Pierce Freelon’s 2021 to-Do List: Music, Media, and Helping Others

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The start of every new year is full of hope — I knew this the moment I watched creative renaissance dad Pierce Freelon’s ‘Daddy Daughter Day’ video (featuring J Gunn). We recently caught up with Freelon to talk about his biggest hopes for 2021, and what the perfect summer looks like.

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? 

Pierce Freelon: My sound is millennial Hip Hop head rapping at my home studio with two kids in my lap. Or electronic jazz and soul beats that sample voice memos from my iPhone. My sound is also family-friendly music about inspired by real situations that young Black parents have to deal with. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Pierce Freelon: My biggest challenge in the last 12 months was adjusting my life so I can serve on Durham City Council. As a husband, father, musician and business person I already had my hands full. Taking on a new job virtually (during a Panny) was a heavy lift. But I’m still here!

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process?

Pierce Freelon: 2020 was the year of virtual collaboration. I’ve worked with so many artists that I never see in person. I’m not used to that. Usually, we get together and vibe out in the studio. These days, I’m emailing tracks, and getting WeTransfer links back full of magic. I kind of dig it. It’s like opening a birthday present. 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Pierce Freelon: In 2021 I hope to get better every day. I hope to learn from the silence and solitude and slowness of 2020 and make that part of my everyday, intentional practice. 2021 is the year of affirmations and speaking things into existence. What affirmations do you say to yourself every day? 

Rockmommy: If you could plan the perfect summer for 2021, what would that look like?

Pierce Freelon: A perfect summer looks like no one running against me in my re-election bid for City Council! Let me go ahead and speak that into existence right quick 🙂 I was appointed back in August and I’ve been doing a great job (if I must say so myself, lol). Real talk, it would be nice to chill this summer after we approve the city budget and not be in full campaign mode. 

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Pierce Freelon: One project I’m really excited about is an educational television show for K-3rd graders I’m producing with PBS North Carolina in 2021 called Classroom Connection. This show will be a crucial lifeline for kids, especially in the rural part of our state where schools have been closed and internet is limited. There will be lessons from real public school teachers, music, puppetry, animation and conversations with kids! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Laurie Berkner, Rockstar to Preschoolers Everywhere, Talks Live-streaming and New Tunes for 2021

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

So many parents have a Laurie Berkner memory that gives them the warm and fuzzies. I have several — the nights I’d play Bubbles and my then-toddler sons would gleefully splash along in their bath, or the time I played “Silly Brushing Song” to motivate my older kid to spend more than 15 seconds at the sink, brushing his teeth. My favorite two tunes, hands down, are “We are The Dinosaurs” and “Monster Boogie,” but my kids love Superhero the most.  

Laurie Berkner (Photo by Jayme Thornton)

And even as my kids grow older and discover grown-up music, they’ve still got a special place in their hearts (and on their playlists) for Laurie Berkner. It’s a good thing, too, since we really relied on artists like Laurie to livestream like crazy since March 2020, the month that things began to change. 

[SEE RELATED: Superhero Mom Laurie Berkner: 20 Years of Making Cool Tunes in the Ever-Evolving Kids Music Soundscape]

Laurie’s daily Facebook Live concert series, which featured singalongs and stories and a ton of cool virtual content, was a much-needed reprieve from “homeschool” with mom and dad for my 5-year-old son. And while things aren’t back to “normal” or “2019-ish” quite yet, Laurie’s cooking up some awesome new tunes. 

We recently caught up with the performer and mom to find out what’s next. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Laurie Berkner: I know there are many people who have had many more devastating experiences than I have over the last year, but for me, being a parent during this pandemic has been very emotionally distressing. My teenage daughter has been trying to find ways to handle the difficulties of remote learning, being separated from her friends and teachers, and missing all of the hands-on aspects of school that made it fun and challenging, but as I witness her struggling, not being able to personally help her or do much about it, has been quite painful for me. 

As far as my career goes, all of my live performances since last March have, of course, been either canceled or postponed. Suddenly having to wear so many hats (videographer, photographer, recording engineer, set designer, administrative assistant, etc.) on top of running my business and being the performer and composer/musician, has been exhausting and quickly became unsustainable. Luckily, I have an incredible person as my COO who decided to buy an RV with her partner, and they moved into my driveway in July. This has meant that I actually have help now with a lot of what I was trying to do entirely by myself — and it has been amazing.

