More coming soon!

A new issue
every other Friday



by Katy Otto

As a teen first discovering music, Caithlin's band Rainer Maria was everything to me. Their use of space, dynamics, and vocal interplay shaped how I wanted to approach making music myself. I deeply admired Caithlin's presence on stage - bright and serene, yet fierce and potent. She shared her thoughts on music and motherhood.

Please tell us about both your creative life/practice and your experience with parenting.

I am the bassist and vocalist for the rock band Rainer Maria and mother of a six and three-year-old.

What were some of the fears you had (if any) about how becoming a parent would impact your creative life?

I felt no fear initially. I was taking a break from my band and beginning my career as a solo artist. I toured the US while seven months pregnant. I was fortunate to have a mother who worked both in and outside of home. She modeled a calm "can do" kind of motherhood. I knew it was possible to be a full time mother and continue my creative work. Touring was a different matter. I couldn't tour anymore but I wasn't particularly fond of long tours anyway so I wasn't concerned. What became an issue for me was the lack of income while I was a full-time mom. It wasn't fear I felt. Rather feelings of inadequacy because I wasn't contributing to my family's savings. I came to value a different kind of contribution.

Would you say now, in retrospect, that they were well founded?

I was prepared and fortunate enough to devote myself full-time to parenting. It took patience and practice to slow down and focus on my children's needs but it is oh so rewarding to see them blossom from infancy to toddler to school age.

What does your creative life look like currently?

Currently it's going pretty well because both my children are at school for at least part of the day. I write songs at night and workshop lyrics the next day. I rehearse with my band once a week and play shows about once a month.

How is it different from before you were a parent?

Before I was a parent I loved to collaborate so in this sense it hasn't changed at all. What I've observed is different is my approach. In the past I wanted to direct the activity and felt more emotionally invested in the outcome. My children have taught me to let go and enjoy the creative process without as many expectations. They embody joy and curiosity. It's impossible not to be inspired by them.

How do you carve out time and space for your creative practice as a parent?

As any parent knows you can never count on having any time to yourself. If you have a sick child then all activity has to stop and you have to focus entirely on that child. So no schedule is set in stone. For me it has been very important to keep an ongoing dialogue with my partner. Negotiation is essential. It's taken a few years to get into a nice groove. It helps tremendously when your children are school age.

What kinds of adjustments did you make to your creative practices when you became a parent?

Complete overhaul! I taught myself how to record music at home. I became more focused. More grateful. I overcame many fears. Becoming a mother has made me feel more powerful. I've expanded and strengthened my commitment to being a creative person. Most important to my creative process I've learned how to ruminate while still getting things done.

Did you have to learn how to function with no sleep?

I have two very good sleepers. I joked with my partner that in order to be a happy parent you have to "kill your sleep ego." In other words, stop feeling entitled to sleep. Stop moping about not getting it. It is quite a shock first time round and by no means do I want to minimize the devastating effect lack of sleep can have on your health. We were very lucky to have good sleepers so lack of sleep wasn't a huge issue. With my second child I knew what to expect and kind of cherished being awakened to breast feed in the middle of the night.

What do you tell your children, if anything, about the role of creativity in your life?

My children have always known I am a musician but only recently have I introduced the significance to them of, "Mama making money for our family." When I go to a rehearsal or to play a show I say I am going to work. I started doing this after my six-year-old said something to the effect of, "Mama doesn't work." I realized it was important they know creative pursuits can be called work.

Do you talk to them (if age appropriate) about the role of creativity in their lives?

Since both my partner and I are creative (he is a photographer) and we both alternate between working at home and on location, my children just see this as natural and ordinary. My partner and I discuss and critique our work with each other and my children hear these conversations. We enjoy our lives together and enjoy being creative together. Both of my children have expressed a desire to be artists. I think we encourage them to be creative in whatever they do.

In what ways do you think being an active artist/writer/musician/creator helps make your parenting stronger?

It has made me more patient, a better listener, more adaptable to change, more creative, more willing to sit with the process rather than be attached to the results, accept that I don't have all the answers, and most important I know how crucial it is to PLAY together!

In what ways do you think being a parent has made your artistic practice stronger?

Two words, more grateful!

Also I find myself encouraging and participating in my children's creative life all the time. We invent dances and write songs, sing and draw pictures, invent recipes, bring bits of nature inside and make installations, write poems, arrange beads, rocks, coins or other small things into patterns, we discuss numbers and create diagrams and maps. All of this helps me keep my own creative fires going.

Are there other people who inspired you in the ways they approached creative work as a parent?

My mom was by far the most inspiring person in my life. She shared with me her great appreciation of creativity. She gave me the foundation for my creative integrity. She recognized and always supported my creativity. The most important bit of advice she shared with me was, "Always do what's right for YOUR family." I happen to have a creative family and we might do things in our own creative way. My mom inspired me to approach my parenting in exactly the same way I approach my creativity - integrity, flexibility, empathy, commitment.

What do your children think of your creative work?

They would LOVE to join my band. They have picked out which instruments they would play - the saxophone and the drums. My older child is very sweet and supportive. He tells me my songs are really good. My three year old is more critical. She tells me to stop when she doesn't like something!

Do you think creative communities are friendly to children and parents and encourage their presence?

When we lived in the city there was a lot of support and encouragement to creative families. I brought my toddler to the recording studio with me - big mistake. I think I realized fairly quickly that the kind of creative work my husband and I do doesn't lend itself to having our children with us when we are working. My work is loud, dangerous and even boring (to a child). They peek in sometimes, with headphones, but even then want to leave soon afterwards. When I'm with them I want to focus all of my attention on them. I bring them to quieter child friendly music events. As they get older I imagine this will change.

Are there any ways these communities could improve?

I think all communities could improve to provide safer places for children. Children need child friendly spaces just like any other differently abled people need adjustments to the world at large. I realized how awful most places are for children. Boring, unsafe, unnavigable. There's a reason children need separate areas devoted to them. Children thrive in safe, colorful, fun spaces. I cringe when I hear adults complaining that our society is catering too much to children. I think the opposite is true. We can do so much better integrating our spaces.

How did becoming a parent affect your creative partnerships with other people?

It gave me more confidence.

Do you think that some of the challenges parenting presents for creative practice are impacted by your gender? Please share any thoughts you have about this.

Full time parenting was I choice I made. I used to wonder, when am I going to feel my mommy power. It wasn't immediate. It took some time to empower myself. When I empowered myself as a parent I empowered myself as a woman and a creative person. It all went hand in hand.

Has your creative community been supportive of you as a parent?

Very supportive!

Do you have any more thoughts to share with other prospective or current parents about preserving and nurturing one's own creative efforts while raising children?

The best advice I received when I was pregnant was this: there's no limit to the kind of mother you can be.

ABOUT                              CONTACT                              CONTRIBUTORS                              DONATE