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Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy: Balancing fiddling and family life

Natalie MacMaster is currently touring North America to promote her 10th
album, Cape Breton Girl. Donnell Leahy is one-eighth of his family’s
Celtic musical act, Leahy. Even with four children and another one on
the way, they make time to enjoy their kids and fiddle around!

They spoke to ParentsCanada separately about parenthood; read on to see whether they’re in tune.

What do you admire most about your partner’s parenting skills?

Donnell Leahy: Natalie’s use of time. She has so much on her plate and she does everything well and with a smile. She’s a great mom! 

Natalie MacMaster: I
admire Donnell’s ability to add joy, fun and excitement to all our
lives. He has energy and creativity. He lifts every moment with his own
zest for life and he ignites our kids’ minds and sparks their
imagination with interesting games, chores, questions and snuggling.

What has surprised you most about becoming a parent?

DL: How all-consuming and awesome it is. Everything I thought I knew changed when I held this little eight-pound bundle. 

How constant it is. I remember my sweet little Mary Frances as a
newborn. We took her home and I thought, “I’ll just sleep when she
sleeps,” but there was nothing regular about her sleeping. An hour here
and there, and during the here and there, I needed to eat and shower and
do laundry. I didn’t realize that there really wasn’t a break. But for
all the work parenting is, what surprises me most is how love is
stronger. We are expecting our fifth now! Yes, parenting is still
constant and we are tired, but love goes beyond all that.

What role does music play in your home?

DL: Our lives evolve around music: listening, dancing, singing.

Music is important; a way of life. We try to have music on throughout
the day (CD player) and we practise mostly every day. (Mary Frances and
Michael fiddle and dance). We hold music sessions at the house and we
try to get to more functions as often as possible. We want them to
receive the benefits of music that we did as children.

What is your favourite aspect of home schooling your children?

DL: It gives us time with our children – and we need time. 

NM: I like teaching my children, knowing what they’re learning and intimately seeing how they learn it.

Who is the better cook?

DL: Natalie – by far.

I’m the cook – a few hits, a few misses – but I love cooking. The kids
would agree. But Donnell is wonderful to encourage me to do things on my
own, such as perform a show or two by myself the odd weekend. When I’m
gone, he takes over and he does a dandy job with pasta, steaks, sausage,
fresh veggies – those kind of things.

What chore do you hate doing most?

DL: Cleaning.

Dishes – they are constant. I have a dishwasher but only use it about
once every couple of weeks for an occasion. I want the children to learn
to pitch in and help! I think Donnell is the same.

What are your favourite things to do together as a couple, assuming you get time together!

DL: Dinner out and a great chat.

Some nights after the children are asleep, Donnell and I will make some
nachos, crack open a beer, sit in front of the fireplace and chat about
all kinds of interesting things. I cherish that time alone together.
He’s my husband, but he’s also my buddy!

Originally published in ParentsCanada, May/June 2012

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