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process?

Laurie Berkner: In response to the fact that schools were closed in the spring, I started doing daily Facebook Live concerts for a couple of months. The interaction with people all over the country (and the world, actually) was really inspiring — and I wrote songs that I might not have otherwise. I also finished an album that I had started before the pandemic, doing the final recordings remotely. That was a harder process, and I found myself paring down some of the instrumentation of a few of the songs, as well as singing some of my own background vocals in order to simplify things. I went through intense periods of creativity and intense periods of feeling like I had nothing in me. It has been an exhausting, roller coaster of a year.

[SEE RELATED: Laurie Berkner’s Daily Livestream is Exactly What Kids and Homeschooling Parents Need Right Now

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Laurie Berkner: I am hoping that my daughter will be able to go back to school in a somewhat “normal” way. I hope that I’ll be able to hug the people I work with and that I will be able to make live music with the people in my band again!! And I hope that as a country we truly start to hold each other accountable for the racism that has been built into our culture and make meaningful, conscious, changes towards equity.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Laurie Berkner: I have been doing Livestream Family Concerts every six weeks that will be continuing into 2021. The next one is on Valentine’s Day (tickets at live.laurieberkner.com). Also, the album I mentioned that I just completed is called Let’s Go! and it will be released on March 5th (pre-sale starts on February 5th).

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?

Laurie Berkner: I’m basically still trying to figure this one out, but I do find that allowing myself to explore and enjoy my own creativity while I’m with my daughter, as well as when I find time to be alone, means that I almost end up having enough time to do both. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Sara Watkins’ First Record Since Becoming a Mom Reimagines Childhood Classics in Unexpected Ways

Listening to Sara Watkins album Young in All the Wrong Ways (2016, New West Records) takes me back to the late ’90s, to the strains of ethereal vocals and pretty guitars — Belly, the Cranberries, Lush — with spirited folk and bluegrass woven throughout. 

Sara Watkins (photo credit: Jacob Boll)

A lot has happened in the six years since she released that record, most notably, her journey into motherhood. And while songs on her upcoming family record give off a different vibe, they are equally beautiful and nostalgic. The first single, “Pure Imagination,” for example, reimagines the classic track from 1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory in a fresh, whimsical way. 

We recently caught up with Sara to chat about her new album Under the Pepper Tree, mom life with a young daughter, and more.

Rockmommy: What’s it been like balancing parenthood, music, and life over the last year? 

Sara Watkins: After a while I found myself in the groove of the pandemic lifestyle, anxiety would be a low hum, but when unexpected things happened, it felt immediately overwhelming because of the challenges the pandemic brings. There were some non-COVID related health issues in my family this year and not being able to just drop everything, go and be together was really, really hard and conflicting. I know I’m not alone in that of course. I have a 3-year-old and am so grateful I got to spend this year with her. The challenge of pandemic-era childcare is a big one, though, so with the exception of the couple weeks in which I was in the studio recording, I mostly just worked at nap time. Man, I am grateful for naps. 

Rockmommy: How did the past year of spending more time at home influence your music and/or creative process?  

Sara Watkins: I feel like most of my creativity has gone into playing with my toddler, and I haven’t had a lot to spare on writing music. Instead, I found myself learning and exploring other people’s songs, many of which I recorded. There is a whole world inside the arrangement and Gene Wilder’s vocal on the original recording of “Pure Imagination” (from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Discovering the right way to approach that song on my record was a delightful challenge. 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Sara Watkins: I’m hopeful that new life will begin to grow up in the ashes, and that I will remember the lessons I learned in 2020 and carry them with me. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell us more about your upcoming record? 

Sara Watkins: Yes! My album Under the Pepper Tree will be out in late March and it’s my first children’s record! It will be available digitally of course, but I think the songs and arrangements will really shine and capture kids’ imaginations when they listen to music on vinyl while holding the beautiful artwork by Adam Sniezek. As a parent, I have discovered decision fatigue and it’s so nice to be able to put on a record and know that all the songs will simply come in their order. I can enjoy the ride and when it’s done, it’s done. It’s beautiful. I am hopeful this record will be a calming transition from wild and energetic afternoons to peaceful evenings and bedtimes. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

The Bright Siders’ Dr. Kari Groff Emerges from a Dark Year with Upbeat, Purposeful New Tunes

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When the coronavirus hit New York City back in March, Brooklynite Dr. Kari Groff, a psychiatrist, mom and musician, faced the same fear and uncertainty as her neighbors. But instead of shuttering inside with he stringed instrument, she opened the door – channeling energy into playing for her neighbors, right on the stoop of her Park Slope home. 

