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  • Writer's pictureLiza Mulholland

On the road to musical freedom!

It’s been a time of happy celebration at home this week with my son passing his driving test. What has this got to do with music, you ask? Well, possibly quite a lot, but let me explain.

As a single mum, like any full-time parent, most of my waking hours have revolved around bringing up my son, with responsibility for his care, safety and well-being, seeing him through school, hobbies, clubs, sickness and health, while embedding the routine, continuity and solidity of a loving home.

Seeing to all of this and providing nurture, encouragement and support in the hope of raising a well-adjusted child, while navigating emotional well-being and protection from unwelcome influences, has often felt like a full-time job. Parenting is without doubt a continuously challenging learning curve and, though I know I’ve not always got things right, I’ve given it my best shot.

To put food on the table and keep my creative life alive, I’ve fitted my work and musical interests around that focus, doing teaching jobs enabling me to take my son to and from school, and when older, to be there when he got home in the afternoon and help with homework or exam preparation. And then there was the evening taxi service!

For the last eight years my son has been lucky enough to play with Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC youth squads, training three nights a week with matches at weekends. This has involved a huge amount of driving, sitting in rush-hour traffic, giving up on the rush-hour traffic and instead sitting in training ground car parks for two hours (my Kindle now lives in the car!). Thankfully at times I’ve been able to lift-share with other parents, allowing me some much-appreciated evenings off.

After sitting his Highers last year, my lad was offered a full-time contract with ICTFC Under 18s, so driving increased to five days a week, usually an early start and mid-afternoon pick-up. Please don’t think I’m complaining though; on the contrary, I wouldn’t swap a minute of it! I’m immensely grateful for everything the club and dedicated coaches have done, having not only taught footballing expertise but equipped boys with so many life lessons, social skills and a terrific bunch of great friends. The opportunities they’re getting are second to none.

Clearly the routine needs of children as they grow up, develop, become teenagers with interests, facing the demands of school and exams, preclude life as a touring musician unless you’re fortunate to have an excellent support network at hand. A recent study revealed that although many more women now work in the arts in Scotland, the vast majority of performing artistes are male. Female musicians, particularly those with caring duties, are often doing other work, including teaching, arts administration and development, or home and office-based music-related jobs that fit more readily around family life.

In our female-fronted band, Dorec-a-belle, we know this well. Having had eight pre- and school-age children between us for much of the band’s eight years, we’ve often taken our brood to gigs and festivals, and have managed to play the length and breadth of Scotland. Lack of childcare though has meant being unable to perform for more than two or three days straight, rendering travel further afield unrealistic.

That’s just life and none of us are in the least bothered about it; being there for our kids is infinitely more important than chasing endless gigs. We’ve had many incredible experiences and are content to do what we can without burning out from exhaustion. We accept there are times in life when some things matter more than others and thus take priority. There is a time for everything.

We’ve never wished our children older, in fact would prefer to slow the clock down. They grow up much too quickly! If proof were needed, I now find I have a seventeen-year-old who can drive. Although a mum’s job is never done, his new independence undoubtably releases me from certain long-held duties and his childhood timetable, which might in turn enable musical freedoms for me to branch out with. Who knows, it could be the open road for both of us!

(First published by Highland News & Media 19th April 2019)

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