Welcome back to my Working Mom Series. I love sharing real life stories from other working moms (or dads, if any would like to contribute!) I know things can feel easier if we know we aren’t dealing with all the “things” alone.
Noel is a Music Therapist. She mainly works from home, but sometimes sees clients as well. Her field of work is really interesting to me as I’ve been through some Occupational Therapy with my eldest daughter and I’ve seen them use music and other techniques to teach her coping strategies.
On to the questions!
Describe your home life – how old are your kids? Does your spouse work as well? Or are you a single parent?
My home life seems to always be full of activity! Part of this is because I own my own business. However, this is also largely because I have twin toddlers. They are 3 years old, VERY active, and very loud talkers (they get this from their daddy).
My husband is also a very energetic outgoing individual. Both he and I work from home, which makes for an interesting home environment. He works full-time in the industry of computer and electrical engineering. He’s a smarty-pants! We are active in our community and church and love having our friends over for a meal or just to hang out.
What do you do? Describe your working life.
I am a board certified music therapist, which means I use music to helps facilitate growth in the areas of social, emotional, cognitive, motor, and communication needs. Music therapists work in all sorts of places. Pretty much anywhere you can find a nurse, there are music therapists working in that type of facility.
When I work with clients, we use music in several ways to address important life skills. We may write a song or play a drum to increase emotional expression. Sometimes we sing or play a wind instrument to strengthen respiratory function and oral motor muscles. Music supports motor skills, as our brain helps us anticipate the downbeat. We can use bilateral coordination and increase grip strength while playing drums with a mallet. At times we may just listen to music and practice relaxation techniques that help lessen anxiety and stress.
The focus of my business is working with people with special needs. We serve a variety of individuals, but mostly people with developmental and neurological disabilities. Seven years in to my private practice, I now have two music therapists that work for me and most of my work revolves around administrative duties. This allows me to work from home for the most part.
I spend most of my days working on my website, developing relationships with community partners, learning how to run a business (there’s always more to learn), encouraging my staff, and all those other fun administrative things like paying bills. When I do work directly with clients it is during consultations or while leading groups that meet for brief periods of time, such as camps or 4-week introductory groups. I often give presentations in the community and have been a guest lecturer at most of the local universities in my town.
And how many hours do you work in a week?
This is surprisingly a difficult question to answer. I can tell you that I never have enough time to finish all the work on my plate. I work when my children allow me; during naps or when they’re in a good mood, when they are at preschool, and after they go to bed. I would estimate I work 20-25 hours a week on average. Before presentations or teaching engagements I work significantly more.
How soon did you return to work after having a child? And is your work life the same now (same job, or role at that job?)
Because I own my own business I never actually “left work”, though my workload did significantly change. Before my children were born I ran my business and also had my own caseload, serving a number of clients. When I experience pre-term labor I had to suddenly give my caseload over to my employee. I remember paying payroll from my hospital bed the day the boys were born. For about half a year I simply maintained my administrative duties and did not see clients. After that I began seeing one client to keep my music therapy skills “fresh”. I also began to go back out in the community presenting and teaching in a number of venues and conferences.
What do you do to treat yourself? Do you have something in your routine that you do just for you?
I always preach self-care; I even have this as part of my “employee benefit package”. Nevertheless, if I’m honest, I do a pretty poor job of treating myself. As I mentioned before I do not have time to even complete my job responsibilities, so sometimes it’s hard to rationalize taking time to do things for myself. When I convince myself that it is necessary to take a break from being mommy, director, and spouse, I love to pamper myself with manicures, facials, massages, or especially getting a really nice hair cut and color (yeah, all the girly stuff).
When I can plan ahead of time, I LOVE taking a girls weekend with my best friend. It always proves to be a restful and refreshing time! I highly recommend it!!!
Some time ago I put up a sign in my home that reads, “If you get tired learn to rest, not quit.” Self-care is SO important!
Touch on your most and least favorite things about being a working parent.
I love that I can be a role model for my kids, in that I work hard and have my own business. I love that I can have a career focused on my passion, music therapy, but at the same time I can schedule my work around my kids’ needs.
Nevertheless, being a business owner is slightly a two-edged sword. While it is wonderful to run my own business because of the flexibility, ultimately the success of it is on my shoulders, which comes with a lot of pressure. Sometimes that pressure takes my attention away from my kids. Even when I am in the same physical space as them, I may be thinking of my lengthy to-do list as I play cars. I am not completely emotionally invested at that moment. This creates that good old mommy guilt that we so easily throw on to ourselves.
What are your goals going forward?
I have many goals! After this summer, I plan to invest a few more dedicated hours to my workweek while the kids are in school. My hope is that this will create more focused “kid time” when they are home with me.
One of my overarching work goals is to continue to grow the profession of music therapy in my area. Many people are not aware of music therapy and what a powerful therapy it can be for so many individuals. My goal is for people in the community to understand what music therapy is and know that they can come to us for support and empowerment.
I would also love to be the “go to” place for music therapy graduates in the area. In relation to growing the practice, I have a long-term goal to open a research clinic that can study the effects of music therapy through various research projects.
A personal goal is to get more sleep! As I mentioned before, I pretty much only work when the kids are not present…8:00pm-12:00am are my prime working hours. This is just not sustainable.
Any tips to share for balance in your life?
I am currently working on this myself! I notice that the times I feel most at peace are not necessarily when I have everything crossed off my to-do list. The times I feel most balanced are when I spend quality time with my kids, fully listening, and actively interacting with them. They notice my presence and full attention being on them, and this results in more positive behavior throughout the day. Consequently, I have more energy to put toward work after the kids are in bed. My mantra is, “Be present…be in the moment.”
Noel Anderson, MMT, MT-BC, has been a music therapist for over a decade. She received a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Immaculata University and Master of Music Therapy at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Along with her music therapy certification she holds a certification in music education. She runs a growing private practice serving individuals with disabilities in Roanoke, Virginia.
Have you used therapy (music or otherwise) in your life, or that of your family? I’d love to hear about it. Leave your experiences in the comments!