The Bright Siders (photo credit: Jefry Andres Wright)

Picking up the fiddle earned Groff little fame (see the New York Daily News writeup here) and gave her a much-needed energy boost. 

“As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed,” says Groff, who spent much of the last year nurturing a new-ish musical project — The Bright Siders, her duo with songwriter Kristin Andreassen. Their album A Mind of Your Own (Smithsonian Folkways) is out today. 

We recently caught up with Groff to learn more about the new record, pandemic parenting, and how she hopes to help others.   

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? 

Dr. Kari Groff: Because The Bright Siders collaborated with so many different musicians from so many diverse backgrounds, I would say that our album A Mind of Your Own has infusions of pop, jazz, rock, folk, Latin, and even one punk rock piece called “Bully This!”

I definitely would describe the sound as “fun and upbeat” but purposeful and thoughtful.

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? If you’re a parent, please speak to those challenges too!

As a person, it was difficult to be separated from so many of my friends and family.  As a parent, it was difficult to see my child go from being an active and independent elementary school student to an isolated, online learner. 

As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed.  Professionally, I had to develop new skills as a physician to address a large-scale trauma that was happening to many people because of Covid-19.  Everyone has been affected but in very individual ways. 

But if I had to point to the greatest challenge of all, it was that we were not able to gather together in a time of great sadness and to not be able to lean on the things that bring me joy (parties, live music, making music together, etc).

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 

Dr. Kari Groff: As the mother of a biracial child (Haitian and European background), the Black Lives Matter movement made me think even deeper than ever before about it meant to be a White mother to a Black child and what the Black American experience is. My daughter (age 10) wrote some amazing new songs at home and we were able to collaborate on this.  Being with her so much at home inspired me as a songwriter.  She is extremely creative and has a natural sense for what makes a good pop song.  She pushed me to elevate my skills and to expand my creative process. She would question my lyrical and musical choices thoughtfully. 

My daughter also has younger twin sisters with her dad and his wife. I have her twin sisters over to our home frequently to play and make music. All three are so musically talented, and I absolutely delight in their song creations and amazing voices and energy. My experiences with them really made me think about how The Bright Siders could do even more to be more inclusive and representative. I could see them carrying the torch of this project forward with me, along with Kristin and Smithsonian Folkways, because of their amazing energy, musical skill, and unique experiences and voices as Black Americans.  

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Dr. Kari Groff: I am grateful that there is a vaccine that is being delivered. I’m excited for a new and diverse political administration, especially our first woman VP!!!  I am excited to travel and perform again! I am hopeful that the pandemic will make us think about how we can live more compassionately towards each other and with greater environmental awareness.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?  

Dr. Kari Groff: The Bright Siders is releasing our debut album A Mind of Your Own today (Smithsonian Folkways). The album is an incredible collection of songs and skits, in spirit of Free to Be, You and Me. It’s all about emotions and growing up. The music is very family friendly, educational, and uplifting. We are also releasing a video-book called “Victor and the Great Pause”- a thoughtful and deeply compassionate story about a dog that experiences NYC during the early days of the pandemic. 

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?  

Dr. Kari Groff: My best advice is to get up early before your kids. My own creative, music-teacher mom taught me this. Make time for your creative process. For me, it is the early hours of the morning when it is quiet and before I have started to tackle my physician work for the day. My mind is clear, and I can write lyrics and melodies with greater fluidity and less sort of background noise (literally and figuratively!). I also recommend taking a couple days off here and there just for your own creative process if possible. My co-creator on The Bright Siders project, Kristin Andreassen, hosts an amazing songwriting camp called Miles of Music. This would be the perfect opportunity to have a creative experience in a beautiful setting!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Kids Imagine Nation Swaps High-Energy Live Shows for a Virtual Music Program That’s Fun, Engaging and Whimsical

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

It’s not always easy to capture the imagination — or attention — of a toddler or grade-schooler in a virtual music class. My kids love their music teacher, don’t get me wrong, but they are already weary from singing “This Land is Your Land” over a Google Meets connection. It’s chaotic at best, trying to get them to focus.

