Full disclosure: I’m not a parent. So where do I get off discussing this topic and chiming in with my perspective?
These days, the majority of my friends have young children, as well as many of my clients, and I’ve spent the last few years listening intently to them when they’ve needed a shoulder to cry on — overwhelmed by the guilt of being a working parent, especially when pursuing a career in music — and I’ve been able to bring a fresh perspective and offer a gentle reminder to them about what we need most from our parents.
It’s completely natural to feel guilty not only because you have to leave your children, but also because you may be looking forward to enjoying the time away.
However, it does not mean you don’t love your children more than life. It means you had areas of your life that brought you joy and fulfillment before they arrived and those things don’t automatically disappear and stop existing just because they’re here now.
Children can add immense joy, love, and purpose to your life without removing or replacing other areas that still provide the same, albeit less intensely.
In addition, children can often reignite a passion and purpose in you when it comes to things like your art and your self-expression. Not to mention the shift in perspective that can occur when things you once saw as impossible seem fairly doable when compared to the things you’ve had to do for your child.
Parenting, much like music-preneurship, is about taking the jump and building your wings on the way down.
Once that fire is ignited, how can you manage it and focus on making progress while juggling the guilt, the time that’s no longer your own, the pressures of needing to provide for your growing family, and the trolls online who love an opportunity to tear down a parent that does things differently?
1. Gain control over your mindset
You’ve got to make the shift from thinking self-care is selfish to realizing it’s crucial in order to be your best for those you love. It’s the ol’ Oxygen Mask Principle — your mask goes on first before you attempt to put anyone else’s (yes, even a child’s) mask on them. Feeding your passion and living a life where you express yourself fully and authentically makes you a better parent.
Think about the times you ignore self-care, the times you put yourself last, and the times you tell yourself, “Not yet.” Now think about telling your child, “Not yet, Mommy’s busy.” What happens?
Tell them that enough times and you’ll very quickly have the Hulk coming out of your child in a tantrum to end all tantrums. It’s the same with your body. Ignore it enough times, show it you don’t have the time, and it will wreak havoc.
Finding and making the time to feed your passion will enable you to be more patient, more loving, and more balanced towards your children.
2. Flip the script
Focus on what your choice teaches them rather than takes from them. What example are you setting for them by pursuing your music career? What opportunities does it give you to create together (i.e. music lessons, songwriting with them, playing them to sleep, etc.)? How will it make you a more present parent when you let go of resentment and regret?
Making the decision to pursue a career in music is great, but life soon sets in and you realize with your time not being your own and money being non-negotiable, how can you practically go after making this happen?
3 practices to begin and sustain your growth while raising kids:
- Set flexible boundaries - Time Blocking is going to be your best friend, as it will allow you to block off time for what matters and decrease that feeling of false urgency that everything has to get done at once. Much like children learn in school - there’s 40 minutes for Math, then History, followed by Art, and then a block for lunch and recess. Your schedule would instead have blocks for Admin Work (emails, research, website updates, etc.), Content Creation (songwriting, blogs/newsletters, graphics for social media, etc.), and Collaborations/Networking. This page has a free audio tutorial where I walk you through how to create a time-blocked schedule for yourself.
- Prioritize your priorities - You’re never going to get it all done. It’s not about making time for everything, it’s about making time for what matters. The order in which you schedule your priorities matters, otherwise you instinctively put self-care last, scheduling too much time for Admin Work and you find you have no time left for that. Self-care gets blocked off first, always, followed by the things you’re most responsible for (time for your children’s needs), and then whatever needs to take center stage in your career at the moment (which will often change). Be sure to avoid comparison paralysis - what matters to you and what you make time for isn’t necessarily the same for someone else. Who cares?! You’re the only one living this life. Trust your gut when it comes to what you prioritize.
- Done is better than perfect - Parenting is messy, from what I’ve heard. So is entrepreneurship. Live in the mess. Accept the mess. Focus more on getting content out and engaging with your audience rather than spending more time you don’t have on perfecting every note of every song and over rehearsing for a live stream or writing a blog four times over. Get it done, get it out, learn from the mistakes, and keep going! Your career is larger than your mistakes.
More than anything, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s going to take longer than expected, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Beating yourself up, judging yourself, and trying to be perfect will only slow you down.
Think about what you would say to your kids when they’re ready to start chasing their dreams, and then say those words to yourself in the mirror. You got this. And we thank you for all you do as parents!
Suzanne Paulinski is a mindset coach and founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She helps music industry professionals gain confidence and clarity in their goals with a healthy work/life balance. Her book,The Rock/Star Life Planner is now available on Amazon.