Embracing My Role as a Mother Hustler
“Once upon a time, you were a little girl with big dreams that you promised you’d make real one day. Don’t disappoint yourself.”
“I can’t just be a mom and a wife...” I uttered these words anxiously to my husband, feeling in somewhat of a state of shock as my system was trying to re-acclimate back to “normal life” after my final season as a competitive dance coach came to an end. I went from practicing four to five days a week with my team and competing every weekend to immediately being at home with seemingly unlimited amounts of free time. This was exactly what I thought I had wanted this entire time, which left my head spinning. As much as I had planned to fill all of this free time with other priorities, I just couldn’t find the motivation to shift everything so suddenly.
Alright, so I realize that saying that I’m just a wife and a mom is a stretch. I can be a little dramatic at times and it’s pretty far-fetched for me to insinuate that just because I’m no longer coaching, I’ll suddenly retreat to my home and my garb for the rest of eternity will be rubber cleaning gloves and an apron. (I guess if it had to be that way, I could only hope that the gloves would be pink and the apron would be cute.) Realistically, I have a full-time job in a career that I actually enjoy and find fulfilling as far as “real” jobs go, and I run my little hobby/side hustle via this blog, so I have more than just my home life, but what I’m talking about here is passion.
Passion is the thing that motivates you to get up early, stay up late, put in ridiculous hours sacrificing time, alternative opportunities, and at times even what some may deem as sanity. Passion is the driving force for whatever it is that seems to come “naturally” (and by naturally, I mean that it feels natural because you’ve put in countless hours mastering it) and whatever lights a fire in your soul. As much as I am content with all of the obligations in my life, I can’t say that there are many things that spark that fire or bring out the twinkle in my eye quite like coaching has.
Now here is where the “Mom Guilt” comes into play; the part where I feel like I need to take the time to explain to you how much I love my daughter and my husband. Cue the: "I love my daughter and my role as a mother so much it feels like I could sing, dance, scream, cry, and curl into a ball while my heart explodes on the very best days," speech. But really, I do! My husband is the rock of our family and keeps me calm and sane – I would be nothing and accomplish nothing without his support. With these factors considered, I have also learned through a lot of life experiences and hard personal discovery that it’s okay to want more and to be more. I’ll even go as far as to say that I think it’s necessary to want more and to be more for ourselves.
As women, and especially as mothers, I’d venture to guess that the majority of us feel like we are supposed to be caregivers. We have been trained by societal pressures to believe that we are supposed to put our own personal needs and desires to the side in order to make everyone else around us great. We are hard-wired to feel guilty when we do things for ourselves and make sacrifices that affect the way things are going at home. The reality is that, as individuals, we are so multifaceted that we can’t be put into a single-label box or expected to be everything for everyone else and be successful at that role when we mute who we really are and neglect to take care of ourselves.
When I stepped away from coaching for the first time back in 2015, I was both terrified and relieved. I think that at that time, I thought that I was stepping away solely in order to refocus my attention on my marriage, which had hardly received any of my energy prior, and on exploring the possibility of starting a family. What I didn’t realize back then that I realize now is that I also stepped away because of fear and the surmounting pressure that weighed so heavily on me every single day that oftentimes made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. The pressure to be better and do better, along with constant criticism and the fact that I had no personal boundaries when it came to my role as a coach the first time around was impacting every single aspect of my life inside and outside of dance.
I found myself at peace living a more low-key lifestyle while I was expecting our daughter about six months after I had stepped away from my coaching position the first time. My life had taken on an entirely new direction that was family-centered, but dance would always be a part of me. I attempted to fill my dance void by spending three seasons as a judge in the competitive dance world. In addition to my newfound judging role, I continued my position as an Officer for the state dance organization and worked as part of the event management team for varsity dance finals for the high school association in my state.
During that time, every moment that I witnessed behind the scenes with teams made me miss coaching so much that it hurt. I knew that dance for me was more than just the sport itself, and that I was meant to have the one-on-one connection with people. I had countless moments where I thought to myself, “What am I doing?! I’m SUPPOSED to be coaching!” I had seriously reconsidered stepping back into a coaching role several times, but I continued to rule out the possibility because of my obligations to my family, my struggles trying to navigate the balance of my new-ish role as a mother who also worked full-time, and my general lack of ability to set boundaries.
I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to have a patient husband who stuck around and supported me, even when it was difficult to do so, during my first experience with coaching from 2008-2015. The competitive dance season is a ten-month long season, and the two off months are spent extensively planning and preparing for the following season. Pair that with a full-time job and being a full-time college student, and I'm sure you can imagine that a personal life for a newly married couple wasn't exactly in the cards. (At one point, I was also attempting to coach middle school, high school, and college teams at the same time - all while juggling the rest of my priorities. If you think that sounds ridiculous, you're absolutely right. It was also a massive set-up for failure.)
In any other circumstance, I would assume that putting your marriage at the bottom of the list of priorities consistently for many years would undoubtedly result in divorce or, at the very least, serious marital problems. Though we had our fair share of disagreements and rocky patches in those early years, our foundation was fortunately solid enough to sustain the weather of that season of life. With the knowledge of those past experiences, I knew what I was getting into the second time around and I wasn’t about to sacrifice my family.
When I unexpectedly fell back into coaching the second time around in 2018, I went into the experience with an entirely different perspective on life. I vowed that I would not succumb to pressure or coach from a place of personal fear this time around. I understood the absolute necessity for personal boundaries, and that time outside of dance requirements that was set aside for family could not be disrupted by dance under any circumstances (whether it be choreography/planning ideas, phone calls, emails, text messages, or the pressure to add practice times to the calendar - anything dance-related that would invade my personal/family time was off limits during those specified times).
At this point in this story, you might be wondering WHY I am choosing to step away from coaching for a second time. Here I am blabbing on about my true passion in life and how I had redefined this role for myself, and I'm stepping away again? Though I feel like I have discovered healthy boundaries and understand the importance of pursuing passion, I also understand the significance of timing. Since this is my second time in this boat, I know how this journey goes. I know that timing in life is everything, and that “no” right now does not have to mean “no” forever. The first time I stepped away from coaching, I thought it was a permanent decision. I have since learned that I am probably a forever coach to some extent, and I’ve found new ways to chase my dreams and fulfill my passion right now without sacrificing extensive amounts of time with my young family.
Stepping away from coaching when it has always felt like coaching is what I have been called to do is terrifying some days because it feels like I’m losing part of who I am. The difference this time around is that I have opened the door for various opportunities to make an impact on the lives of many people through dance, and I have learned to have faith even in the unknown. I also know now that it’s not an “either/or” thing when it comes to following your dreams. You aren’t required to choose your family OR your personal aspirations when you have healthy boundaries.
Women (and men too!) should understand that it’s okay to feel like you were made for more and to chase your dreams while still prioritizing your family. There is room for both. The example that we set for our children when we are actively involved in their lives and hustling to chase our own dreams is immeasurable. Whatever your dream may be, big or small, find a way and go after it. Set boundaries that allow you to fuel that passion without sacrificing everything else that matters and lean into your multifaceted roles and who you were called to be.
Today I am vowing to allow my dreams to be ever-evolving and to chase after them fearlessly. My last official duty as a coach (for now) is an awards banquet this weekend. I’m looking forward to celebrating the accomplishments of my team one last time (for now) and to closing this current chapter and opening the blank page to what’s next in my story.