Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Sarah McLachlan on parenting, sex and the 'have it all' debate

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sarah McLachlan's 7th full-length solo album "Shine On" was released in May
  • The three-time Grammy Award winner is a divorced mom of two girls, 7 and 12
  • McLachlan chatted with CNN's Kelly Wallace about parenting, women's issues and sex

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two girls. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Sarah McLachlan, the Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter whose ballads helped so many of us through heartache, breakups and loss, was barely out of her teenage years when her first album was released back in 1988.

Now, she's a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls touring the country to promote her seventh full-length solo album, called "Shine On."

"I'm a whole hell of a lot older," she joked, when I asked her, during a casual conversation at CNN's studios earlier this week, how much her life has changed.

McLachlan credits her success in the '90s, fueled by memorable hits such as "I Will Remember You" and "Angel," with allowing her to take time off, have children and be a full-time parent. Her girls, now ages 7 and 12, have traveled on tour with her since they were babies.

\
"Shine On" is Sarah McLachlan's 7th full-length solo album.

"They're the great leveler because they couldn't care less what it is that I do for a living," she said with a laugh.

The three-time Grammy Award winner and Canadian-born singer didn't quite set out on her career to empower women, but that's what she's done. She spearheaded the Lilith Fair, a concert tour comprised of only female artists and female-led bands in the late 1990s and again in 2010, which raised millions for charities.

During our mom-to-mom chat, we talked about her biggest worries as a parent, what she admires about the singer Lorde and why her sex life is thriving. The video above and this transcript of our conversation have been edited for length and clarity:

Kelly: What do you worry about most as a parent?

Sarah: Well, social media. I think Facebook is a really dangerous tool in the hands of kids. I really don't think they should be allowed on it until they're 18 or 20 years old because it's a weapon, basically. It's also a great tool but if you're not psychologically evolved enough and aware and empathetic to other people's issues. That concerns me a lot, which is part and parcel why (my daughters) are on computers because they have them at school but I really limit the time they're on them and I say, "Let's go live in the real world. Let's go play. If you want to talk to your friends, bring them over to the house or go over to their houses and actually play." I hear these kids hang out at each other's houses and they just ...

"There's no such thing as having it all. There's no such thing as balancing it all. It's a tricky, slippery slope."
Sarah McLachlan

Kelly: They're all sitting on their phones ...

Sarah: I am the biggest jerk on the planet because (my older daughter is) one of the only kids that doesn't have the iTouch or whatever. I say, "You know what honey, when you are out there in the world and I don't know where you are and we have to stay in contact then you can have one. Right now, I'm a car service. I drive you everywhere and I pick you up from wherever you go."

Kelly: You have commented about performers such as Lorde who posted unretouched photos of herself, basically saying here I am, flaws are OK. How important do you think that is for our girls?

Why doing it 'like a girl' is great
Top 5 parenting mistakes
Why Zuckerberg's sister says to log off
Breasts, babies and Jason Biggs

Sarah: I think it's imperative because when I grew up, I don't think I even knew "Vogue" magazine or any of that stuff. I didn't have any issues with my body. I wasn't overweight, I wasn't skinny. I have a fast metabolism but I just eat and I wear the clothes I wear and I never really even gave it much of a thought. There's just so much pressure on these girls these days. They're looking at all the different teen stars who are wearing hardly anything.

Kelly: How important do you think female role models are?

Sarah: I think they're imperative. ... Someone like Malala Yousafzai speaking out for girls' education, getting shot and then not dying but rising up and becoming an international superstar and an international heroine. Those kinds of examples of strength, and strength of beliefs and just standing up for what you believe in and not backing down, I think are so imperative.

Kelly: Where do you think we are when it comes to the state of women in our world, in our society?

Sarah: There's still a glass ceiling. I think we've come a long way. There are way more women in powerful positions (as) CEOs. There's still a huge discrepancy between how many women are in power in companies and how many men, and inequality in pay ... but we're making strides, absolutely. But now there's this whole thing of having it all. There's no such thing as having it all. There's no such thing as balancing it all. It's a tricky, slippery slope. It's a tightrope that we walk every day and some days we do it really well, and other days we fail miserably at it.

Kelly: So let's talk about sex, shall we. (Sarah revealed in a recent interview that she's had more sex this year in her new relationship than she's had in her life, so I had to ask her about that!)

Sarah. Oh OK.

Kelly: I know we just met but you mentioned in an interview that that part of your life seems to be thriving in your relationship with former NHL player Geoff Courtnall.

Sarah McLachlan wraps up her 2014 tour in early August.
Sarah McLachlan wraps up her 2014 tour in early August.
CNN\'s Kelly Wallace asked Sarah McLachlan about raising two girls in the digital age.
CNN's Kelly Wallace asked Sarah McLachlan about raising two girls in the digital age.

Sarah: I mean, yeah, there was a long dry spell of a number of years where I didn't date, didn't have a partner, so I was just on my own, with my girls, and yeah I met Geoff.

Kelly: Many women in the latter half of their 40s are not necessarily enjoying that same kind of experience.

