Mixing with a Toddler

Being an Audio Parent is a challenge but also incredibly rewarding. Managing pregnancy in the audio industry is a lot about self-care. Managing an infant and working in the audio industry is about mental and physical exhaustion. But then everything starts getting easier, you catch up on sleep, and you start feeling like yourself again. At the same time, this little personality is starting to emerge – they talk, say words, and have lots of preferences (Including music. It’s fascinating what my son likes and doesn’t.)

The biggest challenge we’ve faced with a young toddler (for my husband and me since we both work in audio) is balancing the things we each want to do – especially gigs or projects that involve our free time – with what everyone else wants to do. Who takes priority and when? How do you balance and keep everyone happy?

The hard stuff

Basic life tasks are more complicated. The analogy I use is taking a cat in public. Can you imagine going out to dinner with a loose cat and try not to disrupt anyone else? How about waiting in a long check-out line with a cat? Or being an airplane? It gives a new appreciation for a working parent who can show up on time, do their job without making mistakes, and can stay level-headed and cordial throughout.

Mom’s guilt gets worse. One of the most difficult things a working parent faces is not being there when your child needs you. It’s gut-wrenching when your child doesn’t want you to leave when you’re trying to get out of the house. Missing out (on activities or milestones) is a huge source of mom guilt. While I love seeing videos – like my son bowling for the first time while I’m at work – I’d rather be taking him myself.

Work guilt gets worse. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen some of my friends (without kids) make huge leaps in their careers. I’m genuinely happy for them but it’s also a reminder that my foot isn’t on the gas pedal. It’s a tough place because you’re totally capable of doing the work. It stinks to turn down a gig you want cause you can’t find a babysitter or you can’t be on call 24-7 (which is what is expected on some gigs). I’m constantly evaluating: Is this opportunity good for everyone (family, client, and me) or just for me? Am I going to come out of this gig feeling positive and fulfilled or just wiped out? Before the question was just, “Is this going to help my career or not?”

A toddler becomes your most demanding client. A toddler is a bit like an artistic genius with poor social skills. Every day they say or do something amazing or new but then they have a tantrum or 5 out of nowhere. You can’t use logic with a toddler who’s melting down because they want to wear clothes in the bath. The level of patience it takes on a daily basis can wear you thin some days. It’s affected my choice of work at times (very similar to morning sickness during pregnancy.)

Working nights is getting more complicated. Working swing shift wasn’t that big of a deal with an infant (it worked pretty nicely, actually). It’s harder when toddler activities tend to be in the morning (things like classes, playdates, preschool, etc).

The good stuff

Moms are more productive at work. Studies show women with children are more productive at work than women without children or men (whether they have kids or not!)

Working can be healthy for your kids, too. A Harvard Business School study shows kids who have an employed mom are just as happy as kids with an at-home mom. Daughters who had a working mom tend to do better in their careers, too.

Having a toddler enables you to connect with a wider variety of people at work. Talking about kids is an easy way to relate and to break the ice with some people who are reserved or private otherwise. I’ve gotten some great parenting advice through work, too.

You zero in on what’s important. When you have a lot of interests (or ambitions) and don’t have a lot of free time, it forces you to prioritize what’s most important. You don’t realize how much time you can lose by having too many interests (I think this is common in audio where we want to learn a lot of different skills, software or gear, types of work, etc). It may help you achieve goals faster to put energy into one or two things at a time.

You feel closer to the community, not further away. When you’re spending time at places like parks, play gyms, and playdates, you connect with more people in “normal” jobs than when you’re fully immersed in the audio industry. It’s a reminder we can relate and support each other in a way others can’t. (LA is a quirky outlier, though. Our preschool asked if either parent worked on-set as part of their emergency questions.)

For me, having a toddler has motivated me to start something new: a blog about kids and sound called Sound Is Fun. There’s a lot of interesting research about sound relating to kids that I had never heard before in the audio industry. For example, did you know children under the age of 5 are more at risk of hearing damage than adults? Since their ear canals are shorter, the sound pressure level is actually 10 dB higher. Background noise affects test scores and learning for kids and teens and it affects how toddlers learn language (tip: toddlers need dialog and vocals much clearer than an adult would for intelligibility). There is a lot to be explored in this area and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.


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