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I’ve been a bellydancer for around 13 years and a mum for nearly 9, so a huge portion of my dancing life has been while learning and growing into becoming the mother I really want to be. The major challenge I’m sure many belly dancing mums face, is finding the balance between being a mother, and spending quality time on your craft/belly dance career. I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum: going too hard with Bellydance where it was a major priority, and the other side of the spectrum where I found it really challenging finding the time and forming a structure around ensuring I still nurture my dance while having a demanding home life.

Several years ago I was teaching heaps of classes, regularly performing, organising shows, creating websites (the list goes on), and I found it really difficult to switch off in-between work. When I would play with my child I would often find that i wasnt able to stay present with him, and he could feel that. I became dissatisfied with how I was living both aspects of my life, (parenting/dancing) and knew major changes needed to happen.

After having children, priorities change, and for me, the well-being and happiness of my kids (I now have 2) is paramount to my own happiness. I started to focus on what changes i needed to make, and prioritised aspects of my belly dance life.

Prioritising

Time is more scarce when you are raising little ones, so prioritising what is most important can be helpful. If belly dance is your main career, then it is obviously important to acknowledge the main sources of income. It could be performing, teaching, travelling interstate, teaching workshops, organising events or private lessons. I found that after having my second child, teaching regular classes each week became a little challenging so I decided to focus on more intensive courses (which is how I developed the BodyTemple BellyDance BluePrint course), one on one mentoring/private lessons and performing which I’ve found to be a little more flexible. Finding the balance of focusing on what you are most passionate about as well as the financial aspect is worth considering and isn’t always easy!

If you are an obsessed Bellydancer (see just how addicted you are in a recent questionaire I created a few blogs ago!) and it is more of a part time hobby, you may like to prioritise what aspects of your dance practice gives you most joy, and focus on those.

FOMO (fear of missing out)

Without a doubt you will have to miss out on many events, performance opportunities and travelling, due to new circumstances. Acceptance of your new life takes time and before you know it, many more opportunities will arise in the future. I remember having to refuse many opportunities to travel interstate and teach. One was in New Zealand, which was somewhere I had always wanted to go. Again acceptance and surrender was the key, while also trusting that there will always be opportunities again. If you notice yourself feeling envious or feeling like you are missing out, use it as a reminder to refocus your energy in what feeds you here and now.
Here I was 8 weeks pregnant with Jivan!
Here I was 8 weeks pregnant with Jivan!

Will I regress in my abilities?

A major fear I had before having my second child was that I would regress in my technical ability, fitness and overall standard.

I found it to be quite the opposite! Muscle memory is powerful, so when you are ready to get back into it, technique may require a little tweaking but providing you had a solid foundation prior to having your child, you will have no problems! Fitness levels do decline after having babies, however once you develop a new routine for this next chapter of your life, it’s amazing how quickly the body responds! I also found that having space away from belly dance, after being so completely immersed in belly dance for so long, allowed me to become more aware of other aspects of myself that I could later integrate into my dance expression. When I returned it was like I had flushed out the old associations and feelings in my dance and this brought a newness and different kind of spark to my movement. A new perspective and approach can be really inspiring! I also felt like I was experiencing old movement pathways in completely new ways.

Who am I without belly dance?

Another interesting process I experienced was the temporary stripping away of identifying myself as “a belly dancer”. When you spend so much time, thinking, planning, living and breathing belly dance, it is quite unusual when suddenly you aren’t playing that role anymore. The ego cries out for a label! What I loved about this process is that I was able to build more self esteem and tap into who I am without the labels I had placed on myself.

Here are some tips I have found useful for integrating belly dance with early parenting (some of these depend on the age of your little ones)
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1) Include your kids in your stretching and strengthening routines. At night we often get the yoga mats out, and while I’m practising some yoga, my kids love to climb all over me and we treat it like a game.

2) If you are breast feeding, use the time to read up on the history of bellydance, research youtube clips or other aspects of belly dance that you have an interest in. Research is something that you may not have ample time to do in the future.

3) Try to hookup with other dance mums, so your kids can develop relationships and play while you get to dance!

4) If your child is still having a day sleep, commit to at least 10 mins of practice, whether it’s stretching, isolation drills or free movement. When you do get a chance to do some body work or training, be completely present, do your absolute best (retraining muscle memory) and only do what feels good.
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5) Get out and get fit with your kids, go for walks, kick the ball. The more fit and strong you get, the easier it will be to pick up where you left off when returning back to dance. Exercise has also been found to reduce depression levels.

6) Create a nurturing space where you can dance, even if it is in a corner of a room (free from kids toys). Add some of your favourite ornaments and try to get a mirror up. You may not be able to get to any classes for a while, so it’s important to claim your space to practice whenever you can.

7) Create a basic structure or weekly planner of some short term goals you would like to achieve. It could be to improve your hip work, strengthen abs, fitness etc.

One really positive aspect I have found after becoming a mum is that i don’t waste time on things that have no meaning or are unimportant. Due to limited time I am better able to simplify and get to the essence of how I choose the time I have. For me it’s really been about working out how much energy and time I can put towards my business/passion, while still being the mum i really want to be.

I feel that by staying present (in the moment) while spending time with my children, I am able to maintain connectedness. So even if i am flat out and have heaps going on, i make sure i spend a good session playing what ever my child wants to, while being present the entire time (not always possible I know). Even if it is not for a long period of time, I feel it really nourishes kids on a deep level. They just know if you are there with them playing, or miles away thinking about other things (age relevant of course!)

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