Aaron B. and Rachel C. of Kids Imagine Nation, a live performance kindie rock act hailing from Orange County, get that. While virtual (aka, “distance”) learning can work academically, music class doesn’t necessarily translate well. 

But their new online music program might just change that.

[RELATED: The Most Danceable Kiddie Record for Ska- and Punk-loving Parents is Coming in September

Like their Kids Imagine Nation live show, the Kids Imagination Kindie Music channel leads little learners through movement exercises, musical instruction, and other hands-on educational activities, which are the perfect supplement to any 2020 distance learning curriculum. 

We’ve only begun to watch them, and I can attest that they’re awesome.

My kiddos and I opted to try out music class, which is live-streamed at 11 a.m. PST on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but available on demand anytime, to check it out. The one we tried — an October 10 Music Class, on demand — kicked off with a yoga-like movement sequence (Aaron growing into a big, strong tree), and featured a singalong sequence, dance time, and a music history lesson on the bass guitar (I had no idea the bass guitar was invented in 1930, did you?!). 

While the music class is designed for learners ages 4 to 8, other content in the Kindie Music program, such as the weekly storytime and crafting classes, are perfect for children ages 2 to 4. All lessons move from one sequence to the next every three to five minutes, to ensure that even the most finicky preschooler can focus. As a guitar teacher, I know this is the only way to keep children coming back for more — especially over a virtual platform. 

We recently caught up with Aaron over email to talk about Kindie Music program, and why it’s a fun way to enhance online learning during challenging times. 

Rockmommy: Tell us about the creation of Kids Imagine Nation’s Kindie Music program. How did this come about? 

Aaron B.: Rachel and I — two-thirds of Kids Imagine Nation — have always been performers and educators. While we created videos and music for kids, we have also been teaching preschool music classes at various schools in Southern California. We would also perform over 200 shows a year at schools, libraries, and The Disneyland Resort. But when Covid-19 hit, and our schools shut down and all our shows were canceled, we needed to adapt.  We took our music curriculum and our love for creating videos, and began teaching online.  It was a way for our schools and students to still interact with us, but it now opened up the possibility that our Kids Imagine Nation fans could participate as well. Right off the bat we offered five music classes, four story times and Friyay dance party every week.  

Rockmommy: One of the biggest challenges I’ve found is keeping kids engaged in music over a virtual connection. How did you curate the content based on kids’ real-life personalities and needs for engagement? 

Aaron B.: This is a great question! There are pros and cons to teaching over Zoom. Being able to see your students is a huge plus, but with that there becomes a lot of distractions, especially when everyone can see everyone else.  We decided right away to present our class like a live tv show.  We know, as early childhood educators, that activities need to be done no more than 5 minutes. So, every 5 minutes we are doing something different, and each section has its own video introduction.  We have the ability to put items on the screen, during class, that we use for games that turns our class into “Active Screen Time.” We also provide a chat feature, where parents can participate, if they choose.  

This allows us to specifically call out names during class. Another tool we use is a polling feature that the kids can use to vote for different things that Rachel or I do at the end of class. We also ask the students to draw pictures that we use during our Fairy Tale Night, where Rachel tells a story and we put the children’s artwork on the screen, live. Because of our years as performers and teachers, we know what to say, and more importantly how to say it, to keep the children engaged, and to make them feel that what they are watching is specifically for them.

Rockmommy: What do you hope to impart with the show? (e.g., life lessons, etc.)? 

Aaron B.: Of course we want to show that music is fun, and encourage the love of performing it, but more importantly we want to provide a virtual place that is safe, inclusive, and empowering.  

Rockmommy: How are you trying to create a sense of community during this isolating time? 

Aaron B.: Because we feature videos and pictures that students submit, and we offer an “interact” section on our site where families can post and comment on other families discussions, a lot of our families now follow each other on social media sites.  Although our live stream network is designed to watch what you want, when you want if you can’t watch the actual live stream, most of our families watch live, and because we talk about what students are doing (because of our chat feature) our students literally refer to the others watching as “friends”.

