One freezing January night nearly five years ago, Laura McClure found herself back onstage with her husband Jon and their band Reverend and The Makers just two months after giving birth to the couple’s first son.
“I probably shouldn’t have done that,” says the Sheffield group’s keyboard player, remembering the gig on the other side of the Pennines in 2015.
“I breastfed so I found it awful being away from him. I was absolutely terrified of getting stuck in Manchester. They soundchecked without me, and then I just went down later on and came back straight after. I was probably only gone for three hours but it felt like forever.”
The experience, Laura thinks, highlights the predicament faced by mothers who aren’t entitled to statutory time off. “When you don’t have a normal job as a mum – whether that’s because you’re self-employed or whatever – there’s no set maternity leave,” she says. “You don’t know what’s right and what’s not, you just have to go with what you feel.”
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Laura and Jon have since made things work, finding a way to balance running a touring band with being parents to two boys now aged four and two.
It’s a lifestyle she is documenting in a new blog called Mum On Tour that has been very well received on social media.
“I hoped it would resonate with women but I’m really surprised men have responded to it, too. Even though I have a relatively unusual job I think there’s a lot of things people can relate to.”
Laura, 35, has been married for 10 years to Jon, whose nickname ‘Reverend’ inspired their band’s name. As well as the keyboards she plays the trumpet, sings and also acts as tour manager by arranging transport and liaising with venues.
Childcare, she writes on her blog, is a ‘minefield’, only made easier by the fact both sets of the boys’ grandparents are willing and able to step in.
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There is a mixed history of musician couples juggling parenthood and gigging in the world of pop and rock. Paul and Linda McCartney successfully travelled with their children while on tour, but the difficulty of maintaining such a tricky balancing act was a factor in the end of Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt’s group Everything But The Girl.
Laura laughs at the thought when asked if she ever considered taking the boys out on the road. “You’re getting into the world of having to take a nanny along, because there’s going to be at least an hour and a half in the day when we’re both unavailable on stage,” she says. “What do you do with the children then? If the gig starts at 9pm, they should have been in bed for two-and-a-half hours by that time. We’d have to organise parents to come along with us, extra hotel rooms... it would be a nightmare.”
She gets anxious before leaving her sons, for fear they will see themselves as being ‘shipped off while mummy and daddy work’, but at the same time she admits enjoying spending her days purely as a musician from timeto time, and wrestles with feelings of guilt.
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“It’s a really hard juxtaposition for all parents – I don’t think this is job-specific,” says Laura, who has previously worked for Yorkshire Water and a young people’s charity in Wakefield.
Friends have suggested Laura should launch a podcast or start writing a book but that wasn’t the initial plan.
“I didn’t start it up thinking ‘Right, here’s the beginning of my empire’. I just wanted to share my experiences. I don’t have too many expectations – also I just don’t have the time, there’s so much going on. Part of me thought ‘What am I doing, adding another thing to do’, but actually it writes itself.”
See www.mumontour.co.uk to read Laura’s blog.