In the series “Music Life with Kids”, mica – music austria and Austrian Music Export explore the question of how professional musicians fare once they have children. In the second part of the series, musician, composer and singer, VIOLETTA PARISINI gives us an insight into her everyday and long-term work life with children: What realities and challenges do musicians with children face and (how) can they reconcile their professional and family lives? Where is there need for improvement and what kind of bigger picture visions do we need to explore?
What has changed for you since you became a mother?
Violetta Parisini: Mentally, pretty much everything: what I write about, my understanding of social politics, my notion of feminism and also my self-image. Concretely, the time I had available reduced to a fraction; that got a little better over the years. Initially, I had no time or resources at all for anything other than the most urgent things – and by that I mean sleeping, eating, breastfeeding, diapering, and playing concerts. What fell by the wayside for a long time was planning something longer-term, writing, composing. What there is still not enough time for is networking and exchange, to be present in the scene.
Musically, there were also changes, namely the language of my lyrics and the understanding of the connection between the political and the personal. That goes for every single song. My lyrics are in German now. The things I want to describe feel trickier than they used to, and I want to hit them very accurately, including implications and associations. I find that easier in my native language.
Are mothers treated differently from fathers in the music scene?
Violetta Parisini: Of course, in interviews mothers are asked about compatibility, it is assumed that you don’t have time anymore anyway, and there is very little understanding that what mothers have to say is politically relevant. Mothers’ issues are perceived as women’s issues, which are perceived as niche issues. Fathers’ issues are always also men’s issues and therefore general. Of course, this does not correspond to reality, but to public perception. How sexist the world is in which we move can be easily observed in the perceptions we have of parents.
“there is very little understanding that what mothers have to say is politically relevant”
On tour with (small) children… In concert in the evening and childcare… What networks do musicians use?
Violetta Parisini: Our most stable network is the family. Fortunately, I also have a partnership based on the desire for 50:50 childcare, from both sides. Taking children to concerts is sometimes possible, but it takes a lot of attention that you have to subtract from something else, especially from the time before and after a gig, when you can be there for the audience or get to know the organizers better. (There it is again, the unfortunately important networking that falls by the wayside…)
What would you like to see from organizers and where do you need to make urgent changes?
Violetta Parisini: Organizers could take care of backstage rooms suitable for children and childcare facilities, but the real problem cannot be solved by organizers, but goes deeper: there should be reasonable compensation for artists who have children. In my opinion, this is the most important thing. If they are a one-person business, as is often the case in the music business, they actually have to prepare the next project while they are on maternity leave, because otherwise they will have to build up a lot of things again until the paychecks return. The cycles – invested time and money leading up to an album, and then months go by until the album is released and income slowly starts coming in again – are long, and if you’ve been away for a year or more, it’s harder to start the new cycle all over again. Protection for artists who have become parents – e.g. in the form of scholarships, childcare support on tour, marketing support when there is a new release – would be very helpful. Or, thinking bigger: an unconditional basic income for artists in their first years of parenthood.
“The fact that the more one has experienced, […] the more one has to say, is often not considered in the reception of music”
Is there a need for more sensitivity in the scene in general? What is missing? Are special needs being addressed?
Violetta Parisini: Again, the problem is bigger than the Austrian music scene. And it starts with the strange evaluation of age: young=fresh=good, old=stale. When you have children, a few years of life go by, during which you also get older. The fact that the more one has experienced – and having children is a rather profound and lasting experience – the more one has to say, is often not considered in the reception of music.
This youth mania and the superficiality of the (pop) music scene is of course a global problem. As an individual, it is difficult to solve. What individual editors, journalists and organizers could do, however, is to be aware of the problem and question their own mindset. Artists become successful with the help of the above-mentioned suggestions, and this power should not be underestimated.
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 a mom and a musician?
Violetta Parisini: Everything that is relevant to my songs and to my role as an artist flows into my social media communication, which of course includes parenthood. I’m addressing the political side of being a mother more and more, in particular, because that’s a big concern for me. But also the happiness that comes from sometimes being allowed to see the world through children’s eyes. But photos in which you could recognize my children are taboo, as are more detailed descriptions of our everyday lives. I would consider that a violation of their personal rights because they can’t decide about that themselves yet. Being exposed to the public requires clear boundaries, which are not always easy to draw even as adults. Drawing them for someone else is impossible.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Violetta Parisini: Yes! Being a parent is complicated, beautiful and terrifying at the same time! This simultaneity is hard to convey, but it’s just reality. I often talk and write about the problems because they are less perceived publicly. However, for the sake of clarity, I would like to say here that these problems are, indeed, counterbalanced by great joy and liveliness.
Translated from the German original by Arianna Alfreds.
For part 1 of the series with MAIKEN BEER, go here.