Monday, January 30, 2012

Mompetition II: My Baby's Room Kicks Your Baby's Room's A--!

The kick-ass room of
Tatum and Vivi Flatland

As a welcome to the current mompetitive, child-is-royalty parenting culture of today, a pregnant friend of mine was recently asked the theme of her baby-girl's nursery.  My mommy-to-be buddy was taken aback by this barbed query, but posted on FB a few gems that she might have offered in response.

Needless to say, as a mommyblogger, I was on that s--t like animal activists on a mink coat.

These days a nursery cannot just be a loving haven, culled together out of hand-me-down furniture and heirlooms. NO! It must be worthy of an interior design thesis project.  It must be whimsical, instructive, innovative, a conversation starter!  The baby's room theme must not just impress, but ASTOUND, other parents, making them fall to their knees and weep at the fierce originality exuded by your family.  

Let Mom's New Stage hold your hand and lead you through the wilderness of nursery décor, with the truly amazing, even stupefying, list below:

10 Ridiculously Original Room Themes That Will Wipe the Smile Right Off Those People Who Think They Have an Edge Because They Bought The My Baby Can Read Series.*

1.  Mr. Peanut: Aristocratic Playboy or Fearsome Allergen

2.  The Yugo

3.  Arabesque, Schmarabesque.  Let's Talk Horton Laterals.

4.  The Utensil that Love Built: The Story of the Spork

5.  I   semicolons. 
6.  The Presidency of Chester A. Arthur**

7.  The Original Single Lady: Queen Elizabeth I

8.  She Said What?!:  Malapropisms of Sarah Palin

9.  The Afro Beehive Pompadour:  Cross-Cultural hairstyles

10.  Chemical Brotha: The Kool-Aid Man and Red #40

*If you purchased this series, I mean no offense. It's just. . . well, um, yeah.

** Theme originally suggested by mom-to-be Katie Hobson.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Dancer In the Mompetition

I have spent my life as a dancer and dance teacher.  I’ve been to auditions with over 200 people, and I’ve been cut immediately, as well as been hired.  I have been in large classes have been both corrected harshly and asked to show something because I was pretty dang fierce.  I’ve been both intimidating and intimidated.  

And like most women, I know how underhanded and psychologically cruel our fair sex can be – in and out of the dance world.

So, you would think that with all this experience with competition (and the desire to go gently into parenting), I’d be fine with this mompetition stuff.

Nope.  It gets me every time.

Maybe it’s because, when I’m with my kids I feel like all parents should be BFFs. It’s like I’ve swallowed a whole bottle of extra-strength Kumbaya.

Take my latest.  I was with Aria at Trader Joe’s.  The store was distributing free samples of a green vegetable juice.  Aria had 4 one-ounce sample cups and would have climbed in the fountain had I let her. I talked to the sample lady about how we used to give Riley the Naked or Odwalla brand of the stuff, which we nicknamed Froggie Juice.  Containing spinach and broccoli, it seemed like a great way to get veggies in a one year old, who otherwise might only eat green in the form of a crayon. 

A mom happened by with her son.  She had a taste and then looked at the bottle.  “Oh! It has so much sugar!” she tut-tutted.

I immediately became defensive, even though I saw on the bottle that it did have a lot of sugar, as juice generally does.  “You can cut it with half water.  That’s what we do with juice.”

“Oh, well, my pediatrician says that juice is not necessary,” she continued. 

Well, I’ll be!  My doctor dun tole me that if it wuzn’t still movin’ or stinkin’ it was good eatin’!

This is what I wished I’d said.

For some stupid reason I tried to defend my watered-down-juice drinking kids by going into their very low weight percentiles and their hatred of milk.  Then it was on.  She countered with her son’s potential ability to drink loads of milk and high metabolism.

Where at first I had wanted to give her a card for my blog, at that point, I wanted slap her like I was a pimp and she was a stealin’ ho.  But leaving Trader Joe’s in a squad car would merely have proved her point that she was by far the better mother.

And, really, that was all it was.  A female pissing contest about who, according to all the literature and expert advice out there, was doing the best by her child.  When the mompetition starts, it is hard to realize that you’re a good mother because you are meeting the confluence of your child’s needs and wants.  Every child is different.  And every family has to put the EFF THIS stamp on some “rule” at some point. 