Rockmommy: What kind of feedback are you getting from your audience? 

Aaron B.: The feedback we receive is overwhelming great.  When we hear from families telling us how our program has affected their lives, it fills our hearts up because we love what we do and we are so glad that other feel the same.

Rockmommy: Any hopes of performing live again? 

Aaron B.: WE LOVE PERFORMING LIVE!  We know it’s coming, and when it does we will be out there!  We are already planning a full country tour once we are allowed to!!!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Laurie Berkner’s Daily Livestream is Exactly What Kids and Homeschooling Parents Need Right Now

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

If you’re like most urban or suburban parents in America right now, you’ve recently entered into the world of “distance learning” — aka “homeschooling” — for the first time. But whether if you’re already a stay-at-home parent of wee ones or a boss mama who’s trying to manage the insane balance of working from home with keeping kids educated, you could probably use a little more music and joy. 

You’re not alone. One of our favorite children’s musicians Laurie Berkner is also stuck at home. Fortunately for us, the artist — known for her awesome, catchy kindie-rock tunes like “We Are The Dinosaurs” and engaging live shows — has sprung into action with a free, new virtual series that can help families find a routine, get up and move, and learn and play together.

Every day for the immediate future, Laurie will be streaming LIVE “Berkner Break” concerts, most weekday mornings at 10 p.m. EDT on her Facebook page. 

[SEE RELATED: Superhero Mom Laurie Berkner: 20 Years of Making Cool Tunes in the Ever-Evolving Kids Music Soundscape]

Additionally, each weekday on Laurie’s social media, she’s posting a video of one of her songs for a morning “Berkner Breakfast” (7 a.m. EDT), an afternoon “Berkner Break” show (3 p.m. EDT), and an evening “Berkner Bedtime” show (7 p.m. EDT).

Here, Laurie tells us more about the importance of enjoying music right now, and how her shows can enhance distance learning for kids and more.

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Rockmommy: I was so excited to see you are doing a virtual morning show. Why did you decide to do this?

Laurie Berkner: It’s a terrible feeling as an artist to have to cancel concerts and disappoint fans, especially when those fans are kids! I was looking for a way to reconnect with people who listen to my music and hopefully soften the blow of the cancellations. I also realized how many people are looking for fun, active, positive things to do with their children right now, and I hoped I could offer that to them. It seemed clear that this would be a good way to do it, because so many people were asking me to. It has been an incredible feeling to know that while things are so difficult, I can still do something that brings joy.

Rockmommy: Why is enjoying music so important right now?

Laurie Berkner: Music gives people a way to connect with each other, to temporarily let go of the things that are hard, and to just be in the moment. It can be a way of expressing feelings, moving our bodies, feeling pleasure, and sharing an experience. I also think it helps to lessen some of the anxiety that is everywhere. Kids who may not fully understand what’s going on will at least be feeling that from some of the grownups around them, and music can help to diffuse that as well.

Rockmommy: What do you think of all of the online shows and gatherings? I happen to playing my first Facebook Live concert next Wednesday — it is helping me deal with the temporary loss of my band.

Laurie Berkner: I think it’s great! It’s such a testament to human creativity, the desire to make lemonade out of lemons, and the need to keep connecting — even when it seems impossible to do so.

Rockmommy: What can kids expect from your live broadcast?

Laurie Berkner: I’ll be singing songs, reading books, encouraging lots of participation and movement, and maybe doing crafts or other things yet to be decided. It will all depend on how long this lasts — the longer I do the live concerts, the more creative I will have to get with the content! Each live concert is about 25 minutes long.

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My son Logan, 6, taking a break to listen to Laurie Berkner during a recent 10 a.m. Facebook Livestream.

Rockmommy: Will you be playing classics like “We are Dinosaurs?”

Laurie Berkner: Yes! I already played that on Day 2. I am going to be sprinkling in the hits every day.

Rockmommy: How is music and performing online helping you get through tough times?

Laurie Berkner: It’s great to have something to plan for and look forward to each day. It also feels so fantastic to see kids singing along with me in videos that parents post, and read about kids’ positive reactions. Seeing the kids respond with so much joy to my music is one of the things I love most about doing live concerts, so I’m grateful to get a little glimpse of that, even though I can’t perform in person right now. I also feel like I need this connection to people, so I feel very lucky to be able to have it. And finally, still getting to play music with kids and families reminds me that what I do, actually matters.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Balancing Band Life and Raising Boys: How Much is Too Much of a Good Thing?

