This morning an article came across my desk entitled “One in four artist careers halted by parenthood”. Actor Laura Wells conducted a survey with 545 artists in England to find out how parenthood affects their careers. 83% of the respondents were female and about a quarter reported that having children just about halted their careers. About 64% reported that they had to miss a performance because they couldn’t find any childcare. The full article can be found here.
The childcare system is set up for 9-5 care, not for evenings and weekends, which is when performers are working. Of course, there are babysitters who get paid on an hourly basis. That usually ends up being more expensive than daycare for a population that already has a lower than average income. As a result, many female artists will take time off or at least scale back for a while. For example, jazz pianist Joanne Brackeen stopped her career for two decades to raise her four children, Lena Horne disappeared from the performance scene for several decades to raise her daughter, Flora Purim left Chick Corea’s band because she was expecting hers and Airto’s first child and didn’t want to spend so much time on the road.
As a result, many others make the decision to not have children in order to pursue their careers. It is a difficult decision and a sacrifice that many women in leading positions have to make. In Laura Wells’ study, some women felt their professional reputation would suffer as a result of childcare responsibilities. While women felt they were being judged, men felt ‘their parenting roles were either lauded or attracted nothing more than ambivalence”.
When our children were young we were on the continuous hunt for childcare and often spent large amounts of our income paying babysitters for the late night hours or simply had to pass on offers because the income wouldn’t be enough to come out even. And of course there were the many evenings with last-minute conflicts or sick kids – here is a wild idea: How about affordable childcare for artists? Evening and weekend nurseries in coop format for anyone who works evenings and weekends or just couples who’d like to go on dates. It takes a village!