So, then what’s all this mompetition stuff all about anyway? Christina Simon, blogger at Beyond the Brochure in her article “When Moms Verbally Attack Each Other We All Lose”, discusses moms on the offense and low mom-esteem.  While I do think that attack is too strong a word, I completely agree with the low mom-esteem.

The low mom-esteem is a result of profound self-doubt.  After all, is there any more important project? Many women have been, or continue to be, highly competitive in their field of choice.  They once were in control of whole departments, classes of students, themselves as artists and now they are defeated by getting a small person to eat peas and put away a puzzle.  It’s a mind-boggling change, one that can sap the will to even try to leave the house. 

Furthermore moms sometimes feel as though there is nothing left for themselves anymore.  Their wardrobe, body, career,  hobbies, t social life, marriage/partnership – all a shambles.  The kid(s) took everything. 

Which means that this kid better be damned AMAZING.  Or at least as good as the next mom’s. The idea that a child the identical age of our own can walk/speak in full sentences/is potty-trained/knows the alphabet/can count up to a hundred can make some us panic a little, wondering if our child will be the one child left behind.

So with a stranger, because she wouldn’t dare do it with a friend, an insecure mom seizes on something exemplary in her parenting life and goes right for the carb-loving/TV watching jugular.

Then there is the commiseration (or mommiseration, I might say) factor.  A new mom hasn’t slept in months.  She feels like the universe is using her as a punching bag.  She longs to chat with another mother who knows exactly what she’s going through. 

Unfortunately, she confides in some lady who has no idea what she’s talking about.  Her baby slept six hours a night from the time she brought him home from the hospital.  It is all poor Sleepy Samantha can do not to weep openly, if not wrap her hands around this chick’s neck.  She feels horrible, wondering what she is doing wrong, and the other lady (who is cautiously stepping away from her because of the Hannibal Lechteresque glint in her eye) feels crazy lucky that she has gotten some sleep. 

Not competition, really, but many parental discussions wind up with one person feeling cursed and the other feeling extremely blessed, if not smug.  All over something that pretty much boils down to luck.  It can feel like if not competition, then insensitivity to the one who hasn’t been so fortunate.

Also, there’s negative mompetition.  Maybe Sleepy Sam finally meets another who has likewise been barred from the Land of Nod.  Except, this woman, instead of feeling that she’s met someone from the same tribe, says, “Every three hours? Ha! Since birth my baby has woken up every hour and a half, and stays up for another hour and a half.  I’d kill to be as rested as you!”

What is the point of this?  What is the honor in being crowned “World’s Tiredest Mom”?  This broad is a freakazoid.

But maybe freakazoid lady is merely the far end of the spectrum.  For so many moms, the day often feels like a losing battle.  So desperate to win at something, it feels good to be the most martyred, to win at losing.

Yikes! That was negative.

On that note, I think I should go. I have to put my 20 month old on the potty, coach her counting in English, Spanish and Mandarin and work on her pointe.   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Guest Starring: Mom's New Stage!

 What is this?  Where is the scintillating, scathing wit I depend on from this blog?


It's at Cocktails With Mom!

Mom's New Stage has taken the show on the (virtual) road!

Mom's New Stage will now be a regular contributor at Cocktails with Mom.  CWM is a wonderful community featuring inspiring writing, giveaways and product reviews. 

Today's extremely entertaining post is a must for anyone who wants to give some sage advice to her has no freakin' clue what she's in for expecting-for-the-first-time pal.  

What are you waiting for?! Go!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Foiled by the Fob

We’ve had a problem with key fob play in our house. Okay, a huge problem. At about a year of age, Riley pressed the panic button on the fob of our burglar alarm. When the company called to verify that there was in fact, no emergency, I must have had my phone out of earshot, or on vibrate or silent, and missed the call.  Several minutes later I heard a siren. Then the doorbell rang.  It was the Chicago Police.  

I tried to assure the officer that all was fine.

That would not do.  "I need to come up," said the officer.

I stood at the door holding Riley.  My mother and J sat in the living room.  

"Is everything okay?" asked the officer, peeking in our apartment.  

"Oh, yes, Officer. My son got hold of the fob and pressed the button."

He wasn't so convinced.  He beckoned me into the hallway.  "Everything's okay? You sure? No domestic abuse or anything?"

I almost laughed.  That guy in there?!  He won't hit spiders!  "Oh gaaahhsh, no!" I said, hoping the Fargo-esque drawl would make his question all the more ludicrous.

