Santigold on Motherhood as Rebirth and the Importance of Creativity
Songwriter, producer, and mom of three Santigold says motherhood is creativity.
Many might not associate creativity with parenting, but Santi White does. “It actually takes creative energy to be a mother,” says White, who had to learn how to balance the energy required of her role as a mom while maintaining a career that relied on her creativity.
White, who records under the name Santigold, is a musician, songwriter, producer, and mom of three. In September of last year, she launched her fourth studio album, Spirituals. In October, she launched her podcast, Noble Champions, on the platform Talkhouse. Last year, Billboard acknowledged White’s contribution over the past 20 years: “Santigold’s singular pen and voice have helped shape the past two decades of popular music.” And although this is true, White shared with Kindred by Parents that while shaping new music, she was being reshaped by motherhood.
White was 38 when she had her first child and before then says she hadn’t spent a lot of time around children. At the time, she didn’t have a clear picture of what caring for an infant would be like. “It was a surprise for me what it really required, and what it required of me as a human being, as a mother, but also as a creative,” she says of the unexpected sacrifices.
As a Black mother, too much self-sacrifice had been something she is trying to unlearn. “Black women have always been taught to take more on our shoulders than is ours to carry,” says White. She adds that it feels like Black women have been trained to be selfless and “give everything we have to our children or our families, and not leave enough for ourselves.”
She believes parents, especially Black mothers, can rewrite their expectations of motherhood by abandoning shame. White adds that moms need to release the expectations others have of them. “Being a mother, a Black mother, a working mother, is so hard. There’s no support. I mean, it is literally one of the hardest jobs there is.” Beyond removing the guilt and shame of wanting something for themselves and making space for self-care, she says moms also need to “rewrite the book on what our expectations are of ourselves, what our expectations are for our own success, and what our expectations are of our own happiness and joy.”
In her mothering journey, she has wanted something different. “I think we have to learn to not cross our own boundaries,” she says.
Even with clear boundaries for her creative self in mind, White says her transition into motherhood was a challenge, but even more so when she became a mother of three. When her son was 4, she gave birth to a set of fraternal twins. “Once I had three children, and also twins, infant twins, it really rocked my whole existence. And I just had to come to understand that the old me was no longer.”
The one part of her that did remain was her creative self. “The act of mothering is creative,” she says. “People might not consider themselves creatives, but they are creative.” She wants moms to know that the simple act of pulling something out of their purse to convince a crying child that it’s a toy, is a form of creativity. “I think that it’s more about leaning into that inventiveness and spontaneity and figuring it out—that’s what mothers do: we figure out how to connect with our children on a level they understand.”
White believes finding joy is a form of creativity and encourages her kids to be creative and finds time to be creative herself. “I find joy in so many things, but particularly in the act of creating. I think that that’s something that my children have not only witnessed but are learning actively.” White’s husband is also an artist and she says creative pursuits are a way they all connect as a family. She provides time for her kids to sing, create their own rock band performances, or make their own cartoons.
She views mothering as an opportunity for—and sometimes a forced period of—rebirth. White explains it was important for her to rebirth how she interpreted motherhood and defined it for herself. “I can’t fit into somebody else’s box or idea of what they think that I should be. And that’s whether I’m an artist, whether I’m just a woman, whether I’m a Black woman, or whether I’m a mother. I’m gonna have to do it the way that works for me, and I’m gonna have to really reflect on what that means.”
And in the process of rebirthing a new idea of mothering, she had to reflect. White says becoming a mother forced her to look at herself and her own generational trauma. “If you haven’t begun working on your own trauma, or your own triggers, then you’re going to pass that stuff down to your kids. And I think the job of a mother, and rebirth in particular is to constantly evolve.”
Image: STEVE JENNINGS/WIREIMAGE