Meet Head of the Class Mom, Jacelyn Lisette, Founder of Midtown Movement and Dance Company Located in Midtown East/Murray Hill, Midtown Movement and Dance Company offers Mommy & Me, many levels of Ballet/Tap, and Hip Hop dance classes. Take a Free Trial Class.
Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Midtown Movement and Dance?
Before starting Midtown Movement and Dance, I made a living as a freelance performer and teaching artist. I managed to find a perfect balance between both of my passions: performing and working with children. I was living the dream and truly enjoying what I was doing. Unfortunately, this line of work offered little security, no health benefits, and wouldn’t permit me to be a mother, the last dream I hadn’t yet accomplished. So when the opportunity presented itself for me to start my own company in the community where I had developed a great following of students and parents, I knew I had to close my eyes and leap. I knew that starting my own company would enable me to continue to pursue my passions and give me the flexibility to work with other great artists and eventually stay home with my newborn.
What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
There is totally a balance. Maintaining it is challenging, but I try to keep a 9-5 schedule whether I am at the studio or working from home. Once it’s dinner time, I enjoy the evening with my guys! I definitely find time to unplug and be in the moment with my family, but when you run your own business somehow you are always on the clock. Getting quality time in the evenings is really important so that your mind can settle down and you can remember the reasons why you work so hard. On the weekends, my husband and I love to get out of the house. We go for a walk with our son and grab some breakfast sandwiches on the way. We take turns going to the gym, and when my son goes down for a nap, I sit in a cafe to catch up on whatever business that needs to be tended to.
Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
One thing I learned just before becoming a mom that I think has made me a better parent and better worker is: have a plan and be prepared for when the plan goes off the rails. My husband and I did everything the experts tell you to do when expecting your first child. We read all the books, attended birthing classes, and made a birth plan for the big day. Then our son came up with a plan of his own and our plans went right out the window. Now, I am always prepared if my plan to go off the rails, and I feel that it’s okay to improvise when it does. When things don’t go as planned, it’s best to keep calm, respond in the moment, and go with the flow to ultimately achieve the main goal.
What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The biggest challenge has essentially been continuing to be the head of my business while starting my journey as a mom. I never quite took a maternity leave. I thought about hiring someone to oversee operations while I took 3 months off as most women do. But then, I asked my husband if he would take a leave from his city job and manage things for the business from home while being there for me and our son. It was the best decision we made because I was able to stay connected to my clients, which was important to me, and my husband had a chance to be close to us and learn how to care for his son. With this decision, I was able to continue working in some areas of my business that I am passionate about, while my husband got a chance to fully care for and bond with his son while I was working. When my son was 3 weeks old, I had to be away from him to work for a few days and although it was emotionally difficult for me, I felt good knowing that my husband would be able to care for him. It was very rewarding to be able to support my husband while he shared in the experience of caring for our newborn from the time he was born until he was 3 months old. That experience would not have been possible had it not been for my business.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That childcare is like paying another rent!
If you could give other parents one piece of advice, what would it be?
Go to bed early! As much as you want to stay up after your kids go to sleep and catch up on the latest episode of your favorite show, go to sleep. I can say that I don’t feel sleep deprived even though I am waking up every 3-4 hours to nurse. I try to be in bed by 9pm every night so that I can still get about 8 hours of total sleep in between night feedings. It really helps to be rested and tackle the day or go off to work and be able to perform well.
Favorite children’s book? From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. I love this book because it appeals to every kid. I use it in all my classes and the kids have so much fun listening to the story, calling out the animals they know, and of course moving their body like the animals. After we play and explore with moving like each animal, I encourage them to say the recurring phrase loud and proud: “I can do it.” I think this is such a positive mantra for kids to learn early in life. I approach all my classes from this place. When kids seem timid or upset because a move is difficult, my teachers and I encourage them to simply try! However the students interpret the movement is a success for us because we are giving them the opportunity to grow at their individual level. I feel like I am giving them something that is more than a movement class. I am giving them the foundation for positivity in life and a deep sense of self-worth.
Favorite kids’ class? Creative movement. I love teaching creative movement because we can really play with the students’ interests while also teaching them basic movement and dance skills, mind-body awareness, and how to participate in a social setting. This class is a give and take between the teacher, the students, and the grown-ups. We come to class loaded with activities, ideas, and dramatic themes to play with, the kids come with their own instincts, and together, with the support of their grown-ups, we create and explore movement and imagination.
Favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? Right now, my son is really into strolling. He is so interested in everything going on and he is so content sitting in his stroller strolling around our neighborhood. I thought he would get upset with not seeing us but he is so happy sitting outwards facing the world! My husband and I take him out on the weekends for a long walk to our favorite breakfast spot. My son usually falls asleep and then my husband and I get some quality time to talk and catch up over breakfast.
Favorite rainy day escape? Get creative with a home improvement project. My husband and I think building IKEA furniture is so much fun! It’s like an adult puzzle! Pour me a cup of hot cocoa and I’m ready to build.