Some of you may already know this, but beyond being a performer, a producer, and a traveling showgirl, I am also a mother to a very feisty little girl who will be three this April. From the moment that I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, literally the next day, I was onstage and determined to not let this pregnancy trample my dreams of being a traveling burlesque performer. I worked diligently throughout my pregnancy, altering costumes and acts, to better support my growing belly and growing ambition. I performed up until a month before she was born. When she was only two months old, I traveled with her across the country for my first burlesque competition in Charleston, South Carolina.
As she got older, I continued to travel and perform whenever I was given the opportunity. She came with me to Charlotte when she was young and still breast-feeding. Later I went to Seattle, Texas, Toronto, New York, London, and so many other places on my own. Sometimes I would opt for a quick trip, landing the day of the show and leaving directly after the conclusion of the event, which could be either a night or a weekend. Sometimes my husband would care for her like when I took off for nine days to go to New Orleans and Albuquerque. But one thing was for sure, the older she became, the more difficult it was to leave her.
Every trip I cry. Not just a few tears streaming down my face, I mean ugly cry. I text my girlfriend, Sassy Stiletto, to remind myself why I do what I do, and if I am making the right decision as a parent. Each time I read her response through my tears telling me that if I don’t take care of myself, of my own dreams and aspirations, then I will have nothing to give my daughter. And although that makes me feel better, as I tuck her into bed, or kiss her goodbye at the airport repeating the one phrase that I have told her since she was an infant in my arms, “Mommy always comes back to you,” it doesn’t make it any easier. But still, I get on that plane, and I give the audience every ounce of me that I possibly have to give.
Once I get to my destination it’s usually easier. I see my friends who I don’t always see and performances that inspire me to continue bettering my craft, but every now and then you just have to have a moment to yourself. I remember when I was competing in London, about an hour before I was supposed to hit the stage with my stage make-up in tact and nervous energy flowing rampantly, I heard this family from the other table call to their little girl, about three years older than my daughter, “Brody”. Now Brody is not a very common name for little girls, and I had yet to meet another one until this moment, but I looked to the family and clarified whether or not their daughter’s name was Brody. Of course when they responded yes, I sat there, attempting to continue a polite conversation while fighting back tears. Finally, as my voice started to crack and I could no longer hid the tears running down my face as I was forcing myself to smile, I excused myself directly to the bathroom where I broke down in a crying hysteria all the while trying to save most of my stage make-up.
At the moment, I have cut back my travel significantly. This decision wasn’t made directly because of my daughter, other goals and aspirations definitely weighed in, but at this very, very, very, VERY difficult stage (yes moms to older children, I know it only gets worse – I mean new “challenges” later on present themselves) I thought it would be best to spend more time with her until we get past this phase. But if you do find yourself traveling with little ones, I have a few tips to help you survive.
- Remember the reasons why you do this. Being a mother means giving so much of yourself to someone else. It’s easy to lose your own identity in this mix and will continue to be a juggling act as they get older. Remember to take care of yourself and remember your dreams pre-baby.
- Facetime/Skype often. Technology is remarkable, and calling and seeing my baby girl, even before she talked, really helped to alleviate the guilt and longing… a bit.
- Have a support system back home you can trust. Having people who know your child, and who you trust with your baby’s life is imperative. Whether it’s mom/dad, grandparents, relatives, or just a very good family friend to take care of your little ones, make the decision that you will be most relieved with.
- Give all the information you can before you leave. Make all the lists you need to feel like if something happens to your child, they know where to call. It’s okay to have plans A through Z mapped out if it’s going to make you feel better. Whether or not they will follow it to a T is another story, but if it will help you sleep at night, then do what you have to do.
- Have a special phrase for you and your little one. I was terrified that Brody was going to think I left her for good, so I always reiterate to her that no matter what, I will come back. Every time I get off Facetime or when I leave, I repeat this to her, and after a while, she just knows. It’s almost like a mantra for just you two, even if they can’t repeat it yet.
- Allow yourself moments to disconnect. Don’t forget to make friends. Have fun. Do all the things that non-parents do when you are gone. Don’t feel guilty about having fun. If you spent all your time doing that, then what’s the point of leaving in the first place.
Being a mama and a traveling showgirl is a difficult challenge. But I promise you, you can do it. <3