Catherine MacLellan Talks Parenting, Divorce and Cool Kids' Tunes

Filed under: Divorce & Custody, Amazing Parents, Music

The songs of Catherine MacLellan may sound soft, but they carry a big emotional wallop. The Prince Edward Island-born singer/songwriter has been compared to Joni Mitchell. She shares with that legendary performer an expressive and lyrical sensibility, drawing heavily from roots and folk traditions. MacLellan's latest album, 'Water In The Ground,' has garnered both critical praise and awards -- She recently won two East Coast Music Awards and a Canadian Folk Music Award for Solo Performer Of The Year.

In addition to being one of the country's most promising talents, MacLellan is a mom to four-year-old Isabel. She opened up to ParentDish about balancing touring and family life, the tricky business of being a divorced parent and how her daughter has influenced her songwriting.

What's the best parenting advice you ever received?

It's the most common thing I've been told and it really is true -- It all goes by so fast, so just stop and take it all in instead of just rushing through.

What's your favourite activity with your daughter?

This time of year, the thing we like doing most is getting out into the garden. She's funny, she doesn't mind getting her feet dirty but she doesn't like getting her hands dirty, so she'll be using her garden tools and dropping the seeds in very carefully.

What's your least favourite?

It can be tough if I have to go do groceries or do errands. When I leave, because she knows that sometimes it's for a long time, when I have to go for these little moments, she doesn't want me to go. She's really protective, either she wants to go with me, or for me not to go at all. It can be a really difficult thing.

What's the most challenging part of mixing parenting and your music career?

Because I'm away a lot touring, the biggest challenge for me is finding a balance between work and home. I do feel really lucky that when I'm home, I don't have another job, so when I'm home I can just be with her. But it's about trying to not feel selfish for being out on the road doing my job, and also trying not to feel selfish for wanting to stay at home and be with Isabel.

Do you take her on the road with you?

I do take her sometimes, but most of the time she stays at home. And it kind of works out because her dad is a musician too (MacLellan's former husband, singer/songwriter Al Tuck), so I try to make the time she would be spending with him anyway into my touring time. The longest I go away is two weeks, I once went away for three weeks and that was much too long.

She's going to school next year, so now it's up to me to fit my schedule into hers. And I think it's really going to be good for me because I'm a real homebody anyway. So, I've already talked to my manager and label about taking some time off and making sure I know where I'm going to be far in advance. And I think it will be a really positive thing. As sad as it's going to be to watch her go off on the school bus, I'm actually going to have some time to myself.

What's the essential thing when it comes to divorce with kids in the mix?

It's really challenging, but a friend who works with families that are split up gave me a piece of advice -- To treat it like a business relationship. There was a while where it was really challenging to talk to him about anything because we'd end up fighting. And we have to communicate a lot, so we just try to remember, it's about her, it's not about us. We try to be friends and good role models and not fight in front of her.

How has your daughter influenced your music?

It's influenced me in a huge, very basic way. It's opened my eyes and widened my perspective on who I am and what the world is about. Your whole world changes and it's not just about you anymore. And I had a lot of ups and downs in the romantic world when Isabel came along, and I kind of realized what real love is. So I wrote a love song to her called 'Isabel's Song' on 'Water In The Ground', it's the most direct song I wrote that was inspired by her.

What's some of your favourite kids' music?

We have been getting into the old Disney movies, you know the 'Robin Hood' movie with the fox? There's so many great songs on that, Roger Miller wrote and sang a lot of them. And we like the Medeski Martin and Wood album, 'Let's Go Everywhere', and the Jerry Garcia album, 'Not For Kids Only.'

But because I'm a musician and Isabel has so many friends that are musicians, she thinks that everyone we listen to is a friend of ours. She calls Bob Dylan by his first name, it's pretty funny.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.