In the series “Music Life with Kids”, mica – music austria and Austrian Music Export explore the question of how professional musicians are doing when they have children. In the fourteenth part of the series, TERESA ROTSCHOPF gives us an insight into her everyday professional life with a child: the musician and singer talks about the profound transformation that becoming a mother brings, about the fact that women with children are still perceived as exotic in the music scene, and the still insufficient awareness of the topic.
What has changed for you since becoming a mother?
Teresa Rotschopf: I think the question is rather, what hasn’t changed? Becoming a mother was the most profound transformation for me in my life so far – I am still the same, but at the same time a completely different person. For me it was reassuring to realize that fundamentally, in my innermost core, I am still the same person, have the same desires and aspirations, even though everything around me has changed: the time resources, the needs and desires for my environment, my social contacts, my financial situation, my view of the world, and of course very centrally: my standards for myself as a musician. And my “no bullshit policy.”
After each child, I decided once more in favor of my career, sometimes after longer phases, sometimes right away, and that was often a major effort. Because with a baby, you’re actually fulfilled – emotionally, time-wise anyway. Then there was this innermost need for music – I felt it was a major effort to give it space, but it was unavoidable in order not to lose myself on the one hand, and at the same time to find myself again – after this transformation that is giving birth to a child.
And sure, my music has changed, my concerts – less club, more seated concerts. My projects have changed – I’ve started composing film music, which can be well coordinated with the opening hours of the various childcare facilities.
Are mothers treated differently than fathers in the music scene?
Teresa Rotschopf: Are women treated differently than men? Yes. Women with children are unfortunately still very exotic in the music scene, especially on stage. That has changed somewhat in recent years, but mothers are nevertheless a small fringe group.
The contributing factors are certainly complex, from my own experience I know that the special needs of bringing a baby/child along on tour/concerts are usually just too complex or expensive for promoters. More budget: for childcare, a bigger hotel room, two extra people in the bus/car, shorter distances, or bigger breaks between dates. This of course means that many women/families withdraw from the live circus – but this also means that they are less visible and subsequently cannot act as role models for women who are in a similar situation or are thinking about how they can best combine children and their profession as a musician. So, the system reproduces itself.
With more than one child, the organization becomes even more complex – usually the entire family/friendship environment helps to cope with the absence of the mother or parents.
On tour with (small) children? In concert in the evening and childcare? What networks do musicians use?
Teresa Rotschopf: After the birth of my first son, I took a three-month break, then got back into it with a concert at the FM4 Fest in Munich – that was perfect. The stroller was backstage at the OB van, with a note stuck on it with my phone number in case the baby woke up. It worked out great, and luckily my son slept very well. Of course, that doesn’t always work, and the feat of breastfeeding – concert – breastfeeding – quickly to the hotel and the next day to the next concert is possible with a committed partner, but also extremely exhausting (although sometimes very funny).
With increasing age and correspondingly less daytime sleep and more mobility, it was then no longer quite so fun on the tour bus, I then usually drove to concerts alone and my son was at home with my husband. That works well for us because he also works freelance. Now, with children number 2 and 3, we often accomplish logistical masterpieces. Then we have to find babysitters for children at home and babysitters for children on site. I have now professionalized backstage breastfeeding, so I don’t even need a chair anymore. With family and friends, it works well – sometimes the first quiet moment of the day is just breathing in and being still before the first note of the concert. But that’s ok.
“I feel a lack of serious effort, not only from organizers but primarily from society as a whole, to get women back into the workforce after they have children.”
What would you like to see from event organizers and where do you think something urgently needs to change?
Teresa Rotschopf: I feel a lack of serious effort, not only by organizers, but primarily by society as a whole, to get women back into the workforce after they have children. A really serious effort. The symbolic outstretched hand, not just an outstretched index finger, if a woman does not want this, wants it later or wants it differently. To achieve this, structures must be changed, awareness must be raised. And there must also be examples that can be used to show that it works: for example, by acting as a role model. Of course, for us mothers on stage, this means that we have a responsibility. Motherhood is not (only) private.
Is there a general need for more sensitivity in the scene?
Teresa Rotschopf: Of course, there needs to be more sensitivity. But it also needs more awareness. I think the gender imbalance per se needs to be addressed first and foremost. Another festival with almost exclusively male headliners or a festival opening with almost only men on stage? It really makes my blood boil.
What is missing? Are special needs (of the children) taken into account?
Teresa Rotschopf: If you communicate the needs in advance, it’s usually no problem for organizers to respond to them. A (reasonably) quiet place for breastfeeding, a room for child and caregiver, etc. – I have had positive experiences with these, and everyone involved is usually concerned with making a professional event with a successful concert possible. In addition, the needs of a mother with child are not necessarily complicated or very difficult to fulfill, there are certainly much more abstract or absurd hospitality riders of travel parties without children. I think special funding is long overdue.
Times have changed, social media serves the private life as well as the professional environment. How do you deal with that in terms of your dual role as mom and musician?
Teresa Rotschopf: My basic idea since the birth of my first son – that is, since the beginning of my motherhood – was that I wanted to completely separate my professional and private life. No home stories in magazines with children in the background, no private photos, videos of or with children, etc., which, conversely, only interests me peripherally when I’m interested in the music of other artists.
Meanwhile, after child number 3 (!), I also feel a responsibility. As already mentioned above: motherhood is also politically relevant. On the cover of my album, I can be seen naked and nine months pregnant, in the video for “Thieves of the Sun” I’m pregnant with my second son – so the pregnant body, which actually has no place in pop culture, has always interested me a lot. And also, the very banal reality: women get pregnant, have children, I make music, play concerts, practice my profession, like so many others, and together with my environment I do an enormous amount to get everything on track or to keep it on track – like so many others.
Translated from the German original by Itta Francesca Ivellio-Vellin.