I remember when I sat down in the director’s office of the work-study I was doing. The director happened to be a woman. I was 26, with no prospects for kids anytime soon, but knew I wanted a family eventually. Yet, I had no idea how I was going to get there since I was always working. So I asked her flat out, how do you have a family, or a relationship, or anything in this business. And her answer was that it was hard. I don’t think I fully understood what that meant, and now, on the eve of 40 with 2 kids, I guess I’ll do you a favor and give you more details so you can make your own decisions.
First, I’m going to preface this by saying having kids isn’t for everyone, and that is 100% OK. But, if you were thinking about it, and thought you had to leave this crazy business because of it, here are some things to consider.
One of the most important things to think about is the myth that you have to have kids young. In NYC it’s normal to start having kids between 35-40. That whole thing about your eggs getting old isn’t exactly true like they make you think it is. I had my first at 36 and just had my second at 39. So you have plenty of time to establish yourself in your career, do all the things you want to do and then you can think about kids. There’s zero reason to rush.
Pregnancy in Audio
I used to do a lot of live sound, and I was loading in a show – carrying a heavy monitor across the stage – and I thought, this won’t be an option at 9 months pregnant (I wasn’t pregnant at the time). And it’s true, there are a lot of things you won’t be able to do, but there are so many things you can. If your body is used to doing things, then you can continue to do them when you’re pregnant. This is why someone like Serena Williams can win the Australian Open at 8 weeks pregnant. You just shouldn’t start a new routine when you get pregnant.
During my first pregnancy, I had a full-time job in radio but was also sound designing a musical for a performing arts high school in NYC. This fell during my first trimester, where I had terrible nausea and was exhausted. Know when to ask for help. I ended up bringing on a second engineer and passed off half of the tech days to them because I couldn’t manage the number of hours.
Having the baby
The first couple of months are kind of a blur. And there might be a ton of baby-wearing. If you’re lucky enough to have a job with maternity leave, take all of it. I always feel that because of the nature of our work, you rarely get a break, so do take the time to be with the baby. If you’re in a state that has some kind of state-paid leave, look into the rules and how to apply.
I had my second in the middle of recording an album for an artist. We plowed through tracking and editing during pregnancy which was already a challenge. Raced to the finish line to get her first track mixed before giving birth, and then ended up finalizing the mix about 2 weeks after my daughter was born. Probably not the ideal scenario since I was still healing, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. The most important thing to consider here is that this artist was 100% OK with this because she wanted to work with me. She could have picked up and left to work with someone else while I had my maternity leave, but she didn’t.
But I also had to be realistic here, and I knew when to ask for help. I hired an assistant to help me get through some of the editing because now with two kids, I had to learn that I wasn’t always able to keep up with the pace and how many hours I could work.
Studio culture is probably one of the hardest things when it comes to finding balance. I was working at a studio that had an artist come in and they were hotboxing in the control room. I was at the tail end of breastfeeding my first, and I didn’t know anything about the effects of marijuana on milk. But I was new. Was that a battle I wanted to fight? At the time, no. My son had just turned one, and I was only going to go ‘til one. So I stopped cold turkey because I didn’t have the energy to read about the effects and because I didn’t have the energy to speak up about it. And that was hard – because I felt like I never had a moment of closure. But, I remember at the time thinking, had my kid been smaller, and I wasn’t ready to stop – what would I have done? Or what if I was pregnant? Is studio culture ready to change to accommodate that? Maybe, maybe not.
I think it’s important for us to support women no matter what their decision or outlook on motherhood is. I hate going to conferences and this question gets ignored as if it’s not a valid point – you don’t have to have kids, but for the people who do, it’s important for us to speak up and let people see it is possible. I’ve since met and seen many moms working in audio that make me wish I’d met them sooner – maybe I would’ve made different decisions. My kids are small, so I’m still figuring things out.
The conversation I had during my work-study was spot on. It is hard. But it’s also super rewarding. I love to hear my toddler ask to hear an artist’s song again, or just randomly start singing it. I’m wearing my second right now as I attempt to write this. Happy Mother’s Day to all you Audio moms out there. Keep doing what you’re doing.