I closed the door feeling somewhat encouraged by the officers persistence in determining if I living with some kind of white collar Mike Tyson.  I wondered what would have happened if I'd said, "Yes, officer.  He's a lunatic! Please help me!"

We seemed to have a false alarm monthly. Sometimes it was Riley's fault.  Sometimes in juggling a stroller, a toddler, a baby, groceries and bags, it was mine. Usually I was able to take the call so as to head off the po-po.  The police did show up once again, when the alarm company didn't get to the cops soon enough.  That time, the female robocop only wanted my address and passwords.  She wouldn't have cared if my husband practiced UFC fighting with me nightly.

Apparently we've got a few more false alarms before the security company levies a fine on us.

Since the car fob doesn’t involve law enforcement, I'd begun to let 19-month-old Aria play with it.  It beeps and we know the car is locked.  Or it doesn’t and the car is open. It's a little noisy, it might annoy passers-by or our neighbors, but as all parents say at some time, perhaps using more genteel language, "f--k it."

Two mornings ago, I received my car-key-fob comeuppance. When I opened the car door to take Riley to school, my olfactory senses were assaulted by the smell of a dirty nicotine addict - the smell of someone who smokes too often and washes his clothes too seldom. No one in our household smokes, nor had we transported any smoker passengers.

Clearly, someone had been in our car.  

Furthermore, our uninvited guest had left our glove compartment open, revealing our Music Together and Raffi CD collection.  He had looked through our trunk, but apparently had no use for baby clothes en route to a second home, or Anthropologie and Calypso dresses circa 2003.  Luckily nothing was missing, including the car itself.

Nonetheless, I felt violated, not to mention sick at the odor.  My nice new car smell - gone in one night because of some miscreant. I wanted to throw up.

"Someone's been in our car.  It smells gross in here." I told Riley.  I didn't want to alarm him, but I couldn't be stoic.

"What's that smell? I don't like that smell," he said.

I tried to keep calm, as I strapped him in and proceeded to drive him to school. Staying calm was tough - every breath I drew made me nauseated and enraged.  I was shaking.

After drop off I went to the local health food store to buy some organic room freshener.  It was 9:15.  The place was closed until 9:30.  I began making phone calls. Hubby - unavailable.  Same for Bestie.  So I called Nicole  She talked me down, and told me about some drunk who had slept it off in a mutual friend’s car, only to try to enter her house!  Such was Chicago these days.

In typical Hyde Park fashion, at 9:35 the place opened.  But by then I realized that Mr. Nastyperson Smokestench could put lil’ Miss Organic Freshener in a headlock.  This was NOT toddler pee on a mattress. I needed heavy duty, just shy of toxic, chemicals.  Off I went to CVS to buy Lysol and Febreze.  

In the parking lot I doused my car down like a mugger being pepper sprayed. 

At the suggestion of Bestie, whom I eventually talked to, I went to talk the cops. Two of Chicago’s finest happened to be sitting in their marked SUVS in the parking lot.  I felt silly saying, "Um, someone was in my car last night? They didn't take anything, but I know they were there, because we don't smoke and my car reeked of cigarettes. I just thought you should know..." 

I might have sounded like a little white twelve year old, but I did it. 

Wasn't it my right to make the authorities aware of how I -  how the car in which I transport my wee babes hither and yon - had been summarily violated?  To shine a light upon the nefarious inconvenience I had just suffered?  To spare others the similar shock of discovering they’d been the victim of a carsitting?

Indeed it was.

After determining that yes, my car might actually have been left unlocked, the officer who actually gave a crizap informed me that people will go down the street checking car doors for one that is open.  They also told me that many of the crimes, I think they called it Apple lifting - stealing laptops, Ipods, Ipads, Iphones etc. - are being perpetrated by kids who look rather clean cut - wearing skinny jeans, etc., as opposed to the more stereotypical thuggish look.  

He asked me where I lived said he’d make a note of it and check it out. As if.

Duty done, I got back into the car only to find Mr. Smokestench still hanging out with a vengeance.  It took several ferocious hose-downs of the car before I couldn’t SEE him in the passenger seat. 

The next day, he was finally gone. 

Suffering only a stinky car, we got a free pass on this one.  I am now obsessed with locking the car door.  And guess who’s now the one indulging in a key fob free-for-all every time she parks?

