Motherhood Is Hard—Even for a Ballerina

Motherhood: Even a Principal Dancer with The National Ballet of Canada like Greta Hodgkinson can't always get it right...and she is the first to admit it.

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Like many families today, and perhaps even yours, one of our biggest challenges we continue to navigate as working parents is our rather unorthodox work schedule. As a Principal Dancer with The National Ballet Of Canada, I constantly find myself in a balancing act – both onstage professionally and as a mother of two in meeting the needs of my busy family.

My husband, Etienne Lavigne, and I are both professional dancers with the National Ballet. On any given day our jam-packed work schedules can call for long hours in the rehearsal studio and preparing for our upcoming roles, not to mention the extra time spent at the theatre during performances. It’s not uncommon for our days to end as late as 11 pm. With every minute full of activity, it continues to be difficult to juggle our children Maxime (age 6) and Viviane (5 months)’s demanding schedules. Now, with Maxime in school, we know that the extracurriculars, teams and parent council meetings will be piling on soon enough!

I am exceptionally proud of my career. This year I will be celebrating my 25th anniversary with the National Ballet and 20th year as a Principal Dancer. I’ve found professional ballet to be rewarding and am extremely grateful to go to work each day doing something I love and am truly passionate about. While at times the life of a ballerina can be glamorous, it can be completely time-consuming and combined with motherhood, it can be particularly challenging.

I’ve often experienced feelings of guilt for missing out on the odd appointment or activity, or just much cherished time at home together. When these feelings surface from time to time, particularly at the end of a long day, I remind myself that the hard work is worth it and I am setting important examples for my children for the rest of their lives. One of my greatest wishes for them is to be able to find their passions and be able to put in the hard work to achieve their dreams, regardless of the sacrifices.

Today, my time in the studio rehearsing is even more precious. I work harder now more than ever, to make every second count. I am focused and dedicated to working through what’s laid out in front of me each day and as soon as the workday is finished, my kids are the priority. They’re there, waiting for and needing me – it’s no longer about the correcting steps or worrying about choreography. 

Dancers are strong. We spend our entire lives taking care of our bodies and fine tuning our muscles, memories and habits. I never quite realized though just how strong I was, both mentally and physically, before I became a mom. Now, crashing on the couch to watch TV is not an option after going home from an exhausting day of rehearsals. Instead, the time is dedicated to my children and their activities – these are the moments in my days I look forward to the most. Surprisingly, I have never had this much energy before – it must be a Mom thing.

Motherhood has given me a confidence and self assurance that has carried into many different aspects of my life, both in my career and personally. Easily, it’s been my favourite role I’ve ever had the opportunity to take on. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying – and I think my kids can see how hard mom works and how much they are loved. In time, I hope they can also be inspired and one day have an opportunity to see what I do and be lucky enough to have families of their own.

Greta Hodgkinson is celebrating 25 years with The National Ballet of Canada and 20 years as a Principal Dancer. This is an incredible and remarkable milestone that few dancers have achieved, and she will be honoured during a special performances of Onegin on November 26, 2016 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
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