Alicia Toner - Artist
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 was in the middle of recording my second album, "Joan" when I found out I was pregnant. It was a surprise, so not much discussion had gone into how it would affect my career. I naively thought it wouldn't affect it much and I took off to New Orleans and England to showcase at Folk Alliance and Americana Fest UK in January of 2020 when I was 5 months pregnant. There was a lot of forward momentum happening but the universe had other plans for the entire world.
As a working parent in the music industry, what are some of the biggest challenges you are facing?
I find I'm constantly stuck somewhere between trying to do my job well and trying to be a good parent. It often leaves you feeling like you're failing at both. Society expects mothers to be the primary caregiver and to be there for their child's every need. The music business expects you to be up late, socializing and networking at conferences and shows. It expects you to have the time to be creative and to put out new, inspiring work. Time is often the biggest challenge. And sleep deprivation.
What is one small change within the industry that could make a positive impact for working parents?
A childcare stipend worked into a fee and for it to be as common as a meal buyout. I can't and don't want to leave my daughter behind every time I travel for shows. It's not an option every time. But she's too young to hang out solo and someone I trust needs to come with me to care for her which makes touring (at my level) not feasible. In fact, it has stopped me from hitting the road many times now.
How do you find support and community with other working parents in or out of the music industry?
I am lucky to be surrounded by some very close friends in the same boat. If not for them, I imagine finding community would be difficult these days. Especially if your baby was born in COVID times.
What’s one specific example of an organization/venue/company doing something great to help support working parents?
This may seem a bit obscure, but I come from a theatre background and there is a theatre company in Barrie, ON called "Talk Is Free Theatre" that is systemically changing the game. Rehearsal days and weeks are shorter and accommodate picking up kids from school. Childcare costs are subsidized. Families are put first and when you do that, you get more fully-rounded individuals devoted to your company because you took their needs into consideration. It doesn't take much to be accommodating. Just an open mind. AND it often yields better results. I'd also love to give a shoutout to a small but mighty venue on PEI called Harmony House who, in my personal experience, has worked around my schedule to accommodate my daughter showing up to breastfeed, me needing to leave to go put her to bed and working around nap times. It was the difference between me working and not working and I will never forget it.
What could a music event (festival, conference, etc.), do or provide to make it easier for you to participate?
This is a huge question. For festivals, I find the biggest barrier to be the added cost but for conferences it would be systemic change. Playing a showcase at midnight and being up with my daughter at 5:30 to then have to conference all day again is impossible. For me, anyway. That's why these questions are tough. Some can thrive in this environment and wouldn't necessarily change anything. Some are fine to leave their kids behind for 5 days. I have done it both ways and neither have worked well for me. I would rather bring my daughter and have a showcase in the afternoon. And have whoever is caring for my child be paid like another band member.
Can you shout out another music mama doing great things?
I have so many inspirational mothers in my personal community and so many I look up to outside of it. A special thank you to Tara MacLean who has shown up for me time and time again and has been another caretaker of my daughter. She has three beautiful daughter of her own. She gets it. Also, Meaghan Blanchard who has a son the same age as my daughter and who has helped me navigate the trauma of having a baby in such an uncertain time. I'm so grateful to these mothers. I'm so grateful for so many more.
Hear more about Alicia Toner HERE.