Two weeks ago, R&B singer Solange (née Knowles, sister of Beyoncé) surprised her fans (and, undoubtedly, more than a few concert promoters) by cancelling some European tour dates. Her explanation? She wanted to stay home and spend time with her family. “Between moving part-time to a new city, starting my son in a new school, and writing-recording my new record, I really had to make the best decision for my mental-physical health,” she said in a statement to Us, adding that she wants to “provide some stability for [her] family.” Solange called off eight shows in total, including scheduled performances in Norway, Sweden, and England.
This announcement came just weeks after the “Losing You” singer cancelled two shows in England in preparation for her son to begin school, telling fans, “My son will be starting a new school … which unexpectedly begins a few weeks earlier than his previous one. It’s imperative that I am there [for] his first week to transition him. I really hope that you understand and I promise I’ll be back in your area soon enough to make up for it.” In short, for Solange, and many other working moms: Family comes first.
“[Motherhood is] a balancing act, and it is not at all easy,” said Solange, who has an 8-year old son, in an interview with Brooklyn magazine earlier this year. It’s a sentiment that many working mothers can appreciate. Finding a balance between work and home life is a struggle for all—especially so when you’re a mother. And the unusual demands of a show-biz career surely complicates matters.
And for many women, the responsibilities of motherhood will always come first. “Mommy. It’s just the one thing you don’t want to mess up,” Jennifer Lopez told MTV News. “You can mess up in all other areas and get back up, but you don’t want to mess up there.”
No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani claims it is “not possible” to have it all as a working mother. She admitted to British ELLE that she had missed work events so she would be at home when her children started the new school year. The rock star-fashion designer says: “There are always days that somebody suffers. The only thing I really worry about is …how do I do this and that?” She added, “I’ve missed the last couple of fashion weeks because of school. I can’t leave the kids, I can’t miss the first week of kindergarten. I just can’t.”
It’s a sentiment that Corin Tucker, of Sleater-Kinney and the Corin Tucker Band, echoes. She told TIME, “I certainly wouldn’t ever advise a young woman (or anyone) in rock that having a child and being a touring musician would be a breeze. It’s really really hard,” she said via email. “I think canceling a tour if your child needs you is absolutely valid, of course. I would do the same if I needed to.”
Not even Madonna can escape these challenges. The international pop icon and mother (to daughter Lourdes and son Rocco, and adopted kids, David and Mercy, noted in a 2012 interview on Rock Center with Brian Williams that, “To be a single mother of four and to work as much as I do, [to] live my life in a kind of metaphorical fish bowl, it’s pretty challenging, yeah. But so far, I’ve survived with sanity and humor intact.”
That said, for Madonna, cancelling a tour doesn’t seem to be an option. The once-and-future Material Girl admitted, that despite crying from exhaustion during her MDNA tour, “There’s no such thing as ‘not in the mood,’ because ‘the show must go on, right?’” She was able to find some balance by bringing her older children on tour with her: 16-year-old Lourdes offered design assistance, while 12-year-old Rocco was featured as a dancer.
It’s no surprise that rock moms on globe-trotting tours often have to hire outside help. “Meeting the demands of my career and those of parenting is a big balancing act, but I’m able to do it with the help of my husband, an incredible staff, and the ability to go for long periods of time without resting. Multitasking and a steel-trap memory are also essential,” said (Solange’s sister) Beyoncé. Mega-stars like Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey have the financial means to pick and choose where and how often work. Earlier this year, Carey — whose forthcoming album The Art of Letting Go has been indefinitely delayed — said she is trying to stay close to home to spend quality time with her twin kids.
If the demands of touring and performing are a juggling act for superstars, it is one that is exponentially harder for those without the deep pockets of a platinum selling artist. “It’s definitely hurt my finances, because I don’t work as much. I stay home. It’s hard to make a living as a single parent,” said Liz Phair in 2010, adding about her son, “He’s so much more important than music.”
It’s a sentiment that Tucker, who released a new album with Corin Tucker Band last year, agrees. She told TIME, “I have stayed a lot closer to home since having kids. That has just felt like the right choice for me, but yes I do miss performing more often. I’m hopeful that as my kids get a bit older I’ll have more time for musical projects. However, I think doing what you love is also crucial for female artists. The world needs music and art by women.”