A Curtain Call for a Dancing Mom by Gina Jacobs Thomas of Full of It
by Gina Jacobs Thomas of Full of It
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
My son recently asked me this question. It was innocent and inquisitive, but it hit me right in the gut.
It certainly wasn’t the part about growing up that got to me. Sure, I have fleeting moments of panic as I look around at my two children and house and everything so… adult. But the marriage, the parenting, the housekeeping feels like part of the plan.
It’s the career part that’s gone astray.
I have spent my entire life pursuing a professional dance career, starting when I was four. Since I’m turning 40 this fall, I’ll let you do the math about how long dance has been a part of my existence. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance and then carved out a very small but satisfying dance career in New York City and Denver.
My family moved to Ohio last July. The last time I performed was the week before we moved. It was also the last time I danced.
My retirement was not planned. I had high hopes that a dance scene existed in our new hometown, but was sadly disappointed when it came up empty. Without knowing it, my career got left behind in Denver.
Every day that goes by when I’m not dancing feels like I’m hammering the lid down tighter on the coffin of my dance career. My body feels stiff, weak and rigid. I don’t think I could make it through an entire class now if I wanted to.
But it’s not just the physical aspect of dancing that I miss. I long for that sense of community, of artistry and ensemble, and the opportunity to express my creativity in a way that feels satisfying.
How I wish that being a mother felt like the only role I needed to be content. But I miss a creative outlet. I pour myself into projects for the kids, spend way too much time designing birthday party invitations, and am a little too eager to play Just Dance on the Wii.
I choke on an answer to the question “What do you do?” For so long it was a confident “I’m a dancer.” And now? Am I still a dancer? And if I’m not, then what am I? I am still stuck in my old story, it seems, unable to move forward to a new chapter.
I am struggling. To find my voice. My purpose. My mojo.
It’s a hard place to be. I have flashes of regret for feeling this way. I have a great home, two adorable, funny, healthy kids and a wonderful husband who unloads the dishwasher.
Yet at times I feel I’m being swallowed up by Motherhood. In the first time since we’ve had children, my sole role is a Stay At Home Mom. My identity has been so fused with drop-offs and pick-ups, school volunteering, meal planning and counter-wiping, that I’ve lost “Me” in all of it.
A couple of dance classes have popped up around town since we’ve moved here. The opportunity now exists, yet I have a hard time finding motivation to get there.
My mind always finds excuses for backing out. “I can’t find a sitter, the class is too late at night, it isn’t professional enough, I’m not back in shape yet. Blah, blah, blah.” Chickening out is more like it.
Even after over 30 years, the fear and self-doubt as a dancer never goes away.
Stripped of my artistic career, who am I? What am I? And how do I regain that sense of self? This identity crisis isn’t a fun place to be. At my age, with my family to take care of, it feels more horrifying than when I graduated college. And whether it’s dance, or brain surgery, I would bet that most moms who have left their chosen field to become a parent feel similarly.
I have sent my teaching resume to colleges, pre-professional programs, private schools, you name it. And every response that I don’t get back feels like a loud yell through a large bullhorn that it’s time time to grow up and get a real job.
My son, however, is able to view my situation for the opportunity that it is. Instead of seeing regret for past decisions or mourning my career, he sees a world of possibility. He thinks I should take this chance to do anything, be anything. The sky’s the limit.
So perhaps I’m the only one who’s getting in my way.
ABOUT GINA: Gina holds the titles of wife, mom, former dancer, blogger, butt-wiper, paper-airplane maker, princess costumer, snack connoisseur, pillow fort architect, and house D.J. You can read more of her babbling at her blog Full of it….
CONTINUE READING IN THE BEDROOM
This piece was written by Gina Jacobs Thomas of Full of It exclusively for Bonbon Break Media, LLC.