If Christy Hunt, Haley Bonar (pictured above), Janey Winterbauer and Kat Naden all have one thing in common, it’s that they all rock. Not just figuratively.
As moms, they have another thing in common. With much of society still clinging to vestigial conventions about women with careers, let alone mothers with careers, not to mention mothers whose careers are rocking and/or rolling, musician moms can find their lives at odds with old notions of successful parenting.
Touring, writing, recording and late nights in clubs can be a lot to juggle with a family, but the moms who do it make it work — like any other working moms. And they do it so seamlessly you wouldn’t even notice how hard they work.
Vita.mn reached out to moms of the Minnesota music scene to hear just how they do it, and how their jobs as moms mesh with their jobs as entertainers.
Bands: Solo artist; also fronts Gramma’s Boyfriend.
Daughter: Clementine, 3.
“I performed right up until the last two weeks of my pregnancy,” says Haley Bonar. “I called it quits because I couldn’t stand for that long and my guitar was pretty far away from me at that point.”
A longtime darling of the music scene, Bonar had nine records and more than a decade of performing under her belt by the time her daughter Clementine arrived three years ago. Her work was relatively unaffected through most of her pregnancy, but long rides on the tour van added to the list of things that gave her trouble.
“I waited a couple of months to perform again after Clementine was born,” she remembers. “Though it felt strange at first, it was relatively easy to get back into it.”
Bonar stays home with Clementine when she’s not on tour. There are challenges, she admits, including the unstable income that creative artists know well, but that doesn’t stop her.
“That was something I was familiar with before the kid,” she notes. “I’ve always been able to make ends meet because I work hard and have the drive to avoid doing a job that makes me unhappy.”
That a new parent’s old life might be over is a consideration many make. Faced with a potential loss of the freedom they once took for granted, some parents abandon their dreams in favor of a bad but stable job with a health plan. Others try holding on to it all while simply adding a baby to the mix. Others, including Bonar, discover a natural blend of those options.
“I have my ups and downs like anyone does with any kind of work, but I get to use those emotions in my creativity, which I think is a useful tool for children in its own right,” she says. Thoughtfully, she adds that this is the role model she wants to be.
“It is important that your child sees you happy, regardless of what you do for income or passion.”
Performs with: American Public Media’s “Wits”; the Sevateem.
Past: The New Standards, the Suburbs, Golden Smog, Astronaut Wife.
Sons: Dom, 13; Vinny, 9.
Singer Janey Winterbauer, who was 24 when she had the first of her two sons, struggled at first to be a parent and stay involved with the music community.
“That’s not easy when you have a small child,” she says, “but it was worth it.”
Dom, her oldest son, is now 13. His brother Vinny is 9. She and husband/bandmate Christian Erickson are both active as parents and professionals who coordinate their schedules meticulously. “We’ve learned to juggle because we have no choice,” she says. “The hardest part has always been finding a sitter when we’re both needed at the same rehearsal.”
Both sons have inherited their parents’ penchants in different ways. While Vinny is passionately self-learning programming, his older brother creates his own electronic music.
“[Dom] spends more time making cool trance music on Ableton than should probably be allowed,” Winterbauer says. But she notes that his real passion is for geometry, and that he’s looking forward to making his adult career as an architect.
She advocates passionately for the continued pursuit of one’s passions and dreams throughout parenthood, noting that the example you set for your children is shaped in part by their watching you enjoy life. “I think that you can’t give up pursuing what makes you happy, or you’re just setting your kids up for failure,” she says.
“A defeated adult makes a lousy role model.”
Bands: The Horrible and the Miserable, Strait A’s.
Past: 24 Reasons Why, the God Damn Doo Wop Band, the Okerlunds, Republican Dick Army.
Son: Eli, 15.
Kat Naden was still new to Minneapolis when she became pregnant with her son, Eli. She wasn’t in a band then, but she was immersed in the music scene.
By the time Eli was 5, she was stretching herself thin with three bands and a barista job at Muddy Waters, but that ended with a wake-up call from her son.
“When I was putting him to bed one night, he asked me, ‘Mom? Why do you have bands? It seems like you’re just baby-sitting all the time,’ ” she says, adding, “Bands and shows come and go, and I know my kid is way more important than a band.”
Growing up close to the likes of hip-hop artists Atmosphere and Doomtree gave Eli early exposure to local music. “His dad and I lived with [Atmosphere rapper] Slug when we found out I was pregnant, and [Eli] is great friends with Jake, who is a child of a Doomtree [member],” Naden says. He’s also name-checked in a P.O. S song, and Naden says her pregnant belly can be seen on an Eyedea & Abilities album cover. “When Slug was asked to sign one of those, he signed it, ‘Eli inside.’ ”
When Eli was younger, Naden would sometimes take him along to shows. “I think he would just go with me because he knew I would let him have a soda,” she says. “He didn’t get those often.” That was just one way Naden found work/life balance, blending parenting with rocking. Now, working days as a producer and nights as a performer, Naden takes other opportunities to balance her responsibilities.
“Some parents with their free time decide to have dinner parties or go on romantic vacations,” she says. “I choose to play shows and go on tours. It’s not like I’m constantly playing music, I just do something different with my free time than most parents.”
Bands: Butcher’s Union, Pink Mink.
Past: Ouija Radio, the Von Bondies, Kevin Troy Boy Toy and the Almost Virgins Pajama Party.
Daughter: Hollis, 1.
Christy Hunt has played in half a dozen bands including Butcher’s Union, in which she teams up with Dillinger Four bassist Paddy Costello. Costello is also her partner, and together they’ve created more than just a new band. Their daughter Hollis is about to turn 2.
“Paddy and I have a passion for collecting records. We spend a lot of family time at record stores and playing them at home,” says Hunt, whose toddler soaks up that passion by osmosis. Their mother/daughter hangout is some of Hunt’s favorite time. “I’m never going to stop loving and living music,” she notes, adding, “I can’t wait to hang out with her the rest of my life.”
Hollis’ musical experiences date back to before she was born, when she would accompany Hunt onto the stage while still in the womb. Hunt was determined to stay on track before the baby, and fight through the new-parent fatigue to get back onstage as soon as she could. “There certainly were moments that mom brain was happening. Lack of sleep does mess the brain up,” she recalls. “Luckily it didn’t happen on stage. Well, at least nothing noticeable.”
“It’s important to balance the lifestyle out. The hardest part was I took my finger off the pulse,” she says. Becoming a parent meant being a little less active in the scene, where things change quickly and the buzz of the next big thing can pass you by if you stay in for a night or two. “I love building bands and being there to watch them grow. And now I just can’t do that as much. It’s frustrating at times.”
Hunt stays involved by alternating nights in with Costello, and both manage to balance their work as musicians with their jobs as parents.
“There’s no reason to not be rock ’n’ roll parents,” she says. “We’ll do things our own way and as long our children grow up happy, nurtured, inspired, then the kids are all right.”