I "Clark Kent" my way through volunteering at the Home & School and my day job, with my dark-rimmed librarian glasses and my sensible shoes. But for the past couple of years, I've spent many a Monday evening sweating in my friend's basement—and more than a few nights playing out at local bars—as the bass player for Whatserface, an all-girl (all-mom) cover band.
It's never going to be my career (unfortunately)—I won't be the next Gwen Stefani rocking out with a baby on my hip. But my girls and I have a ball whenever we're playing, and we're getting better with every practice. (Which is very good, as I hadn't ever picked up a bass guitar until I was asked to join the band. The first few practices were pretty ugly, at least on my end!)
There are a few aspects of moonlighting as a rocker that aren't going to earn me Mom of the Year awards. We've been known to overindulge occasionally when we get together, which leads to pretty evil wakeup calls the morning after. It took me a while to finally invest in some good earplugs, so when I'm old and senile, I'll be contending with hearing loss, too. And of course, there's the fact we spend some Saturday nights in darkened bars while our kiddos are home with the sitters.
But taking time out of my week to be something other than mom, wife and writer helps make me better at all three of those roles. Here's why:
I'm building new friendships that have nothing to do with my kids or my work. Once you become a mom, it feels like the only places you make new friends are on the school playground or in the office. Granted, I was close friends with Kara, our drummer, before she asked me to pick up the bass and join the band, but I had only met the other gals once or twice before our first practice. And now, I count them all among my closest friends.
I'm getting some of that much-exalted "me time." When I'm playing music, I don't have much time to mentally run through my to-do list or worry yet again about how we're going to afford college for my kiddos. For just a few hours, it's just me and my music. And I come home refreshed, re-energized, and ready to scale that mountain of laundry sitting by the washing machine.
I'm learning something new. Studies have shown that music education can boost IQ, increase the brain's neural activity, and improve language skills in kids—and I can only believe that I'm getting some of those benefits myself. Playing bass challenges my brain in ways that nothing else does. And I'm hoping that if I keep on playing until I look older than Keith Richards, I might actually keep my mind sharp later in life.
I'm discovering new music. Deciding which songs to learn can be a bit challenging for our band, as we have six members with wildly divergent taste. Band members have suggested everything from old-school grunge to country to current pop songs. And yes, we've had some really out-there suggestions, like "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." (That was met with resounding nos!) I'm at an age where I could contentedly listen to classic rock stations or stick with my favorite bands, who have mostly reached Hall of Fame eligibility, but I'm now constantly on the prowl for something new and interesting to bring to our next listening party.
The kids love it—mostly. It's inspired some of the other band members' kids so much that they started their own rock band, and I've started teaching my own kids piano. And the girls really enjoy going to our occasional kid-friendly gig. Still, once in a while I get grief on a Monday night when I'm heading out to band practice. But after I told them I'd quit if they quit all their extracurricular activities that take them away from me—their ballet and tap and Girl Scouts and gymnastics, the complaints magically disappeared.
My husband loves it—mostly. Yeah, it means he flies solo a few nights, and he's probably had to sit through the same setlist a few too many times. (His musical taste tends more toward obscure Scandinavian metal bands than the White Stripes.) But I think he's proud to say his girl's in the band, judging by the gifts I've gotten over the past year (which included cool black boots and a gorgeous new Gibson bass).
And I love it. Playing bass makes me happy. And playing bass on stage with a few of my best friends, with your friends and family in the audience? There are few things in life better than that.
Tell us: What do you do in your life that makes you happy?