Making time to sing

I spent a lot of time singing this weekend. My church choir sang the Missa Gaia to celebrate Earth Day. The normal Thursday night choir rehearsal went long (because we were preparing for the weekend concert) and then there was a dress rehearsal with the band on Saturday morning from 9-noon. On Sunday we sang for services as usual (9-11 a.m.) and then the call for the 4 p.m. concert was 3 p.m. I got home around 5:45.

Most weeks don’t involve that many hours, but they do involve some. Two hours on Thursday nights, one hour beyond the regular service on Sunday mornings. This morning, one of the veteran choir members mentioned that she had joined decades ago when she had young children. A handful of other choir members had too. But there weren’t many of us now parking our children in the back of the choir loft.

A few folks had a conversation about why, and I’m sure the explanations tended toward people being busy. Which they are! Modern parents spend a lot of time shuttling kids to their activities. Yet sometimes parents make time for their own activities. When they do, here are the pieces that generally have to be in place.

You have to love it. I love singing, and performing musical masterpieces with other good singers. There are plenty of other activities I enjoy — like playing the piano, and dancing — but I’m not trying to fit those activities into my life. For people with jobs and families, probably best to choose one organized activity (I run regularly too, but running fits around other things in a way that an organized group activity, such as a softball team with practices and games, would not).

You have to recognize that there are seasons. I took six years off from singing after moving from NYC to PA. This also coincided with my having kids #3 and #4. Now that kid #4 is getting older, space is starting to open up.

You have to be fair to your co-parent. If you are co-parenting with someone, that someone will generally wind up dealing with the kids during your activity. So figure out what might make that tolerable for him or her. If both parties have fairly set hours and limited travel, that might mean each parent gets one night “off” per week for his or her activity, with each of you covering for the other. If that’s not possible, that’s when other help comes into play. Maybe extended family can be cajoled into playing back-up. We have childcare until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and the flexibility to extend that to 9 p.m. if my husband isn’t home. On Sunday mornings, I can put the 3-year-old in the nursery and bring the big kids to rehearsal. I usually don’t (because my husband takes them) but it’s an option.

You have to plan around it. I know that extracurricular commitments are hard when work requires travel. I’ve missed more Thursday night rehearsals than is probably optimal. But I’ve also scheduled some Thursday flights that have gotten me back to PHL just in time to make it to rehearsal. We had a wrestling carpool going that meant someone other than me brought the 8-year-old home on Thursday nights. In general, I think it’s wise to tell colleagues about any standing commitment, so they start to build it into their expectations too (yes, she can do a phone call if necessary Wednesday night, but Thursday will really piss her off.)

You have to be confident in your choices. I think it’s good for my kids to see that mom has her own interests beyond work and family. Since they are playing instruments, I think it’s good for them to see mom as a musician who also practices and performs. And I also know (from my time logs) that I spend copious quantities of time doing stuff for my family. I sit through karate and gymnastics most weeks. I shuttle kids to and from swim practice and baseball games. It is fine for me to have my stuff too. Because I feel this way, I’m not bothered when the kids are whining about me going to rehearsal, or that we have to cut short a botanical garden trip on the weekend so I can make my call time. We all give a little sometimes to make things work.

Are you fitting any activities into your life? What logistics are required to make that work?

11 thoughts on “Making time to sing

  1. Hello, fellow-chorister, I must chime in to comment on your post, and thank you for reminding us of the importance of making time in our lives for the things that bring us great joy. I am an enthusiastic member of our University Chorus, made up a community members and college students. We have performed many exciting works over the years and have had such a delightful time making lovely music together, speaking the universal language that transcends the barriers of race, age, gender, language, religion, culture, etc. It is a commitment of time but worth every minute and so important for children to watch adults find a place in our lives for music, or whatever our passion might be. Thank you for sharing your musical experiences with all of us–A fellow singer

    1. @Linda- thank you! And yes, it is amazing to perform great music together. I’m so glad you’ve found a choral home too!

  2. Hi Laura – love the new blog look! I think these are interesting points. Wouldn’t you say another factor is due to the decrease in your working hours (as per your previous post)? A decrease from 40 hrs/week in Year 1 to 33 hrs/week in Year 3 is a significant decrease – 17.5%! There’s a lot you can fit into those hours. Actually, as I was reading these two posts back to back, it made me think of the concept of a work limit (which you may have discussed in the past). The reality I’ve observed anecdotally is that, for many working mothers, this work limit becomes a significant issue in finding the balance they seek. It is for me. Being able to “do it all” (at least in the longer term) seems pretty linked to “it” not being a highly time-intensive job.

    1. @Rinna- theoretically it could be linked, as time is time. But part of having my logs is being able to see trade offs clearly in terms of what occupies different hours. Choir is 7-9 p.m. on Thursdays and 9-11 a.m. on Sunday mornings (well, 9-10, then church after). Neither of these have ever been prime work spots for me. Thursday early evening and Sunday morning are more generally family time. What I can see I have filled in the lower work time with is often reading time – because it fits in the spaces of travel better than anything else. And then more kid-related time – a fair amount of which is driving.

      1. Probably a post to be written in the changing categories of time. Sleep is pretty constant for me. Reading went up. Exercise I believe is up some, though not as much as one might imagine with a daily running habit, since I was already running 5 days/week before, and often the 2 additional ones are short fit-it-in ones.

  3. I love these tips! I’m pregnant with my first child and people keep telling me all the things I won’t have time for. Most of my current activities are flexible hobbies–walking/running, reading, knitting–but I like knowing how to incorporate outside activities in the future!

    1. @Caitlin- congratulations! So excited for you! You will have time for all those things – don’t worry. Maybe a bit less time the first few years, but anything that is really important to you will still fit in.

  4. For years I’d wanted to ring handbells, and it seemed there was always something to keep me from it. When our first child was 4, and I found I was pregnant with #2, I figured there WOULD always be something, so I may as well join our church’s bell choir. I did, and loved it for many years. Even with my husband’s tough schedule and small-to-school-age kids, I made it to practice. But when my parents started having health issues where I was constantly on call, or needing me in ways that left me drained by evening, I dropped out of the bell choir. Now that that has settled a bit, I was going to join another where my friend is the director, but she is retiring this year. Another choir contacted me to play in a special service next month, but I have an unmissable commitment during their rehearsals. I’m finding myself in need of making music in a group, and am hoping to adjust my schedule next fall for that bell choir that invited me.

    I do make time for theater. I have season tickets with friends at a couple of theaters, and because the performances are only every 2 months or so, I can almost always schedule them ahead of other things.

    1. @Barb – I hope it works out to join the bell choir in the fall! There’s a larger point in your comment that is worth highlighting: there is always going to be something that makes it not a perfect time. Waiting for the perfect time will mean waiting forever. There’s also the point that many people think they’re in the clear when the kids get a little older, but that can be right around the time that parents start needing help!

  5. Hi Laura, I also logged my time and wanted to ask you about time spent with kids. You’re more experienced both as a mother and as a time planner so I’m really interested. I logged much time spent with my then toddler, so I remember feeling great about it and about time tracking too. Then, when I had to spend entire days with her some months later, while pregnant with no. 2, I realized that during that time I had logged I didn’t actually interact. It was a quantity record. What about driving kids to their activities? Do these more mundane tasks count? How do you feel about it?

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