MELISSA PORTER

The biggest change for me on my return to work is the frequency I can get out to watch dance performances.

Mother of two. Yoga Instructor and former Relationship Manager, Dance for Arts Council England

@lisporter

What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?

For me, the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent is making arrangements to attend performances, board meetings and meet with artists outside of “normal” working hours. I have amazing childcare for my little girl at a local nursery, but arranging care for her after 5pm if I need to see a show falls to family as my partner also often works away.

 

What support did you feel you had from work when you (your partner was) were pregnant?

The Arts Council is a fantastic employer with supportive family leave policies, including maternity, paternity and adoption. I have a number of colleagues who are parents, to either smaller children or grown up children, and I think having people around you who have been there really helps. They understand that sometimes you just have to leave at 4pm.

 

Do you think being a dancer made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?

I carried on with regular yoga practice right through my pregnancy, modifying postures as recommended and as required as my bump grew. Having danced right through childhood, adolescence and into my 30s I think I have strong body awareness. I think this sense of my body and self supported me during my pregnancy, labour and recovery – I intuitively knew when my body needed a bit of exercise, when to rest and the pace at which to rebuild strength by just listening and responding to my body’s needs. I can’t say that now I’ve got a busy toddler on my hands I’m quite as good at that, and I rarely have time to go to class at the moment!

 

From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?

Don’t rush back and don’t push yourself to be the same person you were before you left. I thought I’d love being back full time, love rediscovering my pre-pregnancy self, but actually I found that after having a child my priorities and drivers changed. I am still really engaged with my work, I love watching dance and attending class but I have discovered a whole other self that also loves going for long walks with my little girl, visiting farms and rolling around in soft play.

 

What changed most for you on your return to work?

The biggest change for me on my return to work is the frequency I can get out to watch dance performances. Before returning to work my diary was full of performances right across the region and regular trips to see work in London. Now, I have to choose carefully, cross check calendars and factor in bedtime routines before buying a ticket. This is frustrating, but also makes me value my experience all the more (and also have higher expectations!).

 

Does parenting help you in your work?

I’m not sure that it does directly, but it has helped me in my general approach to work. I’m more time aware – I won’t let a meeting drag on for 90 minutes when it could be done in 45 and I’m much more reflective, particularly of other people’s needs and expectations. I think this has come as much from taking some time out from my work and then going back, as from becoming a mother.

 

Does dance help you in your parenting?

Yes, definitely. I have no inhibitions whatsoever when it comes to dancing around with my little girl and I’m sure dancing together helps build a bond. Although not dance, I came to yoga through dance and my yoga practice has also really helped me in my parenting. The same sense of self and awareness that comes through regular yoga practice has undoubtedly helped me remain calm and relaxed* as a mother (*don’t be silly, of course not all of the time).

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Images: Pari Naderi, Pierre Tappon, Ben Broomfield

Copyright Lucy McCrudden 2018