(I hate saying this, but it is sooooo freaking fitting right now…)

This mom. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

And a Bad Morning, to you, too!

7:30 a.m.  

Look at clock and marvel that everyone has slept in. 

Note that this is not especially good because Riley should be at school by 9 a.m, and it takes us at least 90 minutes to leave.  

Go back to sleep because still off work.  Decide he'll get there whenever.

7:35 a.m.  
Get up, get dressed and go to bathroom.  

7:40 a.m.
Emerge from bathroom to hear J say, "He's soaking wet." 


Certain that he removed his jammies, sometime during the night, begin scoldterrogating son.  

Replay the events of last night.  Realize that zealous to put on his Spider Man pjs, Riley dressed himself for bed.  We skipped bath.  Equally zealous to have Mommy time, I insisted that Riley have privacy – meaning “I’m outta here” while he went to the bathroom before bed.  His overnight diaper was never put on.   


Listen to J declare, "So, it's not his fault." (subtext, "It is all your fault, woman.")  

Try to blameshift.  Futile.  Feel like a moron among morons. 

7:45 a.m.
Strip Riley down.  Intend to give him a mere wipe-down until a whiff of his skin is caught.  As he smells like he has been brined in urine, plunk him in the bathtub.  Inform him that this is just a rinse. 

7:50 a.m.
Go to Riley's room to assess damage.  Sheet, mattress pad, towel and mattress are soaked.  

Consider throwing mattress out window.  

Curse self and ancestors for not having bought a waterproof mattress pad, even though night training has not yet begun. 

Begin doing laundry.  

8 a.m.
Get Aria up and give her her breakfast.  Scurry like a deranged butler back and forth between kitchen and master bathroom.  Attempt to remove from tub a boy who is now lounging like a spa visitor.  Insist he has five more minutes.

8:15 a.m.
Riley dressed and eating.  Aria finishing up.  Mom dressed.  Have a glimmer of hope that we might not be pathologically late.

8:25 a.m. 
Begin the final push to leave.  

Peform the hairdresser on the run act as chase Aria all over the house to tame her curls and prevent her from looking like Jimi Hendrix.  

Brush both kids teeth.  

Have hopes dashed once again that Riley will put on his own shoes and coat. 

Argue with 19 month old about which coat and shoes she will wear and wonder if when she is 16 she will charge thousands of dollars worth of clothes at Neiman’s and bankrupt me.  

Try to find own keys, gloves, phone, hat. 

Make sure everyone has everything.  Fantasize about staying home, turning on the TV and doing a laissez-faire parenting experiment.

9:00 am.  
Leave house.  Get in car.

9:10 a.m. 
Drop off Riley.  

Chat outside with another mother from Riley's class.  Tell the pee-pee story.  When she asks hopefully if he woke up dry, as her son has a few times, internally beat breast and curse self and ancestors once again.  

Discuss pee-soaked mattress strategy.  Resolve to get to CVS to buy Febreze posthaste!

9:30 a.m. 
Scan the CVS home deodorizer section.  

Remember reading somewhere that Febreze had killed cats.  

Have a vision of poor son asphyxiating, breathing in mother-infused toxic chemicals in his bed.  Decide to scan the Internet for something homemade.

9:35 a.m.
Get back in car.  Install Aria completely in her carseat before realizing that should go to produce market. 

Vacillate between going all the way to Trader Joe's and staying local.  Deem it too nice a morning to be spent driving and shopping.  

Uninstall daughter and go to produce market.

9:45 a.m. 
Go to cashier to pay for five items.  

Realize do not have wallet!  

Restrain self from throwing self to floor and having a tantrum that would make Supernanny change careers. 

Have ah-hah moment!  

Ask cashier if she can ring in credit card manually because have it memorized.  Internet shopping has paid off! Pat self on back. 

Wax philosophical on how don’t know BFF’s digits, but know credit card number and expiration date. 

10:30 a.m.
Groceries unpacked, and mattress baking-sodaed go across the street to Butternut to meet friends and play on an unseasonably warm January day in Chicago.  

Smile again.  


Monday, January 9, 2012

Mom in the Spotlight: Jennifer McLester - Act II

Please enjoy the second half of our spotlight interview with 
Jennifer McLester.    

