The Highs and Lows of a Piano Teaching Mom It’s a dream come true, right? Not only can you play the piano, but you make money teaching piano lessons, from your very own home, with your kids…right there, with you, in your very own home, while you’re teaching piano lessons…to other people’s kids. A dream? You could call it that. Maybe?
On one hand, piano teaching is a great job, and working from home has its advantages. On the other hand, piano teaching can be a difficult job, and trying to teach lessons while you have your own children at home is at times really hard! I wrote this post about piano-teaching moms, but really it is intended for any primary caregiver trying to juggle teaching from home and caring for kids.
I come to this particular table with a lot of experience and more than a few stories to tell (some of them horror stories). I spent my career teaching from home while raising my five sons. My husband has a career as an engineering manager for a large company so he always kept regular-type working hours – thank goodness! But the hours from after school until about 7:00 it was me, my students, and the boys. Here are some of the highs and lows of my piano teacher life, perhaps you can relate.
I have worked with many great students and families. Teaching people to do the thing I love so much.
I have met some awesome, life-long friends. And so have my kids. My youngest son, Chris (now 20 years old), is still friends with one of my former piano students, KJ. They had a great time socializing after KJ’s lesson. In fact, our two families have become lifelong friends too.
My boys were always around music and musicians. Because of this, all of them have a great knowledge of music and most of them became accomplished musicians themselves (except for my third son who once said he “wished he’d been born into a normal family that liked sports”). Not to mention the fact that they all have a great knowledge of standard piano repertoire. Who knows? This could come in handy someday – like on a game show or something.
I was home, so I didn’t have to pay for daycare except when they were really little. When the oldest ones were preschoolers, I had a teenage boy from our church watch them while I taught my students.
Because I worked at home with people, my boys had to keep themselves under control. Which I think they did, for the most part. Although now that they are grown up, some stories about what really went on while mom was in the studio teaching, are starting to come out.
I found mixing work and home to be stressful. I was self-conscious about noise during the lessons and interruptions. I always had to keep my right ear on what was going on in the house, while the rest of my attention was on my student.
I really tried, but I worked and I had 5 boys in the house. Some days there just wasn’t time to really clean up the house before the students got there. It was always on those days, that some student would bring their grandmother and she would ask to use the bathroom – and that was the boy’s bathroom.
Setting boundaries has always been tough for me, but when my children were younger it was particularly hard because there were times when something would come up and I needed some flexibility. My older two kids went to an Arts Magnet High School and both of those guys were famous for waiting until the last minute to let me know about concerts, causing me to cancel my students in a mad last-minute frenzy. This made it pretty hard for me to take my students to task when they also had last-minute cancellations.
I also found it hard to keep day-to-day scheduling under control. People running late, lessons running overtime, and make-ups. Not to mention schedule changes like “We can’t come at 5:00 anymore Adam has football. The only time we can come is 7:30 am on Sunday”. Oh, and did I mention Adam is my prize student?
And of course, there was always that feeling that I was taking time away from my own kids. I think that is something every working parent struggles with. It’s just worse for us because our work begins just exactly when the school day ends. To make matters worse, we are giving our attention to other people’s kids.
Looking back there are a few things I would do differently:
Schedule a break in the schedule soon after my kids got home from school so we could catch up about their day – and stick to it.
Close the studio by 7 pm so I could have dinner with my family every day – and also stick to it.
Enforce a studio policy. Even if it means I have to work around the fact that I need some give and take in the schedule.
Hold my kid’s feet to the fire a bit more. Insist that teenagers take responsibility for their own commitments, like homework concerts, games, etc. I should not find a tuxedo crumpled under the bed five minutes before we need to be at an audition that I just found out about half an hour ago.
So what’s the bottom line? The solution to balancing teaching and family? Danged if I know! But I do know one thing – it’s super hard. I was talking to my fourth son, Michael, tonight about this post and I asked him “If you had one thing to say about being a piano teacher’s kid, what would it be?” His answer: “It was normal to us, Mom. Don’t worry we love you.” Awwww, so there you go. All I can say is: do your best to enjoy your children and your students. But, tip the scales toward your own family. If I am honest, I’d have to admit that there were many times when I let piano teaching take over and that’s something I regret. But, all-in-all, I am really happy with the job I ended up with, and it seems to have worked out well for me, and for my family. I think it will be for you too.
I wrote this post a while ago so I thought it would be good to do an update.
My boys have all grown up and left the nest. That makes me an empty-nester. I can tell you that I am glad I have my music career. I think I would be kind of miserable without my music.
I am blessed to be teaching 40 students, playing, and composing.
Two of my sons are married with children of their own. Both of them encourage their wives to do something they love. They realize how much my work has added to my life and theirs.
So, about those “horror stories,” I mentioned. Stay tuned.
Share your piano parent experiences below.
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