Making Live Work For Mothers & Fathers: ‘Parents Are Loyal, Efficient & Selfless’

Like mother, like son:
– Like mother, like son:
Natasha Gregory and Rocco at Reading Festival.

It’s hard to imagine that anybody, no matter their position within a company, would make life hard for parents, mothers especially. After all, none of them would be in the position they’re in if it wasn’t for the important women in their lives. Yet, many women feel forced to have to choose between motherhood and a career. Fathers often face the same struggle working in the live industry, even if it likes to describe itself as a people’s business. A recent study by Women In Live Music received responses from 317 women working in live, aged between 18 and 35-plus years from all over Europe, with a few responses coming from the United States and Australia. The findings revealed that “28% of women have felt the need to hide their pregnancy,” whether in an “attempt to not be seen as a weak link on the job, to not lose work, or not lose credibility in biased industry.” 

It says a lot about the culture we live in that the word “weak” would be associated with motherhood, when the reality is that mothers are some of the strongest women on earth, showing qualities any boss, co-worker or client could be grateful to be around. That’s not the main reason to change work culture for the benefit of young mothers, though, even if it is an important one. What is even more important, according to Natasha Gregory, agent at Mother Artists and mother of two young boys, is the fact that mothers are simply not meant to be away from their young babies.
“It’s not natural, so don’t penalize someone for what? For the right choice?” Gregory says. “You say you can’t hire them because they’re going to leave? The reality is you can’t hire these good people, because you haven’t got [your business] set up to allow them to flourish, that’s why. It’s got nothing to do with them.”
Many (young) live professionals feel like they must choose between a job they love more than life and raising a child they love more than life. Gregory had her first, Winston, when she was 36. By that point, she had paid her dues, brought good business to the company, and had nothing to prove to anyone.
“I went back to work when Winston was seven weeks old,” she recalls. “I didn’t think, ‘Oh my god, I have to go to work, what’s going to happen to my kid.’ That wasn’t even a thought. I had an office because I was in a certain position. I got the door handle saying ‘feeding in progress’ so that people wouldn’t feel awkward about coming in. I went to meetings everywhere with Winston. I used to do panels, and I would have my baby with me. I’d sometimes get emails from young women that were watching saying, ‘That was the most powerful thing I’ve ever seen.'”
– Winston
relaxing at All Points East Festival London, while Natasha Gregory holds his younger brother Rocco in her arms.
Taking Winston to meetings across London revealed the lack of baby facilities inside music-related buildings. “Why should we” is a common response Gregory gets when bringing this up. When she took time off work to be with her second child, Rocco, some of her colleagues wished her “a nice break,” revealing a complete lack of experience with children. She also was told on a panel that “any woman who takes a full year off on maternity is not a real agent.”
A few years ago at Reading Festival, Gregory had her boys with her as usual while working backstage, and she overheard a promoter saying to someone else that “this isn’t a place for kids.”
Recalling an episode at Coachella, Gregory says, “I brought Winston to see my favorite band. The next day, I didn’t bring him because my husband wanted to spend time with him. I bumped into the manager of the band playing the previous day, when I had brought Winston along with me. He looked at me, and seeing that I didn’t have the kids said, “You must have a more important band playing today.’ It was actually the complete opposite.”

These episodes demonstrate that the people in this people’s business have a lot to learn about people – first and foremost, that everyone is unique. Just because you think kids are a nuisance, doesn’t mean everyone does. To others, kids might be the most important thing in the world – followed closely by their jobs. Both qualities should be embraced by employers, Gregory thinks.
“Parents are, if they have the right support, the most loyal people in companies,” she explains. “They work efficiently, very selflessly as well. They shouldn’t be feared but embraced. Surely, happy employees bring better business.” 
Feeling right at home:
– Feeling right at home:
Gregory with Rocco in a chair attached to the desk, with James Tones and Lubica Gombalova at Paradigm Agency (2019).
And Gregory is sure better business will offset any downturns in revenue associated with parents taking more time off work. Policies that would enable parents to spend the majority of their child’s first year together as a family – something Gregory considers “vital” – including equal parenting rights and monetary support from governments would help as well, she says, pointing to Germany and Scandinavia as good examples. The home office experience companies gained during the past year and a half may have made them more open to allowing employees to schedule work hours more freely. Gregory hopes that as offices reopen, “bosses will sit down, listen to everyone in their team and say, what’s your situation, what’s going to allow you to be the best you can be?'” She aims to lead the way with Mother Artists, the new company she set up with her brother Mark Bent.
“We want to create a company where everybody thrives in their own way,” she says. “Someone who wants to come into the office all the time, who doesn’t want kids, we are going to fully support that. But equally, we are going to support a parent that needs to take their kids to nursery or pick them up.”
– The “Do not disturb”
signs Gregory made for Winston and Rocco.
One positive outcome of the lockdowns that many have mentioned has been the freed-up time they used to reconnect with their families. Gregory recalls conversations with “a handful of dads” who don’t want to miss out on their children’s upbringings any longer. Some were sad about the prospect of having to go to gigs five nights a week again.
“Why?” asks Gregory, “Why are you accepting what it was like before the pandemic? If you’ve realized this joy, why are you accepting that, suddenly, you’re not going to have it anymore? Why don’t you just speak to your boss and tell them how it needs to be? There’s this fear of opinions others are going to have about them actually taking the time out to be with their family more. I know that as women we have it really tough, but I do think that, even more silently, the men and the fathers struggle.”

When Gregory pitches artists, she’s brutally honest.
– Winston,
sealing the deal. It remains to be seen if his early training will make him an agent in the end.

“I tell them, ‘Look, I might not be at every show, because I want to put my kids to bed, I want to pick them up from school and find out about their days – but I’m going to be the one sat at my desk at 9 a.m. with no hangover, with a good night’s sleep, getting the job done,'” she says. “Equally, I have total respect if an artist needs someone there every night. I just put my hand up and say, ‘That’s not me.'”
Which brings her to two pieces of advice for this industry’s next generation, many of which will want to become parents while continuing to do what they love. The first is to be patient.
“In my twenties, I loved going out til three, four in the morning with the bands, and then go in the office at nine and travel,” Gregory says. “You have this fear of missing out on life. But your priorities change. Now, it’s not wanting to miss being at home or seeing the kids. I guess I just want to pass hope to the younger generation that opinions, who you are, your character, what’s important change over time. And when that happens, companies need to be ready to accept parents.”

The second piece of advice is that careers don’t have to be ladders. Parents need to feel that it’s OK to prioritize their children, that it doesn’t mean the ends of their careers.

“There’s this amazing woman that I had on one of my panels, her name is Dame Helena Morrissey,” Gregory recalls. “She has nine children, is a top multimillionaire working in investment management, having established the 30% Club in 2010 to campaign for greater female representation on company boards amongst other incredible accolades and is a real women’s woman as well. Wonderful. [She said a career] doesn’t have to be a ladder, that it is a maze. As a parent you take time out, you build back, but always try and have your happiness at the core.”