What is getting easier now that your girls are older?  In turn what is getting harder?
Every stage has its own set of reliefs and complications. Now, my 7 year old can be helpful.  She goes to school, reads very well and loves to be engaged in some kind of art project.  She has the potential to entertain herself and keep her mind active, but as my firstborn, it really has been the two of us against the world for a long time.  So she prefers to be a couple of feet from me at all times.  It is hard to get her to detach and do all those wonderful things she is capable of.  Plus, with female maturity comes a sassiness…all of you with little girls know what I’m talking about.

Stella is 3. Enough said.  She is obsessed with band aids, I have to wrestle her to the ground to get her teeth brushed and she has decided she will absolutely NOT eat anything green. She is, however, the little sister and only knows life with a sibling.  She is more independent and likes to spend time by herself.

They are each smart, fun and lovely to be with, but together I feel like I live life in five minute increments, one coffee scoop at a time.  They love each other, get along at times and fight like sisters.

One thing that changes for all women after giving birth is their feelings about their body.  For dancers, whose body was their instrument, and was in tip-top form for years, the changes can be especially traumatic.  Have your feelings about your body changed for the better or worse?
 I can honestly say I miss my pre-baby body.  More so, I miss having the time to take care of myself and being that physical person.

Now for the big question - How much sleep do you get typically? 
You know, it is interesting you mention that.  The sleep question is HUGE, right?  You know you aren't going to get sleep, but there is no way you can imagine the reality of it.

I use to go around asking people, "Since all the mothers of the world are sleep deprived where in the grand equilibrium of the cosmos does it get made up?"   I was obsessed with this question and asked everyone.  Finally, one of my neighbors gave me a decent answer when he said it doesn't get "made up" it's "pay back!"  We are paying back our mothers and all the generations that came before us. 

I didn’t get much sleep when Hazel was born.  I nursed for a year with both my children so that has its own intrinsic sleep deprivation mechanism.  Hazel literally got up two to three times a night until she was almost four.  The amazing thing was that she stopped the night Stella came home from the hospital.  Almost like she felt our unit was complete and safe under the same roof and she could finally rest.

I was so interested in sleep that I made a piece about it with all my modern students at Pebblebrook high school entitled Movement of the Rapid Eye

The Viking Princess was always a pretty good sleeper.  She slept through the night pretty quick.  She is a night owl and I am not.  I have a hard time getting her to sleep at a decent hour.
To answer your question I get about 6 – 7 hours of sleep now, but it was a long time coming.

One thing I have learned about myself, now that everybody has a separate schedule with school, is I need an hour by myself before the rooster crows.  Hazel gets up at 6 to get ready for the bus and I…Well you can figure out the uncivilized time I get up.

Did you always envision yourself with children?  Could you see not having kids being a lifelong regret or something you'd make peace with?
 I have always seen myself with children, and these are the kids I envisioned.  They are the children I was supposed to have.  I look at them like I look at my feet, they are part of me.  It definitely would have been a huge regret if they didn't exist.  It’s Life, you know, and you have to participate.

What's your best Good-God-why-me mommy story?
Don’t we have those every day? 

One that comes to mind is a day we took Hazel to dance class.  Stella was just 2 and super unpredictable.  That particular day I had left all my personal things (phone, purse) in the car because the all mighty spirits haven’t given me enough arms to accomplish what I need.   I tell my kids all the time, “Mama is not an octopus.” 

Dance class is scheduled a little later than I would like and Stella is always in that, “I’m tired but I’m going to run around so I don’t fall asleep” mode.  I realized soon after Hazel started class that I needed my phone.  I picked up wild Stella, went to the parking lot, unlocked my door and put my keys in the driver’s seat…The Viking Princess decided to run away from me in the very busy parking lot.  In order to catch her I had to slam the car door shut.  A couple of very slow mo seconds later I had her safe in my arms, she’s screaming, I’m doling out the requisite “No No’s” and I hear the CLICK OF DOOM.

Yup.  The door locked with all my personal things and keys inside.

I proceeded to spend the next 45 min. of class time begging people to let me use their phones to call my husband, who was supposed to be home from work.  I probably made no less than 15 calls hoping he would answer and bring the extra keys out to me.  No response.  Totally MIA.  I then started researching professional help.  Finally, with 5 min. left of class I got in touch with a wrecker truck.  Lady H got out of class, we waited for the truck and $65.00 later we were on our way home.

As soon as we got into the car my husband texted me and asked if we were on our way home. Clueless.

You are a single parent now.  I was raised by a single mom, and as a mother of two I find the idea unfathomably admirable.  Can you speak a little about ending a marriage and parenting solo?   
Yes, sadly, I am currently going through a divorce.  I, of course, didn’t envision life this way, but you know what, I have really always been a single mom.  So as far as taking care of the kids, it is a lot easier now that there isn’t a giant negative cloud over us .   The difference is I have to stand on my own feet financially again.  The biggest challenge is finding the right job. Something that allows me to be there for my girls and navigate around their schedules and creating a strong infrastructure to make sure the girls are well taken care of.  Plus a job that brings in the necessary salary to support a family. Hence the mad search.  There is still a lot to figure out, and it is scary at times, but we all see the proverbial light. 

This is a renaissance for me and I am confident that I will be able to reenter the dance world and weave arts journalism into my career path.

To view more of Jennifer's work, visit the following links:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mom In the Spotlight: Jennifer McLester - Act I

Jennifer (Scully) McLester graduated from the Univ. of N.C. at Greensboro in 1995 with a B.A. in Dance and Anthropology.  Upon graduation she moved to NYC, where she taught and performed professionally for the next 6 years.  Jennifer later continued her studies at Western Kentucky University, receiving a masters degree in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science.

Her extensive performance history includes work with the Gamble/Van Dyke Dance Co., North/South Dance, and the High Point Ballet.

While in New York City she worked with The New Dance Collective (1996), The Straight Jacket Dance Company (1997-1998), Donna Goffredo and Dancers (1998-2000).  She was in the off-Broadway production of The Changeling (1996) directed by Robert Woodruff.  Jennifer worked with Sharon Fogarty Dance Theater, also off Broadway, in two original works Feminine Monsters Throughout History (1998) and Heaven (1999). She has danced around the country with choreographer Michael Foley (1998-2000), and sang in little clubs with the Dinosaur Sisters (1998-2000).  Jennifer spent her last 2 years in NYC working with Randy Weiner & the Tony nominated Diane Paulus, in the off Broadway production, The Donkey Show.  This took her to London and Toronto.

Her teaching credits include: High Point Ballet (NC), Lecon de la Danse (NC) (1997), N.C. Governor's School East, Ballet Academy East (NYC), Hoboken YMCA (NJ), and the American College Dance Festival at Bates College Maine (1999).  Jennifer was a guest artist at Western Kentucky University (2002) and continued on to choreograph and teach part time.  She has taught and created work at Pebblebrook  Magnet High School for the Performing Arts and has just completed a full-time contract at Kennesaw State University.  Most recently, Jennifer’s career has piqué turned into the ranks of Dance Journalism.  Her column Dancer With An Attitude can be enjoyed online in an Atlanta based entertainment magazine The Backstage Beat, and was honored to receive the 2011 Dance Critic Association’s Gary Parks emerging writer award.

How many children do you have?  How old are they?
I have 2 amazing red headed girls with big personalities.  They are Hazel (Lady H.) who is almost 7 and Stella (the Viking Princess) who just turned 3.

In what stage of your career were you when you had your children?  
My life went into hyper drive when I left NYC and taught as a guest artist at Western Kentucky University.  I met my husband (ex now), got married and had Hazel within a 3 year period.  After my one year position, I stayed on as adjunct faculty in order to teach and continue making work for the main stage.

While pregnant with Hazel I also made the push to further my credentials and get my Masters in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science.  It truly was a roller coaster and had a life of its own.  Right after Lady H. was born I followed my husband to Georgia where he signed on as faculty at Kennesaw State University.  I became a mama.  

What were your plans for your artistic life in terms of motherhood?  How did your plans square with reality?
I definitely saw myself teaching a bit, performing a bit, making work, and staying connected with the dance world.  I planned on carrying my babies in a Bjorn to the studio.  I found motherhood, however, all encompassing and had a hard time spreading myself out to do everything I wanted/needed to do.  I also learned that in order to do this you need a real support system at home, which I soon realized I didn't have.  So being 100% responsible for the physical and emotional needs of two pretty spectacular children became a full time job. 

I don't want to imply that I haven't worked.  I have, but I call it guerrilla working.  Squeezing in classes wherever I can, begging neighbors and friends to watch the girls for a couple of hours.  I spent a year teaching in KSU's dance program and at Pebblebrook magnet High School for the Arts.  I've been teaching Caregiver and Me dance and gymnastics and coordinating dance birthday parties at the local recreation center.

