Academic journal article Hecate

Methodological Challenges Amidst Musical Food for the Soul: Reflections on Singing Lullabies as a Mother

Academic journal article Hecate

Methodological Challenges Amidst Musical Food for the Soul: Reflections on Singing Lullabies as a Mother

Article excerpt

Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women's opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering.1

Introduction

And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true', my voice fades to a whisper as the song ends. 'Somewhere over the rainbow' is one of our favourite lullabies and my two sons, Max, aged five, and Hamish, nine months, are now sleeping soundly. As I watch their faces, quiet and still, drifting away to their dreams, a certain kind of peace washes over me. It has been an ordinary day - the morning rush to get to school on time, racing around to clean up after breakfast, attempting unsuccessfully to get to the bottom of a neverending pile of washing, changing nappies, cooking and mashing up food for Hamish, back to school, driving the taxi to rugby training, home and straight into the dinner-bath-bed routine. In this musical moment, the last we share together as mother and sons before a new sun rises, the day becomes something quite extraordinary. Singing to my children as they go to sleep provides us with a precious moment of connection. The sound of my voice soothes my sons' restlessness and their squirming bodies become still. As I sing, their baby blue eyes fix upon my face, searching for and finding reassurance of their mother's love. I return their gaze and my heart feels as though it might positively burst. Slowly their long lashes start to close and I find myself swept away in the song to a 'room of my own'2 where I return to myself.

Singing to my children at bed time is a much-loved aspect of what I do as a mother. Certainly, when my son Max was a baby, it was not only something that we both enjoyed; it was in many ways a survival tool for me. He was a baby who slept well at night but did not settle easily during the day. I would spend the long hours between my husband leaving and coming home from work rocking, holding, feeding and singing - Savage Garden was a favourite, some days ABBA would be just the medicine we both needed, and in more reflective moments the unique sound of Dolores from the Cranberries. My story is true of many women today - in my late twenties I left my job to start a family, I had no family support within a 1000km radius, our friends were either too young, too old or in the midst of a highly successful career to have young children, and I found myself alone, completely alone, and at home with a new baby. Singing became something I relied upon to calm us both.

It was this experience as a first-time mother which formed one of the impetuses behind a pilot study I conducted with Dr Felicity Baker, in 2004 with 18 first-time mothers and their babies, called 'Sing, soothe and sleep'. The project evaluated the effects of a sixweek singing program on first-time mothers and assessed whether singing lullabies to infants assisted them to cope with the demands of motherhood, and whether it positively affected their mood and mental health. In this paper, I want to take a reflective look at some of the lessons that I learned as a researcher, as a mother, and as a woman who found her voice by joining my experiences with theirs. I will first briefly describe the pilot study and highlight some methodological challenges Felicity and I faced throughout this research project. I will then position this research within the context of interrelated literature on women, music and lullabies in order to position these reflections within relevant musicological feminist discourses. The paper then takes a performative turn as I weave together my/their/our thoughts as mothers and singers in a reflective 'playlet'3 to unmask the reality of our experiences. Here, I have put aside my tendency to want to ground this research firmly within feminist literature and have chosen instead, just this once, to foreground my own voice and the women we worked with. …

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