“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.” Lucille Ball
I really like helping people with my Choral Ethics project; it brings another layer to what I perceive as my work. In many ways I’ve been preparing to be the Choral Ethics Empress, as one of my regular readers M.W. calls me, my entire life. With my background as the child of a ballet dancer and an opera singer, I’ve been in the arts my entire life. I have seen or heard some crazy things which have prepared me for your problems. Just when I think I’ve heard it all, someone will contact me about a problem and I will be dumbfounded yet again. But there is more to me than what I write about here on ChoralNet.
I think of myself as a musician and singer and conductor and former dancer but I always wanted to be a mother. I am the oldest of six children, mothering them and even stepping in for Mom if she needed me to. I am even Godmother to my youngest sister. It’s just part of my personality and who I am.
I thought I could do it all; have a good relationship with my spouse, raise perfect children and have a career conducting choirs. And while I do have practically perfect sons, a loving relationship with my spouse and a career conducting choirs, things didn’t turn out exactly how I imagined through no fault of my own.
Motherhood certainly wasn’t how I expected it to be. I am not just a mother but the mother of a special needs child; my eldest son has autism. And that has made a huge difference in what I believe is important. There are things more important than that perfect job I applied for, got and then realized it would conflict with my son’s therapy. My younger two boys needed me at various times in their lives so I began to apply for jobs I could work around their schedules. It always seemed someone else’s needs were taking president over my needs for a while but I knew how important it was for my sons to have stability. And my spouse? He’s a physician and his profession made it possible for our children to get what they needed; but I was the one to make sure they did.
We think we can have it all but we can’t. Something has to give. As much as I love to cook (I really do love making food for those I love), when I am nearing the end of a concert cycle, my family knows it is time for frozen pizza and Take-Out. And when Christmas comes and I am busy with concerts or Messiah or something, store bought frozen cookie dough tastes pretty good when baked with love!
As my boys got older, I have had more freedom to do more of the things I imagined doing and I have. But I also realize I have a need to advocate for those with special needs in all walks of life. I need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. And I began to examine our profession and what it brings to those folks.
I have learned to pick my battles, be organized with a schedule and not to sweat the small stuff. Oh, and it’s all small stuff. Family is important. If that means staying up to talk to your kid when he’s struggling when you have a performance the next day, that’s what you need to do. The performance will be over but your kid is your kid forever.
Our profession can be stressful. I believe we add to our stress by expecting impossible things from ourselves and from those in our lives. It’s taken me many years to know I can’t be everything to everybody. I will settle for being a good conductor and person, a loving wife and as good a mother as I can be. Period.