Mumhood and Teaching Yoga: Can it Really Work?
If you’ve been teaching yoga full time for more than a week, you know that the hours don’t suit the average family life — or even a social life.
You’re up and out early in the mornings to teach people who want to practise yoga before work. And then you spend the rest of the day travelling from class to class (especially if you live in a big city). Then evening comes, and you’re teaching post-work classes until 9 or even 10 pm. That leaves a few stolen slots of time between classes during the day for life-stuff, and time to brush your teeth and get to bed before it all starts again in the morning.
Thing is, I’m not really exaggerating. This is the reality for lots of yoga teachers — particularly early on in their teaching careers. I’ve been there. It’s fun, but it can be all-consuming.
So can there be space for kids when your job requires so much time and energy at all hours of the day? And when there’s no job security or sick pay to support you when you just can’t make it to that 7 am class because your child’s got a cold and you’ve been up all night and they need you to make them feel better?
Can it really work?
This question can apply to fathers just as much as mothers, but I’m talking about being a mum and teaching yoga for two reasons:
- I’m a mum and I teach yoga.
- Many yoga teachers are women of childbearing age who might have children in the near future, or who already have children — so it’s a conundrum that comes up for lots of us.
It can work — but it’ll have to be different
As much as I’d like to say it’s possible to keep teaching long hours in loads of different venues when you become a mum, I don’t think it is. You need time for your baby. When your baby gets bigger, you need time for nursery or school drop-offs, pick-ups, and you need as much of a weekend as possible.
Depending on the support you have and/or the childcare you can afford, you might need to be with your kid after school every day, which means no more early morning or evening classes even when your baby reaches school age (assuming you decide to send them to school at all). And — this one has been a big adjustment for me — even if you do have the support and/or childcare to allow you to be out teaching, you might just not want to. It’s personal, and I know that people feel differently and do differently, but at the moment I want to be away from my toddler as little as I possibly can be. I wasn’t prepared for **me** being a key factor in needing to change my working life after my daughter was born.
For mothers, though, it starts before the child is born. Yep; being pregnant. Some women manage to hold down an incredible number of classes right to the end of their pregnancy (and even if they make it look easy, it probably isn’t).
For others, it’s simply not possible to keep the same teaching schedule; sickness, exhaustion, and complications of pregnancy can mean that a woman growing a human in her uterus needs time off. Mornings to sleep in; evenings to go to bed early; and a reduced number of vomit-inducing train, bus or car journeys between studios. And there’s no maternity sick pay when you’re self-employed.
To balance all of these challenges with a little encouragement, here are some things you can work on to make teaching yoga and being a mum possible — or at least, more likely to be possible.
Take control of your schedule
You’ll need to stop taking every class you can get and start creating space for the classes that bring in the most revenue for the least travelling, and the least time hanging around waiting for the next class. This is easier if you’ve already built a solid client base, but I do think that new teachers can do it too. Your work is valuable; don’t sell yourself short.
That means thinking geographically, too: you don’t want to teach a class on one side of the city or in one town, and then travel to the other side of the city or to another town to teach your next class, and then to yet another place for the class after that.
Back-to-backs are your friend
The idea of teaching two or three classes without a break is daunting — and it can be draining — but if you can do this, you consolidate your teaching hours and your travelling time. Are there any opportunities in your current timetable to squeeze in another class at the same venue? You’ll earn more money in less hours, giving you more hours to do parenting or be a tired pregnant person.
Private and corporate classes are also your friend. They’re reliable because you can book them in blocks of 6 weeks or more, and you set your rates. Again: higher income for less time travelling and teaching.
Build a cover list
Gather the details of teachers you trust — both because they’re good teachers and because you know they’ll turn up when they say they will. You will need cover sometimes.
If you run independent classes in hired spaces, plan ahead. What will you do if you need cover? Can you split the profits with the cover teacher so they get a fair rate but you also earn some money from the class when you can’t teach it? It’s completely reasonable to keep some of the profit when you get cover for classes you run on your own — it’s your hours/weeks/months/years of marketing, admin, and brilliant teaching that have brought all those students into the room.
It’s hard. It takes trial and error and juggling and rebalancing, so give yourself time. If you’re parenting with a partner, you have the advantage of someone to share the load with. But it does mean that you have to share your decisions — and it’s likely that at times, one of your careers will take priority over the other’s (probably the one that brings in the most cash). If you can start working out that balance before the baby’s born you’ll be a few giant steps ahead.