A little over a year ago I became a Mom. It’s changed my whole world and some days it can be a challenge to do both. This is a series on how dance teachers who are Moms balance it all. I hope you enjoy it! xo
Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? Where do you teach? What ages and styles of dance do you teach? How long have you been teaching? What’s your background?
I live in Escondido, CA (in San Diego) with my husband and daughter. I teach at two local studios, Georgia’s School of Dance and North County Academy of Dance. Teach 18 months up through teen/adult classes which are primarily ballet, a few jazz and a couple combo classes. The majority of my classes are for 3-8 year olds, which is the age group I most prefer. I started taking ballet lessons at 3 years old and continued my training in classical ballet until I was 14. At that point, I added jazz, tap, modern and musical theater to my training. I learned to teach at 17 while I was in college. I took a brief hiatus after graduating to dabble in the business world, but missed teaching. I began teaching full time in the Bay Area while dancing professionally. I moved back to San Diego and have been teaching here for the last 7 years.
Tell us about your children. How old are they? What are they like? Do you have a partner? How do you support each other when it comes to your teaching schedule?
I have one daughter, Sofia, who is about to turn 4 years old. She’s already a little comedian who adores all animals and creatures (especially dinosaurs), has always been selective about giving affection and doesn’t prefer large groups of people. I’ve been married to my husband, Jake, for 5 years. He’s always been supportive of my passion for dance. Since becoming parents, my teaching schedule has been a topic that comes up regularly. Sometimes there is more stress but we’ve managed to really look at it like an ongoing conversation. We continually talk about how my schedule is working for us, for our daughter, for our household and for me. We both make compromises when we find we need a change. Sometimes, I have to wait for a good transition point in the studio school year before I can make a change to my teaching schedule, but we have always worked it out.
How do you make it work? What time of day do you teach? How many hours a week? How do you handle childcare? Who takes care of your kids when you are teaching? Do you take them with you? Are you able to see them while at work? Tell us a little about your situation as it is now!
I’m currently teaching 15 hours each week. 3 afternoons and 3 mornings. Unfortunately, my only day off is Sunday. That is currently a change I’m looking to address. I’d like to drop one of my mornings to give me a second full day off during the week. My daughter comes and stays with me one afternoon and two mornings each week totaling 5 hours. She also comes with me a second afternoon but my husband picks her up once he’s off work to have their own time together. My mom hangs out with her the other afternoon each week which keeps my daughter from being out too close to bedtime. Saturday morning, my daughter either stays with my husband, goes to her aunt’s house or spends time with cousins or friends. I feel that our balance is pretty good right now. I’m thankful that if my daughter can’t be with me, she can be with family. Over time, she has made friends with my students and/or their younger siblings which provides her with some added fun and entertainment while she’s at the studio with me.
When do you find time to plan your classes? Are you involved in anything else? Hobbies? How do you make time for yourself outside of being a mom and a teacher?
Class planning is done mostly after my daughter goes to bed and often after my husband goes to bed. Occasionally, I will get some time during the day that I am able to work. I’ve been working hard to develop a rich and growing children’s dance program at one of my schools. It went from having 4 classes for young children every week to 15. I definitely spend some time each week devoted to making sure the program is working, the teachers are following curriculum and the students are happy. I love crafts but find that I don’t have much time I’m willing to devote to hobbies at the moment. Instead, I use what time I do have to spend be with family, go on dates with my husband or girlfriends.
How has being a dance teacher impacted your parenting? How has being a parent impacted your teaching?
Since being a teacher nearly half my life, I’ve felt that I have had a realistic expectation of child behavior and development. Now that I’m a mom, I can say that I definitely did. Being a teacher has given me a lot of valuable tools for handling chaos (haha!). I think that my teaching has benefitted much more once I became a mom. I really, truly know how I would want my child to be treated and can extend that to my students and their parents. I find that I have a larger vocabulary when it comes to keeping my class disciplined. I am able to rule my class in a much more loving way. I don’t have the “lost and out of control” feeling that I would get so many years ago when my classes would get extra crazy. I know have a much easier time at redirecting their focus and my efforts. I don’t get frustrated when we don’t seem to accomplish whatever is in my lesson plan, I know that sometimes we just need to enjoy our time together.
Have you ever taught your own kids? What was it like?
I have not formally taught my daughter in the sense that she’s not a registered student at either studio nor attends regular class. I give her the choice to take my class or pack some toys to play while I teach. I always encourage her to choose but I do insist she sticks with her choice. It is very distracting for my students if she’s wandering in and out of class and I don’t think it’s teaching her the “rules” of dance class. Some days, she doesn’t choose to take class until one of her friends shows up, and that’s fine with me. When she does take class, we both usually have a great time. She gets to be close to me and participate in something she knows I love, I have the reassurance that she is safe and happy. She often performs at home where I see all my choreography come out in my living room. She’s taking in everything and has joy in dancing for herself.
What is the hardest part about balancing teaching and being a mom?
For me, the hardest part is remembering that I am a working mom. I love what I do that I often think of my teaching as a hobby and am really hard on myself when I fall behind in chores or other responsibilities. My biggest challenge is managing dinners when I work 3 afternoon/evenings each week. We try to eat healthy, home cooked meals, but it’s just not easy to prepare dinner at 2pm when I also want to be spending quality time with my daughter. My husband is understanding and helpful, but I’m constantly looking for ways to improve in this department.
What is the best part about doing both?
I love that my daughter is able to closely witness me working hard at something I love. I’ve pursued a passion and talent and am successful at it. I feel very fulfilled by being able to work and provide financial support to my family, develop myself professionally and have a creative outlet regularly available all while have my daughter’s either with me or with her family.
What advice would you give a new mom trying to balance teaching dance and being a mom?
My biggest piece of advice to a new mom would be to have a solid relationship with the director and a few reliable substitute teachers. Start with a few classes if possible to figure out what will work best for your family. Reevaluate the balance as each new school year (or other transition period) nears and be open to change. Life changes fast being a mom and you’re teaching will have to change alongside it.
Anything else you would like to share? Insights? Ideas? Feelings? Advice? Stories? Frustrations? Successes? Challenges? Inspiration?
I feel very blessed to have a job that I love while being available to my daughter. I love sharing this art with her and watching her connect with dance in her own ways.
It looks really interesting to work with children 🙂 Jessica sounds as a wonderful person