IN HER COMPELLING NEW MEMOIR “Girl in a Band,” Kim Gordon writes about her life as a wife, mother, artist, designer, and founding member of the band Sonic Youth.
Kim Gordon is a badass, one of the coolest women around. I was totally inspired by her memories and insights from a life of art and music.
There are also a few things to learn about parenthood from Kim Gordon. After all, she raised a child in the midst of “writing, recording, doing press, endlessly touring.”
A commitment to creative expression can completely coexist with dedication to family.
Despite how it’s portrayed in American media, parenthood isn’t necessarily an end unto itself. Yes, it’s the ultimate commitment. It sparks the greatest fear, joy, love, concern. But parents don’t need to abandon their own creative path just because they had a child. Indeed, parenthood can be part of one’s creative path.
For example, on the birth of her daughter Coco, Kim Gordon wrote “Yes, she changed our lives, and no one is more important to me. But the band played on.”
Once the essentials of life are secure, parent’s remaining concerns are nearly universal.
All parents fret about where to live, how to best educate their kids, how to fit in with their community, how to deal with judgement from other parents, how to keep marriage fresh, how to keep up personal relationships, stay inspired. Also, increasingly, how to manage the needs of aging parents.
The creeping, inescapable and somewhat surprising urge to have kids
“Sometime in my late thirties I’d begun looking at babies. Babies on the sidewalk, in strollers, on shoulders. The problem was, I could never figure out the best time to start a family. Thurston’s and my life as a couple, and as a band, was all about writing, recording, doing press, endlessly touring. Still, once the idea came into my head it was hard to push back.
It’s super hard to equally share parenting responsibilities for a new baby
“Like most new moms, I found that no matter how just and shared you expect the experience to be, or how equal the man thinks parenting should be, it isn’t. It can’t be. Most child-raising falls on women’s shoulders. Some things, like the laundry, are just easier to do yourself than to have to explain in detail to someone else. Other things were biological . As a baby, whenever Coco cried I felt it immediately, physically, because my breasts began to leak. Thurston, and any man for that matter, would never feel that same kind of urgency, that desire to make the crying stop not only to comfort your baby but for your own body’s sake. This doesn’t make men bad parents, though it can make women feel alone in what they’d hoped would be an equal division of labor.”
Having a kid can create an identity crisis in even the most committed parent
“Having a baby also created a huge identity crisis inside of me. It didn’t help that during press interviews , journalists always said, ‘What’s it like to be a rock-and-roll mom?’ just as over the last decades they couldn’t help asking, ‘What’s it like to be a girl in a band?'”
Rejecting expectations to be a housewife
“I’ve never had any domestic talents or hobbies. I’m a good cook and could fill the house with art supplies, but that was pretty much the extent of my homemaking side. Coco once repeated to me something a friend’s mother had said to her, that the reason I couldn’t do anything—by which I assumed she meant domestic things like crafts, sewing, or baking—was because I was a musician. It hurt my feelings that her friend’s mother, who I liked, would say that. Maybe Coco had misinterpreted it, or maybe I had, or maybe neither of us had. Truth was, I never wanted to be a housewife. I never wanted to be anything other than who I was.
Moving out of the city to benefit the family and raise the child
“I was thinking ahead, too. I didn’t want to raise Coco on Lafayette Street. Not on the fringes of Soho, not with giraffe-packs of skinny models on every sidewalk within the Soho pedestrian mall of high-end consumerism. The New York nanny culture also bugged me, both parents working all day to be able to afford to pay a stranger to take care of a child they never got to see. The expense and the inconvenience, and later down the line, schools and tests and applications and micromanaging your child in a city where no kid can walk around unaccompanied , where there are no yards and no real neighbors to speak of— all of these were factors in our decision to go.”
“Underlying the decision to move there was the hope that maybe Thurston, Coco, and I could become more family centered, more unified, less scattered.”
Strategically stepping back from other parts of life to focus on being a parent
“After I became a mother, I stepped back a lot, recognizing I couldn’t be involved in every decision involving the band, that I lacked the energy, and in some cases even the interest. I trusted Thurston to make good decisions. In response, he would always present the available options to me and for the most part I concurred with him. I was just more selective about what I cared about. It was complex, since I was busy trying to balance and schedule our lives.”
Dealing with Divorce
“I didn’t have a complete breakdown was because of Coco. I would have done anything in the world to shield her from having to deal with what was going on between her parents.”
“Families are like little villages. You know where everything is, you know how everything works, your identity is fixed, and you can’t really leave, or connect with anything or anybody outside, until you’re physically no longer there.”