Moms & Music

Whitney Ross-Barris. (Photo by Anna Boyes)

Whitney Ross-Barris. (Photo by Anna Boyes)

When asked by In Style if she ever wanted kids, rock legend Stevie Nicks answered, “It’s like, ‘Do you want to be an artist and a writer, or a wife and a lover?’ With kids, your focus changes. I don’t want to go to PTA meetings.” It’s this kind of thinking that has many asking, “Can one be a mother and a musician?” For some, the answer is yes! Not that it’s ever an easy thing to do. Being a working musician and a mother comes with its own risks and rewards. In a 2015 report for Women in Music Canada, survey research found that factors related to work/life balance had a negative impact on the career progression of women in the music industry. Respondents noted that motherhood and taking maternity leave had obstructed their career trajectory and in some cases, they lost their jobs altogether. We spoke with three working musicians about how they balance motherhood with musicianship. 

Whitney Ross-Barris 

Toronto-based jazz musician and mother of three boys (her third son was born the day after this interview). 

On her support system: 

My work eventually fits around the children’s schedules and my husband’s work schedule — most of my work is singing in pubs and restaurants, so it’s usually at night. The privilege of being able to do what I do is very much down to my husband’s support. I guess we lean on each other, but I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own or necessarily in the same way. A lot of musicians who are parents have a very different way of doing it because they don’t have the same sort of setup. 

On working in the Toronto jazz scene: 

I’m finding there’s a bit of a baby boom at this point, where fellow musicians are becoming first-time dads. It’s a bit different for dads...its weird, you know? But, it’s a kind of traditional way that it goes. Things like being able to nurse on demand, which I did with the other two children, are difficult when you have to get back to work quickly. In the early days of a baby’s life, you are the person they tend to want all the time. It’s kind of hard to be apart from your baby in the first few months. It would look very different if all the people in the industry that were having babies were women. 

How parenting changes your style: 

I feel that being a parent enriches my work. In some ways, you’re a bit more ambitious. My creative health comes from being able to perform and being able to make music. I found after having my kids it became very clear; I do what I do in part because I need to do it. It keeps me balanced. 

On people’s perception of her work schedule:  

People will see me out and say, “Oh mom’s night out. Good for you. It must be nice to finally get out of the house.” And sometimes that’s the truth but most of the time I probably go out to clubs more than the average person. That’s down in part to my hubby who in some ways is happy to just be home. 

Suzi Kory. (Photo by Anna Boyes)

Suzi Kory. (Photo by Anna Boyes)

Suzi Kory 

Toronto-based rock musician and mother of two teenage boys. 

On representing women in the industry: 

It’s funny that a lot of women who are my age have reached out to me on Facebook saying, “It’s incredible what you are doing because we want to do something like that and we just wouldn’t have the guts, especially when you have a family and kids and a full-time job.” I think that at the end of the day, it’s all excuses and the bigger picture here is that my kids are seeing what I’m doing and that it is possible. Rather than telling them how they should run their lives, I’m actually doing it, so hopefully, they’ll be influenced that way.

On the children’s reception of your work: 

My kids are used to having an unconventional mom so this isn’t strange to them. At the same time, I don’t think they quite understand what I’m doing or the significance of things I’ve been able to do. Like meeting Axl Rose or being on stage with Steven Tyler! One day they will understand all these amazing things. 

Mandy Fox 

Calgary-based vocalist and guitar player for MomBod and mother of two teenagers. 

How being a musician influences your parenting: 

I teach my children to have heart so that they have strong minds. I let them see the real world because you’re not always going to have someone to hold your hand through the tough times. I perform how I feel, it is my art, and they are my emotions. My children know this about me. 

Advice for new musician mothers: 

The best advice given to me: don’t ever give up if you truly want it. And practice every day. I always say, put your heart and soul into it, be real. Believe in yourself, and something will come of it. I just told that to my son today on the phone. 

On her support system:  

The kids’ dad and I separated. It has been a journey for the past five years since we broke up. But today, he supports us well. He knows I’m busy with school and music now. He helps a lot. He has his things too, but everyone figures out how to live life in their own way. My parents were not too proud of me starting my first band over 10 years ago. My dad just accepts it now. They have never come to one of my band shows, but have seen me do solo performances. I do have sisters, brothers and close friends who support me very much. They have pushed me at times when I felt like giving up. I am glad they did — and still do.