Sarah: No, and it was sort of like a resurgence for me, for sure, because I didn't have sex for years and then all of a sudden, you sort of think, everybody says, what is it, you don't use it you lose it, right, and I thought, oh no, it came back, really quickly. (She laughs.)

Kelly: Better than ever.

Sarah: Better than ever.

Kelly: I have to stop because I am being obnoxious and embarrassing. You have experienced so many things -- obviously your divorce, you left your original management company, a new relationship, raising your children ...

Sarah: Lost my dad.

Kelly: "Shine On" is about all of that, right?

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

Sarah: It's about going through your 40s and all the changes. We don't get to that point in our lives unscathed. We're losing our family members. I lost my brother last November to bowel cancer so there are so many big changes that happen in our 40s, and it's sort of that tipping point of I'm in the second half of my life. To a certain degree I get to choose what this is going to look like. How do I want it to look? And it's sort of a reassessing of everything and I thought I'm so lucky, I'm so blessed. I have so many amazing things that have happened to me. I have my health, I have my kids' health, I have great friends and family. I just want to suck the marrow out of every day that I have left because you just don't know. You don't know when your time is and I want every day to count.

Kelly: Absolutely and also important to you, The Sarah McLachlan School of Music for at risk and underserved kids in your community. How important is it to give back?

Sarah: To give of yourself, it's like a drug. And when I did Lilith, I made a lot of money and I thought, what am I going to do? I don't live a crazy lifestyle. I have all this extra money. I want to do something important with it. ... We gave over $7 million to charity through Lilith over the three years and so I started the music school because I looked around in Vancouver and thought what do we need? What do kids need? What did I need? I needed music and there are a lot of kids that don't have music in schools anymore. I guess it's the first thing that gets cut from funding. And so we started a small project. It was about 200 kids and now we have over 700 this year. We're going to have over 1,000 kids in the program starting next year 13 years in.

Kelly: A tour, a new album, how do you top this, Sarah McLachlan? And what is next?

Sarah: I have no idea. Like my kids, I live in the moment. I can't help it. I have a very hard time looking forward, and thinking about what's coming next. I'm just enjoying every moment.

Share your thoughts about Sarah McLachlan, her music and her parenting style, in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
Not knowing exactly where her ancestors come from has always bothered Kelly Wallace, but she's heartened to learn about some of the famous cousins she never knew she had.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
Many superstar athletes from Michael Vick to Tiger Woods were ultimately forgiven by fans and the public. Could Ray Rice also get a second chance?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
The indictment of NFL star Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has revealed sharp differences in cultural, regional and generational attitudes toward using physical force to discipline kids.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
cara reedy
The world often treats little people like Cara Reedy as less than human. She's learned to stand up for herself and shout back.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
The unheard voices of domestic abuse spoke up on CNN iReport when Rihanna's story of abuse came to light. In light of the Ray Rice controversy, we decided to bring back these stories that are still just as powerful as the day they were told.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
More than 3 million children witness domestic violence every year, and the damage can last a lifetime.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
As media outlets Monday circulated video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, many wondered why the woman -- now his wife -- could remain with him.
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
The ways mother-daughter book clubs can help empower girls are the focus of a new book, "Her Next Chapter."
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Colleges are working to prevent sexual assault by educating students on affirmative consent, or only "yes means yes."
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A mom questions if she wants her daughters seeing a "sado-masochistic relationship, dressed up as a Hollywood love fantasy?"
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
In 2014, why is society still so incredibly uncomfortable with public breastfeeding? Kelly Wallace gets to the root of the controversy.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught -- her two children were addicts.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, throws America's problem with talking about race into sharp relief.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0225 GMT (1025 HKT)
Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. She's an inspiration, but will she change the face of the sport?
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
There is a reason why when people post pictures of themselves during their middle school years on Facebook for "Throw Back Thursday," we all stop and take notice.
It could cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise your child -- and that's not even including college costs, according to new government estimates.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT)
From parent to son, uncle to nephew, there's a raw, private conversation being revived in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Children sometimes get left out of our conversations about mental illness. The truth is, they suffer too.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Kat Kinsman says that talking freely about personal mental health and suicidal thoughts can help others.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
morning person
Easy tips on how to improve everything from your dinner order to the song in your head to your career.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
The case of an Arizona mom who left her kids in a car during a job interview highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
A children's book about gun rights has benefited from an unexpected boost in sales after it became the subject of a mocking segment on a talk show.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Some campers and counselors keep the campfire flames burning with summer flings that become lifetime commitments.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
After letting her 7-year-old son walk from their home to a park to play, a Florida mother faces up to five years in jail for child neglect.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1916 GMT (0316 HKT)
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, who lost her son in a hot car, hopes mandatory technology in cars and car seats will stop child death from heatstroke in cars.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Grammy Award-winning singer Sarah McLachlan, a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls, talks about parenting, sex and whether women can have it all.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she was working sparks debate over how young is too young to leave a child alone.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1515 GMT (2315 HKT)
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT