About rockmommyct

I am a mother, writer, rock and roll musician, and guitar teacher.

What I Could Do with 8 Hours a Day

I am a highly creative person.

Take my job away and give me eight kid-free hours to “work on my art” and I will work my ass off to write, compose music, write, break for marathon-running drills, blog for RockMommy, and then play some guitar. Perhaps I’ll learn a new recipe or two to make for dinner.

My husband loves to say “you hate cooking.”

He is right. Under the circumstances – you know, having a baby whose diapers need changing and clothes need washing, in addition to a fulltime job – I definitely hate cooking! The last thing I want to do after work is skip my workout just so I can go to the grocery store to leisurely peruse ingredients, and then take an hour to cook something nice (especially when said husband is particular about what he does and doesn’t want for dinner).

Again, I am a highly creative person, but you wouldn’t know it by being around me. I’m just as creative as any rockstar who gets to write songs all day, any writer who spends his hours holed up in a log cabin to work on his “craft,” or any artist who, between brush strokes, takes hours to contemplate life.

Still, I try to remember, when I get down on my lack of time, that there are lots of creative people like me who also don’t have much time to be creative. Work takes a lot of energy. Parenting takes a lot of energy. And if you’re not a night person (I’m not), all you want to do after your kid(s) go to bed is watch a movie or go to sleep (night people don’t want to make out with their partners at night, they just want to go the f#ck to bed!).

 

Fantasy is fun, however. And I love thinking what I would do with those 8 hours a day if I had them all to myself. Here’s how I imagine a “typical” day in my work-free life (that includes daycare for my kid):

 

  1. Wake up at 6:30 or 7 a.m. to feed my baby (same as always).
  2. Put baby in clothes, and put on some attractive leggings/skinny jeans and a cute top (still, same as always).
  3. Drop baby off at daycare, armed with computer (or, if I’m feeling more musical, with guitar).
  4. Head to local coffeehouse/recording studio to spend two hours writing a song/chapter, while eating a waffle/oatmeal and cappuccino.
  5. Go for a run at 10 a.m., or head to a personal training session.
  6. If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday, head to a music/writing class to work on skills that would make my craft better.
  7. At 1 p.m.-ish (or 1:30-ish), meet my husband or my other creative, job-free friends for lunch, maybe stopping at a vintage store to look for cute clothes.
  8. Check Facebook in the afternoon, try to organize a show, or work on my personal website.
  9. Perhaps at 4, because I have nothing but time in my pretend artistic schedule, I’d volunteer for a local animal shelter and walk some dogs.
  10. At 5, pick up my baby, and take him to an early evening play date, exhausted from my day of artistic endeavors.

 

Pretty sweet day, right?

But as I fantasize, it hits me that I actually kind of like the work I do. I teach guitar to children. And I write about important healthcare policies that affect physicians. The work I do helps make the world a better person. And it gets me out of my head! (Do creative artist nonworkers even know what the Affordable Care Act is?)

 

You see, the world isn’t just about me, me, me, and working makes that reality really clear.

 

Perhaps it’s no wonder so many artists who don’t have to work are unhappy. After all, what else is there to think about when the whole world revolves around you and your art?

 

Still, it would be nice, even for two weeks, to have that pretend life. J

 

 

Finding Mommy Balance: Something’s Got to Go … But What?

Just Google “work-life balance” or “mom-work balance” and you’ll find a list of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of articles telling you tips and tricks with balancing work and family. Unless you’re a career musician (most of us aren’t!), these articles aren’t satisfactory.

 What if your job is just a day job, and you have other career aspirations, such as being a fulltime musician? Or, what if you like your day job, but also would like to keep a band and play shows – in addition to having three days a week to exercise?

Balancing, you see, is not just this two-dimensional “mommyhood vs. career” thing. It’s a way of living, about dividing the hours of time into buckets.

 For me, these buckets are: 1. Being a mom who nurses her son; 2. Being a journalist who works, by day, 40 hours per week; 3. Teaching guitar two days a week (aspiring to teach three days per week); 4. Exercising 4x per weeks (aspiring to hit 5x per week); 5. Being part of a community service organization; 6. Household duties; 7. Having a good relationship with my husband; 8. Making time for family and friends.

 Since becoming a mom, I’ve had to give up having a full-time band (and by full-time, I mean full-time in the extracurricular sense) that practices three hours a week and plays regular gigs. I’ve also had to give up Zumba with my favorite instructor in Stamford, because you have to score a spot 30 minutes early. I’ve also given up teaching guitar in Brooklyn on Sundays.

 I’m at the point where I want to add some stuff, like 2-3 new students per month for guitar lessons, two hours per week for Skype lessons, two hours per week for my own music, and one chapter per week for my novel. But I don’t have anything left I can give up!

 I can’t give up exercise; it’s already scaled down from my pre-pregnancy days. Gone are the 5:30-7:30 p.m. 13-mile runs with my running friends, or the half-marathon field trip. And I already mentioned the Zumba.

