I write this post in a different place to where most of my other posts have been written. Normally i’m typing away while backstage waiting to perform, or sitting in my car between gigs. Today however I write this sat in my office on a Sunday morning after a different kind of Saturday night. The fact is, I wasn’t gigging at all last night. I was instead looking after my baby daughter Chloe while my wife was working.
My wife, Jennie is a dancer and has been her whole life pretty much. She started dancing when she was five years old and did her first professional job and the age of just eight. After ignoring the careers advice at school that declared she couldn’t be a dancer as a job and would need to choose and actual career, she went to dance college from age 16 to 19 and has been dancing ever since. About three years ago, Jennie became pregnant and finally stopped dancing full time in December of 2014 at 4 months pregnant. We welcomed Chloe into our lives in June 2015 and it’s been an incredible ride since.
It’s understood that having a baby is a huge life changing situation that you’re never truly prepared for, and that is definitely true. However, in truth, life for me, at least work and career wise, didn’t really change much at all with a few minor exceptions. For Jennie though, it was a complete shift. To simply stop doing something she had done almost everyday since the age of five, right through her formative years and through her entire adult life was difficult to say the least.
There was a period of time in 2009 when we were transitioning from working in production shows on cruise ships to going it alone as freelance entertainers. As a singer, it’s a far easier thing to do, due to being self-contained. As a dancer, there are routines to learn that must be done as a team. Before you can start learning anything, you need to get in to that team in the first place. Competition is fierce for dancers as there are so many that want to do the job, far more than there are actual jobs available. We found out that when dancers don’t dance, it can rapidly diminish their mood and their outlook on things. Many dancers we’ve spoken to since have backed up these findings. Wether it’s the sudden lack of endorphin release or some other factor, those six months or so are referred to as “the dark days” as it was not a fun time at all. Don’t let a gremlin get wet, expose it to bright light or feed it after midnight, and don’t stop a dancer from dancing. The result of either act is not something I would recommend. If you want to keep a dancer happy then the dancer simply must dance.
The pay also reflects the level of competition in dancing. It’s so sad that a lot of dancers train for so many years and dedicate so much of their time to learning the craft and maintaining their bodies to such a high standard and they are rewarded so frugally for their efforts. Sadly, it’s simply a case of supply and demand. I am proud of what I’ve achieved in this industry but to have that longevity as a dancer is quite remarkable.
Jennie started dancing again when Chloe was about is six months old but due to the nature of our situation, there is no way she can return to dancing full time. I’m from Norwich in Norfolk and Jennie is from Telford in the West Midlands. When we bought our house together it was in Leyland in the North West. It made sense from a work point of view. It’s right on the M6 and close to all major routes regardless of where in the country we’re headed. Blackpool is only about 45 minutes away and there is a fair amount of work there. Manchester and Liverpool are both within relatively easy reach and the rest of the country is accessible by the motorways that we are so close to. Couple that with the fact that houses are considerably more affordable over here and you have the perfect location for a tag team of a full time singer and a full time dancer.
The unfortunate side effect of living here is that it’s not great for family and friends. We’ve met some lovely people up here and there’s a great group of people that live in our street but it’s difficult to form strong friendships with people that you don’t work with and don’t get the chance to socialise with. An entertainers life means you’re generally working at the opposite times to everybody else which really limits your options for social engagement with people outside of the industry.
Our families do as much as possible and far more that should be reasonably expected with regards to coming up to help out since Chloe has been born but the simple fact is, they live miles away. Jennie’s parents are a solid two hours away and mine, living in Norfolk need to travel in excess of five hours each way. If we’re having a tough day, there’s no popping round for a cup of tea i’m afraid.
As I’m the one still working, it’s down to me to make the money to keep our little family going and living to the standard we have become accustomed. That means however that as “The Constant Singer”, I’m very often out working and not just evenings. A lot of the time Jennie is facing things alone at home and this brings it’s own struggles.
This last weekend was a real rarity then when a couple of weeks ago, Jennie was offered a dancing job for this Saturday, and I hadn’t yet had anything booked in. Usually dancing gigs are booked at shorter notice so my diary tends to be full before anything can come in for Jennie. Of course, there’s no childcare at the time of day or days of the week that help out entertainers so we have to chose which one of us will work.
So yesterday was a real change and a nice change at that. Me and Chloe spent all day together and Jennie got to dance. I can’t remember the last time that Jennie was working on a Saturday night and I wasn’t but it was fantastic to spend the day with Chloe having some quality Daddy/Daughter time. We had a fab time together and I was able to focus fully on playing with her and entertaining her and the time flew by, almost too quickly. Of course, had I wanted to actually get anything done like my wife does while she is with Chloe full time day in, day out, it would have been a different story altogether.
Did I relish and enjoy the time we spent together yesterday? Absolutely! Could I do what my wife does in looking after her solo for the majority of the time while running the house and doing everything else that mothers do? I would hasten to suggest, probably not. Being a parent is wonderful, it’s a gift that you should enjoy and embrace if you’re lucky enough to do it. It’s not easy though and it’s not all smiles and selfie snaps. Parents who stay at home with their children all day while the other one works have a very tough life and alongside the minefield of mood swings and scattered toys that they must traverse throughout a regular day, they may also be facing the very real prospect that their previous career that they loved so much may realistically be in their past. My mum did it with me and my brothers while my dad worked away a lot and now Jennie does it and I will never fully understand how. Jennie maintains that while she sorely misses dancing, she gave it up for the best reason. Given the choice between singing and having Chloe, I would of course choose Chloe every single time. I’m lucky though. I never had to make the choice.
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Have a great day everyone and keep smiling.