Taliesyn Källström of the band Estrons has written this piece on motherhood and music especially for The Future Is Female.
She is currently on tour (dates here) so unable to make it to More Baby In My Monitors Please: our free panel about being a musician and parent, but please come along and join the discussion. With Emma Daman Thomas (Islet) and Lisa Jên Brown (9 Bach), hosted by Gwenno Saunders. 14:00-15:00 Peilot, Chapter
I recently sat with a woman who is the member of an extremely well known band. I'd never met her before, and she immediately opened up to me, telling me she was pregnant, and that she needed advice. It was a surreal experience that a person at such a stage could gain any knowledge about her career from someone like me. Yet there she was, anxious, and hanging on my every word. I told her I think the biggest battle in being a mother in music are the judgements you place upon yourself. My ex, the father of my child used to say I wasn't maternal. I have even had my career choice used against me in family court as a means to prove me as an unfit mother (luckily, the female judge thought this argument ridiculous).
The number of battles and the anxiety I've had to endure as a parent, knowing I may never be able to take my son to school every single day at 9am, kills me with guilt still sometimes. Routine is what's best for a child; it is a tag line you'll hear often. Children need a reliable and predictable routine, or they are a lost cause. Let me tell you this view isn't based on facts. My son is the happiest and most outgoing two year old I've ever met, and he is also just as well behaved as any other two year old I've ever met.
Dinosaurs tell me, if you want to have the best chance of keeping your son then you need to step back from music, and concentrate on "being a mother". I Googled what "being a good mother" and "maternal" actually mean, and the results are clear. You show your children unconditional love; you give them space to make mistakes; you show them understanding, all of that stuff. There is nothing in there about being there all day every day, or, being a stay-at-home mom, or working a 9 to 5; although the Internet and society is saturated with that view.
On tour recently, while in a service station, I saw an advertisement in the female toilets: “Are you a mother in need of a suitable job? Want to work but don't want to miss your children growing up?” And it hit me that this guilt you feel isn't something intrinsic, it is something that is planted in us, by archaic attitudes that the mothers are the ones who raise the children day to day, and the fathers are alright to work away; they are "providing", they are "role models" for their children.
You get told you're "selfish" being a musician, at least I have been at times; or you see people thinking it, because it's your child that should be your main focus, not your career or passions. But my response to that has always been: why can't you have both?
The fact is that a healthy apple grows from a healthy tree, and I want my son to grow up feeling driven and inspired by where he's come from and how he has been raised. I've taken him on tour with me and I've taken him to our shows at festivals, and you wouldn't believe how malleable children are when it comes to getting used to environments. He loves it. Kids don't just belong in swimming pools and parks. Did people gasp when a two year old (with hearing protection) was watching my gig from the crowd as my boyfriend held him? No. They said: "Oh, we should have bought Izzy!" And of course, it was officially an 18+ gig, but as I was a performer, I had the permission bring him; and because I was willing to break some rules, people saw that different ways of living are possible, and could actually be really beneficial and exciting.
I think the biggest battle of being a mother working in music, really, is the one we have with ourselves. Ignore impending fears; take everything as it comes; don't be scared to set new precedents; and accept that sometimes, you really do just have to be away for some of the time - and remember if you were male, no one would give it a second thought. Don't be a victim to archaic thinking. I think it's time for change, and I hope some of what I've experienced inspires this within you.
Taliesyn Källström, September 2017