I can’t give up teaching guitar, because it’s my passion. I certainly can’t give up cleaning, or time with my son. I don’t want to give up the two or three hours I have with my husband per week, talking in bed or watching “Kitchen Nightmare” over sushi takeout.

And I don’t want to give up my regular book club – it’s one of the only chances I get to see my local friends. Speaking of which, I’d like to do more stuff with friends – running, going to rock shows, singing karaoke, attending birthday parties.

 I didn’t start this blog post with any ideas for a solution. But I’ll take suggestions. And with that, my 10-minute break is over, and I’m back to being a journalist.

Baby Clothes with Guitars and Gender Roles

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Nathan in his GNR onesie

Nathan in his GNR onesie

I love shopping for clothes for Nathan. And I especially love buying (or receiving) cute little boy attire emblazoned with band logos, images of rock icons, and big electric guitars. The latter, especially.

But if I hadn’t had a boy, I wouldn’t have had so many choices in attire, and chances are, many of those onesies that say “I wanna rock” would say “I wanna garden” instead.

During a trip to Carter’s in my eighth month of pregnancy, I spent several minutes on both the girls’ side and the boys’ side of the store. The sex of my baby would be a surprise, but I wanted to see what kinds of cute little outfits awaited my forthcoming arrival.

Since I teach guitar and play in a band, I was immediately drawn to the huge array of shirts on the boy side of the store with guitars on them — some with little guitars, others with big guitar prints on them. But I was a bit troubled when I went to the girls’ side of the store, and, much to my dismay, could only find one little guitar-decorated shirt. And it said, “My daddy rocks!”

I asked the sales clerk about this. Surely, there were other options besides the zillions of pink, polka-dotted floral-print dresses and PJs for my hypothetical daughter!  Daddy does rock, but, in this case, mommy does rock, too, and can even play a GNR solo — so where is the onesie for that reality?

Sadly, I was told, there weren’t any such onesies or baby tees.

Well, this made me a bit miffed. Yes, I intended to dress a girl in pink (though I realized this was adhering to the same gender stereotypes some of my college feminist friends eschewed). Yes, I intended to put her in little bows. But why, oh why, are a options for baby girl clothes limited to the likes of pink-and-yellow-dot dresses and daisy-imprinted tees? Being a boy looked SO much cooler at Carter’s — everything that didn’t have a guitar printed on it had a monster truck or a dinosaur on it!

Apparently, the market for girl clothes with dinosaurs, monster trucks, and guitars on them didn’t exist. If it did, then Carter’s, one of the biggest infant-to-children clothing chains in the country, would be selling them.

So I guess baby clothes are where it all starts. Next, there are little girl baby dolls, so a girl can practice being a mommy when she’s only two, and then there are little girl kitchens, so she can practice being a homemaker. I’ve never seen a little boy kitchen — one that is tailored to the color palate and gender assumptions that go along with boyhood (baby blue everything, cool-looking gadgets, and neutral, faux-granite countertops).

Then again, I can’t deny I am a byproduct, to a certain degree, of gender conditioning. Though I would never buy my little girl a play kitchen, I don’t have any plans to buy my little boy a play kitchen, either. Or paint his nails pink, a la Jenna Lyons of J Crew.

But until people take a stand and start asking for boy-tailored baby kitchens or boy shirts with flowers and girl onesies with guitars — Carter’s and its competitors won’t change either. It’s all about what the majority of consumers (you and me) want.

Weather and Other Things You Can’t Control

I spent the last six days in New Orleans — a place near and dear to my heart, where I spent my junior year of college and six months post-college – on a business trip. The trip was supposed to be a little more than three days, 75-78 hours tops.

But because of bad New York City-area weather, my flight home was cancelled. And while some of the convention attendees from the New York area were able to reschedule their flights to Thursday, I was busy at New Orleans Urgent Care getting seen for barotrauma — a middle ear infection that feels like your ear is clogged with water — so I didn’t get to reschedule until late in the day. To top it all off, I had to pump and dump all my precious milk after I started taking Fluticasone Propionate nasal spray and Sudafed.

I should have known that something about New Orleans that would equate to things going wrong. When I left there in 1999, I was still reeling from three separate injuries, including two emergency room visits. It felt like the city was sending me a signal: You don’t belong here, sweetheart. Go back to D.C.

Still, the fact that so many things were out of my control — the weather, my earache, my precious milk now wasted — really dampened my big easy spirits (you like that pun?! Haha!). It made me depressed, a little angry, and really freaked out. Would my hearing ever return to normal? Will my milk supply dry up? When will I get home to my baby?

I said a few prayers to the universe, called some friends, and tried to make the most of the situation. I enjoyed dinners. I did my best possible job as an on-site reporter, and I tried to really enjoy the street music.

It all ended up working out — almost. My ear finally popped on Thursday night, and my infection seems to be subsiding (there is no longer a seriously clogged feeling). I got home safe and sound to my family. I’m still pumping and dumping, though, and my supply seems to be dwindling fast.

