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?
My name is Tara Madsen Robbins, 34 years old, and I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I’m happily married to my husband, Eric, of 5 years. We have a 4 year old son, Dylan Nash, and our German Shepherd, Rosebud. I am professional dance artist based in Philadelphia .I received my BA in Dance From Slippery Rock University and my MFA in Performance and Choreography from Smith College. As a professional dancer, I have performed/toured with the modern dance company, Tania Isaac Dance, from 2006-2009. While with the company, I had many incredible performance opportunities such as Bates Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Dance Place, venues throughout NYC and multiple college residencies. I’m forever thankful for the opportunities the company had given me, since it connected me with so many talented dance artists who I still work with/are friends with to this day. As a young dancer, I always wanted to be in a company that was producing quality work, paid their dancers, gave the opportunity to travel, as well as allowed me to grow as an artist.
I knew I wanted to do this BEFORE children, since traveling and being gone for weeks at a time is definitely much harder to do with children. At this same time, I was working/currently still working as a freelance choreographer presenting my original work internationally throughout Spain, Italy, Greece, Guatemala and Scotland. I have also presented my work nationally throughout most of the United States. I currently travel the country as a freelance master teacher/guest artist to many colleges/universities, dance festivals, dance conventions, dance camps, conferences, conservatories and many private studios.
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?
My husband Eric and I have one beautiful little boy, Dylan Nash, who is 4 years old. Dylan is an easy going, happy child, with an old soul. He is certainly thriving and loving all the wonderful experiences in his young life. He brings so much joy to everyone around him and certainly is a well adjusted child. My loving husband Eric, is a CPA in an auditing firm, downtown Philadelphia, where his firm services not for profit companies. His work schedule is Monday-Friday 9-5, with lots of overtime hours in his busy seasons, as well as traveling nationally to service clients. I’m very impressed by his work ethic and know he is a great role model for Dylan. Eric is extremely supportive of my work schedule and I appreciate that more than anything.He has always known that my dance career is important to me, and that I wasn’t going to slow down after having a child. In fact, my career has been going better than ever at this point. I’m beyond thankful. I was worried that after having Dylan, I would lose momentum in this field and become “Irrelevant.” This is a tough field, so staying current and in high demand was always a goal of mine.
Whenever a new gig comes my way, we always discuss our schedules and always try to figure out a way to MAKE IT WORK. I only say NO if it’s completely impossible to manage, which is usually not the case. Our careers are important to both of us, and I feel we are equally supportive of one another. We do whatever it takes to make everything work. People often tell me, “Wow, you are able to say YES to a lot of gigs, even out of town at this point. How do you make that work with having Dylan?” Eric and I are extremely fortunate to have TONS of support from of our families. My in laws (who, thankfully, are local) watch Dylan twice a week in the evenings while I’m teaching and my parents usually take Dylan on certain weekends back to their house in North Jersey if I’m traveling, which happens on average about once a month. It’s a” win win” for everyone involved. He gets quality time with his grandparents and Eric and I are still doing the things in our career/personal lives to keep us happy and fulfilled. Dylan attends full day preschool 3 days a week, so that helps when I’m at the University. On certain days/nights I will take Dylan to work with me, but that doesn’t happen very often. I usually bring him once or twice during each semester to the University, if his school is closed, or simply just to visit my students which I know they love! I’m lucky that every job that I have understands that family come first, so if Dylan is sick, and I need to call out, its never an issue. I appreciate that kind of understanding more than anything. It’s easier for me to take off work than it is for Eric, and besides, we all know that every child wants their mommy when they are not feeling well!
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 teach Part time (Tuesdays/Thursdays) in the dance department at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA, where I have been since 2007. As an adjunct faculty member, I have experience teaching all levels of modern technique, two levels of dance composition, all levels of Jazz Technique, Beginning Tap, and Introduction to Dance. Contemporary Modern is my professional specialty, so whenever I’m asked to do anything outside of the University, that is usually what people request. I also choreograph on the dance majors in certain years for the faculty and guest artist concert. I’m part of our dance major scholarship audition day where I instruct the modern portion, as well as adjudicate the prospective students. Each semester at DeSales, I teach between 2-3 courses depending on what is needed. I feel very fortunate that my boss and colleagues are very supportive and appreciate my artistic contributions to the department. It’s almost unheard of to have an adjunct gig at a college where you are basically guaranteed classes each year. I have an excellent relationship with my colleagues and students, and I certainly know how fortunate I am to be in this situation. I NEVER take this for granted. In the evenings, I teach at 3 different private studios–JovoDance Productions in Langhorne, PA, CaRu Entertainment in Pennington, NJ, and both locations of the Institute of Dance Artistry in Fort Washington and Plymouth Meeting. I teach between 2-3 hours a week at each studio and do choreography as well at some of these schools.