But being the full time dance goddess and choreographer I want to be when I grow up has been put on hold.

Now that the girls are a bit older I was able to teach full time in the Human Health and Performance Studies department at KSU last semester, but unfortunately with meager budgets, they weren't able to keep me on.  Soooooo, to make a long story longer, I am currently embarking on a serious job hunt.

How did you transition to dance writing? Is writing your career now?   If any, what role did motherhood have in this transition?
Motherhood has played a huge role in everything.  I had, regrettably, disconnected from the professional dance world when I started having children.  I really lost myself in the second to second realities of being a full-time mom.  I love these kids and they are everything to me, but suburban housewife is not a role I ever felt comfortable with.

The transition into writing was a beautiful and unexpected turn of events.  My good friends Ange and Rob Alex started this Atlanta based entertainment magazine, The Backstage Beat (  It had been around about a year before I joined them. 

Every year for Hazel's birthday I try to take her to see something.  It is usually a circus of some sort.  Last year, I literally spent a fortune on four tickets to Ringling Brothers.  Well it was a coincidence that STOMP was also in town.  My children have grown up on this show.  I really wanted to take her. So, one day, Ange and I were just chatting and I mentioned that she needed a real dancer on staff, because there were so many incredible modern choreographers coming through town and no one was covering them.  Ange set up some press tickets for STOMP, Hazel got to see the show and I magically felt like myself again.  I found my voice writing about something I have always been in love with. Dancer With An Attitude was born and my rebirth began as well.

Interestingly, right after my separation, I received the Dance Critics Assotiation’s Gary Parks emerging writer award and got to hang out with some of the greats in Seattle.  I took it as a sign that I was on the right track.

Aside from the actual writing, seeing all those performances with little ones must be challenging.  How do you make this work?
It is a mixed bag for us.  I feel like there are things I cannot give my children --we don't live with silver spoons in our mouths -- I would love to put them in private schools and to travel the world.  I can and will, however, give them art and culture.   So I take them to as much as I can.  We like to go to as many kid-friendly events as we can squeeze into our schedule.  If I take Lady H. and the Viking Princess, I like to have another adult or older child with us.  You know, for bathroom breaks, meltdowns and the occasional snuggle.  Sometimes it's just Hazel and I.  

I have a really wonderful network of helpful neighbors and friends.  My father also lives nearby and he loves to come and have tea with the girls.  If I don't know what I am getting into, or the show is for a more mature audience, it is very rare that I have to hire a babysitter. 

Your girls obviously see dance performances, and are dance students themselves.  As one who has worn many hats in the dance world, what do you hope to see in your girls' dance education?  

Hazel is currently my trained dancer and she definitely has a natural understanding of center and how to connect all the body parts together.  I love seeing her figure it out on her own and how she applies it to her formal dance classes.  Stella has just turned three.  She is now old enough to take class.  Poor thing has been watching her sister take class since birth and can't wait to be in one.  I have a feeling she might have the potential for modern dance greatness. A Gwen Welliver seedling.

There are dancers who would all but physically bar their children from the studio. Do you want your girls to dance professionally?
I want them to dance.  I feel dancers are unique, and learn important life lessons through their training.  I will never push it on them as a career.  However, if they start something like a class or performance group (Hazel is currently in a Rising Stars performance group) it is important that they fulfill their obligation.

So far we haven't had any problems with wanting to quit or any wrestling matches to get them into the studio.  I do have to wrestle Stella out of the dance space.

As of this writing, Lady H. wants to be a scientist and the Viking Princess wants to be Batman. 

That is just fine with me.

What is your advice for single mothers in the arts?
You know, being a mom is not easy - being a single mom can be scary and being an artist is something you have to invest your whole self in.  So to be successful you have to invest 300% into your life. All mommies tend to make themselves a last priority.  Often, at the end of the day, I realize all I’ve done is run up and down steps, climbed out of a mountain of laundry and tended to the girls.  I haven’t eaten properly, hydrated, exercised or had a moment to clear my mind.  I don’t know if I have any advice… but I do know it is imperative to take care of yourself.  Make sure you have the support system you need and put Big Mama on that must- take-care-of list!  

To view some of Jennifer's work, please visit the following links:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...