'Even though I don’t really dance any more, years of training and education makes us much more aware of our bodies and we probably place higher expectations on ourselves than people who haven’t been through a dance training.'
Mother of two. Head of Creative Programmes, DanceEast
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
The eternal juggling of priorities and negotiating – it can be quite exhausting and I feel like I eternally dash from place to place, trying to switch between home and work and not drop anything in the meantime. The hours in any arts job (and many other jobs too) are completely irregular so I am always checking with myself that I haven’t pushed it too far in terms of time away from home, missed bedtimes etc.
I work full time and each week is different, so it’s really important for us to plan together as a family to work out where we’re all going to be each day and what we need with us. I am lucky that my parents provide childcare two days per week, and both myself and my husband work in the town where we live and the school and nursery in town too – without this combination I don’t think I could do the job that I do or be at peace with working full time.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
I was really lucky in many ways. I let my employers know early that I was pregnant and they were very accommodating, both in terms of appointments and conditions for Maternity Leave and returning. I was the first employee in quite a few years that was part of the organisation whilst pregnant so there wasn’t any pressure to do what others had done before me. I was part of the process of identifying Maternity Cover too which meant I was included in all decisions.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
Perhaps a manual on ‘how to leave’ would be useful! The hardest thing for me was working out how to not be here. Working, working in dance and being around dance is so much a part of my identity that it was very strange to not be in the midst of it. Finding Maternity Cover is a challenge for organisations but also a challenge for post-holders so I found it difficult to judge how to handover things that I’d been working on for years, with enough detail for someone to pick up but not so overwhelmingly detailed that it was overkill or there was no room for them to be creative in the role (I managed this much better the second-time round!). Fortunately there were some brilliant people that agreed to work here on both occasions.
One good thing that came of the preparation to take some time away was that I learned to keep a more organized record of my work and communications; I now religiously use my iPad to keep notes and records so that they can easily be shared and filed (and it’s housed in a bullet-proof cover for when it’s tipped off the arm of the sofa mid-Peppa Pig at 6am).
Do you think being a dancer/ working in the dance industry made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
Even though I don’t really dance any more, years of training and education makes us much more aware of our bodies and we probably place higher expectations on ourselves than people who haven’t been through a dance training. Losing control of your body is a tough thing for most of us to manage (I think! Tell me it’s not just me?!) but it also meant that I knew how to manage my recovery healthily so I regained my pre-baby weight and fitness fairly easily.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
Not relevent to Lucy's role as it is office based
What changed most for you on your return to work?
During my first Maternity Leave we had a change of Artistic Director so on returning to work, not only was I juggling ‘mum head’ and ‘work head’ and trying to learn how to do both roles at the same time, there was lots of change happening around me too. I fully accept that I was probably a bit useless for a while as I found my feet, but fortunately no one else made me feel that way. I’m hoping it’s normal to feel a bit vacant for a while on return.
I am more reasonable now about the expectations I place on myself. I am still dreadful at saying no, but I am getting better at knowing when I’ve done everything within my control to make something happen / good / work. Having to hare out the door when I’m doing nursery pick-up means that I have to just stop whatever I am doing at that moment and leave (even if I do pick it up again later after bedtime!). I think being a parent puts everything else into perspective and sometimes we all have to remind ourselves that although it’s incredibly important to all of us, it is just dance.
Does parenting help you in your work?
My house is like a training ground for negotiating skills. The endless bargaining, coaxing, encouraging and explaining helps me to develop patience and to see things from all viewpoints.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
I’m always the mum getting over-involved at parties and Tots & Co classes, so I guess it might make me a more entertaining care-giver!
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
Maybe the idea of a mummy-buddy during a first pregnancy might be nice. It’s always good to have people to talk to who have similar experiences and who have been there before you…