I love my schedule since technically, I only work 3 days a week. I teach Monday nights from 4-6:30, Tuesdays I am at the University all day and then go straight to one of the studios and repeat that same schedule on Thursday. So I have created a schedule for myself that allows me to work “part time” instead of spreading this over 5 days, which I very well could if I chose. I have been on faculty at all these schools for years, and they are extremely flexible with my schedule each year. It certainly makes things easier when the bosses are willing to work around my other jobs. I give 120% to all of my teaching/choreography gigs, and I know my bosses recognize that. It feels great to be appreciated by all of my bosses and colleagues. I’m surrounded everyday by inspirational artists who are loving and supportive. What a gift! I absolutely LOVE my dance career.
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?
I plan my classes at the beginning of each week. I set aside a specific time where I know I can be alone to zero in on what I need to do for each class. This is a really crucial time for me each week, so I make sure I can do this without anyone around. This usually happens on Sunday night after we put Dylan to bed, and a little bit during his nap time on Mondays. Thank god for nap time 🙂 I have PRIORITIZED “ME” time since the second Dylan was born. My mother always told me, “If you want to be a great mom and career woman, you NEED to make sure you keep yourself happy along the way.” I feel I have been very successful in keeping an excellent balance with all aspects in my life. I see too many mothers put themselves LAST and they end up ultimately unhappy in their lives. I promised myself I would never let that happen. I never feel guilty about taking the time I need for myself as a working mother. Eric and I make time for each other with dates nights, and we each make plenty of time for our friends.
We both decided that having just one child has definitely made this easier. It’s the best of both worlds– we can enjoy raising a child and focus on that, as well as being social and having fun with our family and friends. That’s what life is all about- experiencing new things and building lasting relationships. We never feel guilty for putting ourselves first. I appreciate that Eric is on the same page as me with all of this. Dylan will grow up and realize that his parents are happy together and its “normal” to do things with our friends that sometimes don’t include him. Happy Mom and Dad equals Happy Child! For anyone who knows our son, he is extremely well adjusted and a happy and healthy child. We are forever grateful for the balance we have created in our home.
I’m very passionate about exercising and keeping my body in the best shape possible. Fitness is defintely one of my “hobbies.” It feels great to be confident in my body, especially after having a baby. I was fearful that my body would change completely and I would never be able to get back to my regular dancers body. I think most women feel that way after having a baby. With a lot of hard work and determination, I lost all my baby weight within a few months of having Dylan, and worked my tail off to make that happen. It was TOUGH, but so worth it. I like that Dylan sees me work out and sometimes he even joins me. It’s adorable! It sets a good example for him as far as being fit and healthy. It’s important for me to remain a FIT MOM FOR LIFE. No excuses! I find time to work out since this is a priority for myself as well as in my career. I’m a role model for my students, so I need to practice what I preach. If that means getting up earlier in the morning or getting my workout in at 10pm, that’s what I do. I stay motivated by many of my other “fit mom” friends who continue to set an excellent example. They really inspire me!
How has being a dance teacher impacted your parenting? How has being a parent impacted your teaching?
I honestly look at my teaching and parenting as two very separate things. I still feel I am a similar teacher as I was before having children. I have the same expectations as I did before which equals–work your ass off in my class 🙂 I think the only thing that has really changed for me is that I feel I can relate to younger dancers a bit better after having a child of my own. I teach older dancers for the most part, so I guess I now see even these older students as “someone’s child” instead of just themselves as the dancer. I never thought about that before I was a mother.
Have you ever taught your own kids? What was it like?
Dylan loves to dance in our house, but I have never formally been his teacher outside of our home.
What is the hardest part about balancing teaching and being a mom?
Time management is the hardest thing. I figured this out pretty quickly after having Dylan. Luckily, I figured out a system that works for us. My days are better when I prep things the night before. Time management is key!
What is the best part about doing both?
I LOVE being a working mother and could never imagine my life any other way. While I certainly support other people’s decisions to stay at home with their kids, it’s not something I was ever interested in doing. I love contributing to the world of dance as an artist and educator. I believe it is my life’s calling. While I love being a wife and mother, I have so much more to offer than just those two things. Those are clearly my most important roles in my life, but being able to express myself through dance keeps me truly happy and fulfilled. It’s something I NEED to do. It’s simply not an option for me to just STOP. I think any artist can certainly relate to this. I believe I would become a very unhappy, resentful and depressed human being without this very important balance of my career and my home life. Dance truly is a huge part of my life, and without it, my duties as a wife and mother would suffer. Having this creative outlet in my life is CRUCIAL. I know Dylan understands that dance is an important part of my life, and that it brings me much happiness. How can I be a great wife and mother if I can’t make myself happy first? I think that statement is something that many women can relate to.
What advice would you give a new mom trying to balance teaching dance and being a mom?
1 .Make yourself a priority. You can’t take care of others, if you are not at your best.
2. Time Management
3. Make sure you only take on a teaching schedule you can actually handle.
Anything else you would like to share? Insights? Ideas? Feelings? Advice? Stories? Frustrations? Successes? Challenges? Inspiration?
One simple statement– “DancerMoms Do it BEST!”
I just finished reading your article on my niece, Tara. It was very well written and I can certainly attest to her being a wonderful, busy, conscientious mom to Dylan. It was a pleasure to read!