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?