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Erin Benjamin - Canadian Live Music Association

Where were you at in your music career when you had your first child? Was there much discussion about how that life choice would affect your career within the music/entertainment industry?

I had been running the Ontario Council of Folk Festival's, now known as Folk Music Ontario, for four years when I became pregnant with my first child. My board was incredibly supportive, I took a 13-month maternity leave. There was absolutely no discussion about how that choice would affect my career, not between myself and my employer. But I was an “older mom”, my first being born when I was 36. At that time, I felt strongly in control of my career. It's when my second was born that I felt more anxious about how it would impact professionally. Moving on to a bigger job, interviewing while pregnant, going through the hiring process trying to decide whether to share that I was pregnant at the time... all because I was afraid they wouldn't offer me the job. I ended up disclosing my pregnancy, they still offered me the job which I took, and after a nine-month maternity leave returned to start my position with the Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) a job I had for more than 7 years, before coming to the CLMA.

As a working parent in the music industry, what are some of the biggest challenges you are facing?

Work life balance is almost impossible and the biggest challenge for me, but I try. I’m in a shared-custody scenario so during the times I don't have them, I try to pack even more into my business days. It was much, much harder when they were younger, but we figured it out. If I’m honest though, I still have a lot of mom-guilt though I talk to them as often as possible about leadership – and being a female leader, being the boss, and being a parent… and I learn a lot from listening to how they feel about the way they are growing up. We adjust the best we can – every night before bed ends with hugs, I love yous and a reminder that no matter how crazy life is (they are as busy as I am these days!) they are deeply, deeply loved.

What is one small change within the industry that could make a positive impact for working parents?

Continuing to adapt expectations around parents attending events. I love attending industry events, it’s a huge part of my job that I have enjoyed forever, but the pressure to be everywhere can be a lot. I want to be everywhere, always… but I can't be. And when I am somewhere else it means I’m not at home with my kids. Real or perceived, I feel like if I’m not at every industry event I’m disappointing someone… and that saying “I’ve got the kids” is somehow taken as an excuse for not being there.

How do you find support and community with other working parents in or out of the music industry?

COVID was a very interesting and powerful moment for me as a parent… with my kids working away at online school in the background while we all tried to understand what was happening around us. Weirdly, and while I very much felt for folks with younger kids, I loved that we had this intimate view in each other’s lives – folks we perhaps only knew as colleagues were having the same human experience. It made me feel less alone. It made everyone more real. Empathy was everything. This doesn’t really answer the question, but I like reminders that we are all in “this” together – not just COVID…. But life.

Can you shout out another music mama doing great things?

Shauna de Cartier has long been an inspiration for many reasons, including how she (seems to me, from a far) to parent her amazing daughters.