Singing and Motherhood

Singing and Motherhood

“Be prepared to never make money from singing again”


“Be prepared to never make money from singing again”

This was from a colleague I had always looked up to who was singing on the regional American circuit. She educated me not just on the cost of childcare, but the cost of the kind of childcare that you need as a singer on a gig, which is more than “just a babysitter.”

This kind of child care can be really hard to find if you aren’t at the top of the career pile. In retrospect, some of the singing moms I looked up to were not only at the top of the business, but also the primary breadwinners. They could afford a different style of childcare than I could at the regional American level. I love the gigs I do in addition to my teaching job that not only supports my ability to perform at a professional level, but also keeps me in touch with the real world. It just means I cannot afford a full time nanny.

The price of childcare is formidable. The only reason I am able to continue singing as a parent is my access to a saintly mother in law and a spouse with a flexible work-life balance. Now, Grandma does live 4 hours away, but she would do anything for her grandbabies. This is the biggest unsaid truth when we tell women in the arts they can “have it all” (since when is “all” a good thing? If I eat “all” the food at Thanksgiving that is not a healthy choice.) I wish more women in the arts knew this before they began their parenting journey.

In my experience, this also means you have to find a partner who is not just supportive but enthusiastic about your artistic life. They will be asked to be a single parent for weeks at a time. They have to be ready, willing, and happy to do so, viewing that as a special time they get to have with their little one, and not a burden thrust upon them by you, the artist who left town.

The other big thing no one told me before I became a mom: your time is no longer your own.

The “Diva” lifestyle does not prepare you for the “Mom” schedule. I am actively jealous of how I used to have the luxury of being so focused on myself and my art. Yes, you are busy, but you are not “eating a granola bar on the toilet because you’re trying to breastfeed and learn all the recitative to Don Giovanni at the same time” busy.

You have to be so deliberate with your practice and work time. For me, this meant I knew I had to get that baby on a sleep schedule as fast as I could (which is not for everyone, but this is what I knew I had to do for my own mental health). As soon as I was medically cleared for exercise (which is generally around 6-8 weeks, but every pregnancy is different. Please consult your OBGYN), I knew it was time to re-build that muscle coordination. As soon as that baby fell asleep, I would go to the next room and start singing. Did I want to sing? No. I wanted to nap! But I knew that I had to practice and I had to teach my new human to sleep through my singing, which paid off in the form of them taking solid naps for the first 6 years of their life.

The energy it takes to build and maintain a career in the arts is already challenging. Adding a new element, like keeping another human alive, can feel overwhelming. That said, the baddest ladies and next level queens are the Moms who have figured it out! You will never meet someone who is as efficient with their time as a working Mom. They are miracle workers. They will be more efficient because they know that instead of having a week to learn something, they have 25 minutes (like me, learning “Salce, salce” from Otello in 25 min because a student no-showed). So, if you’re a singer beginning this journey, remember: it may feel daunting, but it is possible. You got this. You’re amazing!

Donata Cucinotta

Donata Cucinotta is an opera singer and voice teacher based in Indianapolis. She is best known for her versatile and powerful performances on opera, musical, and concert stages across the US. Recent career highlights include performances with Michael Tilson Thomas and the Louisville Orchestra, a Lincoln Center debut with the Queens Symphony Orchestra, and multiple performances with Jack Everly and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.  She currently holds a teaching position at Center Grove High School and loves being a part of the Indianapolis arts community.