How kids changed my relationship with music

Everyone with small children knows that your life completely changes. Keeping your small human(s) alive takes priority, which leaves you with not much time for yourself. I think most new parents find themselves missing their old lives at some point.

What I miss most isn’t eating dinner at a regular speed. It’s not using the bathroom alone and it’s not sleeping in. What I miss most is playing the piano.

I have been playing the piano since I was seven years old.  What started as a hobby turned into a passion, which turned into a career and an identity. I used to play for 3 hours a day. Now I am lucky if I play 3 hours a year. You know why? It’s not the lack of motivation and it’s not the lack of desire. It is because of kids – mine and other people’s.  

Went into teaching because I loved music and wanted to help others enjoy it too. I also thought this would guarantee I would always have music in my life. Well, this was only partially right. I have music in my life, but the music is no longer mine. I spend my day talking about music, helping others make music and how to understand the language of music. I do not play music. I am a facilitator, a conductor but not a musician in the way I used to be.

I have felt this loss since I started working in 2008 after graduating from a music degree and teacher’s college, but it is especially pronounced since the birth of my son. At least I used to be able to play for a few minutes after work. Now I scramble to finish my work and race home to pick up my son at daycare. At home it is a rush to cook dinner, get him ready for bed and squeeze in some quality time. After he goes to bed, there is no way I am making noise. So I don’t play.

I used to tell my music friends that I felt like music and I had broken up. It was not mutual. Most days I’m fine, but sometimes I would see music around town and my tough exterior would crumble. Music looked good, but music had moved on and I was left alone.

This is true, but there is more to it than that. I genuinely grieve over playing the piano. I grieve for it like it died. The grief catches me at odd moments, overwhelming me unexpectedly to the point of tears. I hear a piece of music I love and I feel utterly broken. I used to play. I used to be good. I worked diligently at something for most of my life, but I will probably never be better than I was at twenty-one years old.

Though I know I am still a good musician, if someone asked me to play something right now I do not have a single piece to play. I feel like I have a perfect understanding of the English language but am unable to speak. I feel mute.

I know that my musical knowledge and skills are still there, safe in my brain. That no matter how rusty my hands may become, I am still a better musician now than I was 20+ years ago. I know that music is waiting for me, when I am ready. I know my son and any future siblings are worth it. I know , but it still aches.

I try to remind myself that someday when my children are older and I have a little more time, I will play piano again. For now, this will have to be enough.


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