traveling or in high stress circumstances. If anything, learning to sing through the exhaustion was a help rather than a hindrance, and it taught me that I really CAN do a lot more than I had ever realised.
This past weekend's camping trip is another example. While I spent my teen years at the stables, turned into an enthusiastic fell walker in college and beyond and broadly speaking love The Great Outdoors, I don't like SLEEPING in it. Especially in 100 degree weather, in areas where my phobia - snakes - are almost certain to be lurking (and almost just as certain to make a public appearance). Add to the mix a need to be careful about just how much time I spend outside these days in order to avoid triggering allergy attacks (which of course interfere with singing) and it's just not really something I do.
In my post-college, pre-mom professional days, I would simply have said NO to any and all invitations to participate in something like this (especially in June!) but, for my daughter, I did it. And not only survived, but genuinely enjoyed the canoeing activities on offer, as well as the magic of looking up through the (mesh) ceiling of the tent at 2am and seeing stars and trees and nothing else; my "outdoor self" was sated in a way it hasn't been in years. And guess what? I can still breathe, I didn't die of heatstroke, I kept my panics at the multiple snake sightings broadly speaking under control (!) and I got to share something with my daughter which will, I hope, be a memory she can keep forever.
I can't claim it's always an easy coexistance - sometimes my work means I MUST say "no" to something for the family (for instance, in previous years I've had to miss the Camping Weekend due to performance dates) - but I'd like to think there's enough give and take between them so that, over time, everybody gets "a piece of the pie".
Tomorrow, I go back to memorising my next role, a day of teaching, and keeping my respiratory system indoors and away from pollen. And I know that, however hard it sometimes is to be pulled OUT of the somewhat self-focused world my singer-self inhabits, it's good for me - the more we have to enrich our lives (whatever that may be, whether that involves children or not), the more we have to bring to our art.