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Five years ago, having a few moments to myself to strum my guitar — without getting interrupted by a toddler — was a bit of a miracle. 

Fast forward to 2020 and my two young sons are no longer toddlers. They’re 6- and 7-year-olds with their own interests who need me less and less. This is bittersweet: While I don’t want to repeat the baby years — the diapers! the sleepless nights! the 2-hour nursing sessions! — I miss our constant time together. I miss reading to them big chair, snuggling on the couch, pushing the double stroller to the park while clutching a mug of coffee. The whole bit.

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Baby Nathan, sometime in 2013, and my guitar.

One positive development that’s come out of their independence is my ability to nurture interests of my own again — namely music.

[SEE RELATED: New Year’s Goal #1: Making Time for More Joy and Spontaneous Jam Sessions]

After Nathan was born in 2012, I pretty much put #bandlife on a shelf, save for teaching guitar and the playing occasional solo gig or reunion show with my longtime D.C. pop-punk band Grandma’s Mini. But in 2018, I was ready to fire up the old Fender Stratocaster — and the new Gibson SG — and play out again. The only thing I was missing was bandmates. So I asked the universe to help me find them.

The universe granted my wish. In November of that year, my guitarist pal Anna and I met with rock daddy bassist (and guitarist) Doug E. through Craigslist, scored rehearsal space in a studio, and soon after, brought my friend Jason’s brother Nick D. into the group to play drums. Several rehearsals after that, our band Trashing Violet became a living, breathing, gigging machine. 

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Me, rocking out with my band Trashing Violet at Cafe 9.

Yet amid the sheer joy of playing songs every week in our rehearsal space, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would actually play shows — not just occasionally, but ALL THE TIME. About a month ago, we were asked to play so often that I started getting that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’d have to ask my husband, yet again, if he minded that I got booked for yet another show. 

As I explain in this interview (below), filmed over the weekend at our gig at Sage Sound Studios, the fact that my bandmates and I found each other in a similar time in our lives was nothing short of pure serendipity. That I could find bandmates with intense day jobs and parental responsibilities who understood that I’m a #mommy first and a #rockmommy second was amazing. 

 

But of course, as we rehearse weekly and gig weekly, my sons are undoubtedly seeing less of me. I’m not there 2 nights a week to tuck them in. My older son, who is especially independent, is OK with this; my younger son gets a little clingy each time I leave (he’s been known to shout “band practice is dumb,” according to dada). It was a bit of a wakeup call when I realized this morning, while scanning photos on my phone, that I have taken more pics of my bandmates than Nathan in the last two months. As I gazed into his dark-chocolate brown eyes, my heart swelled, and I felt a tinge of guilt: Am I playing out too much, and missing out too much on the little things?

[SEE RELATED: ‘I Started a Band with my Toddler’: The Nap Skippers’ Julie Rustad on Life and Gigging with a Wee One]

I realized then that achieving absolute perfect balance in every area of my life would be impossible. At the same time, there are limits. I need to make sure I’m considering the feelings all of the people who need me before I overcommit myself. Time is more precious than ever. Every minute I spend away from my loved ones better be worth it because it’s a minute I’m missing out on being with them.

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My younger son Logan, playing the keys at the local movie theater.

So, yes — I can play consecutive shows if the opportunity arises. I can practice once a week with my band because it makes me happy. I can go on tour for a weekend or even a few days … should the right opportunity arise. But I can’t rehearse every single night and play every Friday and Saturday — nor can (or should) I say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way. 

When my kids are 14 and 15, I might find that I’m needed even less, and there’s more time to pursue music goals. Maybe I’ll go on a two-week tour. Maybe I’ll do a lot of things — travel to Greece, surf in Hawaii, learn how to play the drums.

But in the immediate future, I need to pause and reflect, and see things through the lens of motherhood: Is a gig I’m being asked to play good for me and my band? Is it worth taking time away from our families? Does it fill my heart with joy?

Putting my family’s needs first is important, even if it means saying “no” once in a while to creative endeavors. And it makes the stuff I say “yes” to all the more special. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.