ANONYMOUS SENIOR DANCE EXECUTIVE
Mother of three. Held a senior position in a dance organisation for over a decade.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
In an organisation where there's a culture of everyone working late, happily putting in more time because they love it so much and there's a lot to do it's sometimes easy to feel bad and uncommitted leaving so as to see the children before bedtime. In addition, childcare provision makes it hard to be as flexible as both my employer (and I) would like (I work part time) meaning that swopping days or doing extra days is difficult - and that sometimes causes tension. I suppose its about dealing with guilt - guilt when you're not with your children and are at work because you want to be a good parent and guilt when you're having fun with your children and are not at work, because you want to appear conscientious and good at your job.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
As an organisation with a relatively young and gender-diverse team, I was actually the first core member of staff to go on maternity leave so a lot of research needed to be done by both my employer and myself about rights and regulations. Once there was clarity about everything my organisation were compliant and all the way through colleagues were keen to know how things were progressing, though my workload never really allowed me to take time off for antenatal classes etc; I did this in my own time. I've had two children and therefore two periods of maternity leave and in between the two other members of staff have had children, including people that I manage. I think the support given to staff has improved as a result of learning from experience and gaining feedback but there's still a bit way to go in relation to initial reactions to pregnancy news!
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
In an ideal world it would have been lovely to get more than statutory maternity pay and have childcare provision at work, but I understand that's not very common in the subsidised contemporary dance sector! More difficult was the approach to covering (or not) my leave, meaning that I was left worrying about staff and projects whilst off and had to play catch up on my return.
Do you think being a dancer made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
That's hard to say (particularly as I'm not actually a professional dancer). Potentially there's more pressure to get back into shape but there is possibly also more awareness about the process your body has gone through and how to address the changes in shape etc.
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
Whilst you might want to work until you're close to your due date for financial reasons or to have more time with your baby before returning, try to give yourself enough time to rest and get ready physically and emotionally before the baby comes along and begin to wind things up and hand things over up early incase you have to finish earlier than expected.
Don't feel like you have to say when you're coming back, you might change how you feel after spending time with your little one.Remember there are 10 keeping in touch days available to you but that these are negotiable; you are able to request or decline them as suits you.
What changed most for you on your return to work?
I was lucky enough to be able to negotiate coming back to work part time and am really appreciative of my organisation for allowing this. Whilst it really helps me achieve a relatively good work v family balance, there are challenges around expectations (some of them mentioned above), particularly as no one else covers the time I'm not working and because the role is not new (e.g. remit and productivity requirements, understood and valued historically, haven't really changed). Therefore to keep on top of things I often feel the need to check emails when I'm off and deal with any issues too. I'm probably too conscientious - but it is appreciated and is a small price to pay!
Does parenting help you in your work?
Yes definitely! It's taught me a lot about using different strategies to get what you want (though most people at work aren't too bothered about wearing or not wearing shoes), the importance of clear communication, body language and praise - and given me patience. Also, when the going gets tough I look forward to a nice cuddle from someone who loves me indefinitely!
Does dance help you in your parenting?
It certainly helps me in my role as an entertainer, when there's the need! Aside from this its equipped me with knowing numerous lifts for carrying, physical determination for the early days and good peripheral vision (though not all would agree with this last point)!
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
I think the dance sector, with a large percentage of female workers and an ambition to be forward thinking, needs to get to grips with and embrace parenthood, considering it as the long term audience development strategy and succession plan that it so is.