So often in life things are out of our control, whether it’s weather or physical health. There is only so much I can do. While I can try to reschedule a flight or visit a doctor, or pump as much milk as I can at regular intervals so I can hang onto my milk supply and not dry out, I can’t control the rest. I have very little control over other things, such as how well my baby sleeps, whether or not my favorite guitar student will continue to love playing, or whether a piece of journalism I write will win an award.

Yet often I still stress out when things go wrong.

For future reference, I’d like to remember that things go right as often as they go wrong. For every bit of unhappiness or bad news, there seems to be a balance of good news and unexpected great things. My baby son and husband are examples. I had given up on trying to meet a great guy and have a family when along came Zack. And, after being told I’d struggle to conceive and had a 2-3% chance of getting pregnant, along comes baby Nathan.

I hope to read and reread this entry as a reminder to always have hope that things usually work out. Not always, but usually. Just as there are many days filled with unpleasant surprises, there are days of pleasant surprises too.

No Time to Be Creative/Gwen Envy

Yes, I am a writer. For a living. That means people pay me to write stuff (and teach guitar after hours). When I was a little girl, I really wanted to be a writer. When I was a slightly-less-little girl, I wanted to write songs and perform them. I won poetry awards. I started several bands. I made records. My life is very charmed, and I’ve been very lucky.

My greatest creative creation, no doubt, is my son Nathan. He is beautiful and beyond perfect. I am overjoyed just being in his presence.

But balancing motherhood and career has left me little to no time for much-needed extracurricular activities. Yes, I manage to squeeze in four workouts a week, but that’s maintenance (if it isn’t, it should be, mommies!). I’d love to have two hours a week to just mess around on guitar without having to watch my baby at the same time. I’d love another hour a week to work on my novel. And another hour per week to write a blog or several.

Yet I’m not willing to give up exercising to get those extra hours. I’m not willing to give up doing the dishes, doing the laundry, or basic cleaning (wiping counters, making beds). So what can I give up? I’m not a super-paid rockstar mom like Pink or Sarah McLaughlin, who can afford to hire nannies and work on their art all day. In fact, they’re paid to work on their art all day. I can’t stand it when I read magazine articles that are all like, “Gwen Stefani… you’re sooo busy. How do you fit it all in?”

Gwen, unlike most rocker mommies, has someone to do the cleaning and the cooking. And the babysitting. Her creative outlet IS her day job. She’s paid to do what she wants creatively. Of course, she has argued, in articles, “that’s not true… I have a fashion line and I have to do magazine promotions, etc. There’s no time to chill.”

Well, Gwen, I don’t have time to chill either. And I have to do the laundry/clean bottles/work a day job that isn’t being a rockstar. Imagine that!

I’d love to have Gwen’s apparent “lack” of time to chill. Oh, what we would all do with that kind of money!

Anyway, this blog might be suffering a bit from a lack of editing. But it’s still better, grammatically, than many edited blogs. And I’m sure it’s better than what Gwen could write, were she left to her own devices. Without a team to clean up those misplaced commas and absent apostrophes.

At least I have something to show for this master’s degree!

Let’s hope my little son wants to make creative time with mommy as he gets older. That will be awesome for both of us.

Skype Post-Natal Personal Training and the Busy Mom

I teach Skype guitar lessons. And though it’s mainly as a supplemental service for my existing students, I do it for new students, too. 

 

While it’s true my fee is slightly lower than for in-person lessons (after all, I only have to travel to my home office), and, in turn, the lessons aren’t quite as nice as in-person lessons, my students get a lot out of them. And I make a little money. So it’s a win-win. 

 

But recently, I started to rethink all that is possible now that we can have virtual visits with just about anyone who offers any kind of service — whether guitar lessons or sewing lessons or even personal training sessions. 

Last week I took my first Skype training session with my old personal trainer, Sharissa Reichert, brainchild behind the Bene-Fits Personal Training blog

Sharissa and I go back a few years to my Brooklyn rockstar days. She trained me before my first national tour with Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties. During sessions we’d swap stories about going to shows and listening to awesome bands. 

Today we share other commonalities: She’s a mom of a boy (now grown), and I’m a mom of a boy (quite little). She’s done the nursing thing and the post-natal, get back-into-shape thing. And though I’m in better shape than some post-natal moms, having her fitness wisdom, albeit from afar, has put me in a good head space. And, following session #2 this week, I’m in a good physical space too. 

I’m not going to pretend that training via Skype is the same as having Sharissa right there to guide me through every single stretch and leg lift and muscle move. But it’s certainly better than using a workout DVD! Sharissa corrects my form flaws, asks me about my day, and listens as I ask questions. And I didn’t have to hit the pause button to get water. 

 

I’ve noticed fantastic physical and mental changes again since returning to personal training. I feel famazing, my legs are ballerina-like, and my posture is definitely less slouchy. 

 

It’s so nice to know that being a super-busy mom doesn’t mean having to sacrifice my physical appearance.

And it makes me wonder, what did all those mothers do in the 1990s before Skype?