back at work
I’m back at work. I now have two tiny humans. I was on leave from March – July 2022 in order to birth the second one and keep us all alive for 4 months. I introduce you to Kai.
It is quite a thing to leave the company I founded, during the 3rd calendar year of a pandemic, in a moment of so many shifts. And yet, I could do so knowing that the Invertigo staff would be incredible stewards. While I was on leave, Invertigo:
- premiered its first in-person live performance in 2.5 years
- partnered with Nourish LA [https://www.nourish.la] as part of the Kitchen Table Project’s commitment to food justice and community storytelling
- launched a DTP storytelling program with Dancing Through Your Story and our virtual DTP classroom The Hub
- Launched a partnership with A Place Called Home through our Invert/Ed program welcoming in new instructor – Alicia Moseley to the Invertigo team!
- and more but that’s enough Proud Mama bullet points for now!
And friends, it is not easy to navigate these times as a dance company. So let’s pause to celebrate the scope and vibrancy of this company!
As Executive and Programs Director, K. Bradford steered the Inverti-ship through ever-shifting tides, keeping everyone afloat and always looking at the true north of our vision and values. Haylee stepped into her role as Interim Artistic Director with such energy and commitment, creating a whole new work that sprouted from seeds we planted together and blossomed into something beyond what I could have imagined. Sanna, Rosa, Chelsea, Rachel, Alex… each person brought their myriad of talents, persistence, insights and beyond.
The act of release and faith was easy for me because I trusted in their brilliance.
My first day back to work from my first maternity leave was March 16, 2020. Which was a very particular first day back to work. Read that blog post below this one!
This time, my first day back to work was an in-person staff meeting. I’m a nursing mama, and Invertigo is about stories, bodies, empowering, investigating, experimenting and leading. So let’s talk about how we are navigating the sand-trap of Parenting, Working, Leading, Artist-ing, Breastfeeding and Being A Body In Public Space.
On my first day, during the staff meeting, Kai got brought in when it was time, and as he nursed, the staff and I discussed big-picture plans and grant strategies for our Dancing Through Parkinson’s program. When he was done nursing, Kai fell asleep on my lap, unphased by the spreadsheets and open tabs.
This didn’t just happen. There were conversations beforehand with my fellow director K., with our HR consultant (big love to Imani, check out her site here), and with all the staff members.
I wanted to be hyper-mindful that, as a founding director, I wasn’t making anyone uncomfortable.
They voiced that they wanted to be supportive of me as a working mother.
We had conversations about matriarchal structures and beyond that to gender egalitarianism. For example, how we will name and support gender non-binary parents, especially those breast/chest-feeding. We talked about breast/chest-feeding in public as an act of reclamation, and as something that, at the end of the day, no one felt particularly uncomfortable being. The conversation was filled with care, thoughtfulness and awareness of the myriad power dynamics that inform our lives and our company.
All this to say, my view on my first day back at work looked like this:
I didn’t do a worse job because my baby was welcomed into the office culture. I did a better job. I didn’t have to step out to pump milk in a bathroom stall. I didn’t have to step out at all, removing myself from the flow of the meeting and the input I had about a program I love dearly. People could coo and love on the baby (wash your hands! put on a mask!) but they are all professionals who know how to focus on the task at hand. So Kai was loved and his needs were met, and we could all get on with running a dance company together.
It’s worth noting, this came about because of my choice and because of various other aspects of my personal circumstances.* I am also free to take nursing breaks if that’s needed or wanted. As with so many facets of Reproductive Justice, it comes down to creating social structures that support the various decisions that different people might want to make at different times.
I am proud of the small part Invertigo can play, whether it’s paid parental leave or conversations like this one. In absence of policies and structures that not only support but celebrate working parents in the arts, an entire swath of artists and administrators are lost.
As always, Invertigo is searching for ways to function according to our vision and our values. Just like in social justice movements and just like in parenting, there is no one perfect solution and there are not always clean lines, but there is space for joy and curiosity in finding our way forward.
And in the meantime, there is art to be made, communities to connect, stories to be told… it’s good to be back, my friends.
* This setup is possible because my office is accessible to my home and my partner is the primary caregiver during the day while I’m working. He is able simply to bring the baby in when it’s necessary, and I can text him to collect the baby if Kai fusses. There are layers of privilege to this, but we’re also just trying to make everything work – we can’t afford childcare and my partner works at night when I’m done, so I guess what I’m saying is all this is a much bigger discussion than this blog post. I think I am hoping that this post might do just that – spark a bigger discussion, about how we can better support parents, especially mothers and those who are breast/chest-feeding.
Blog post from 2020:
A Note from Laura, Our Artistic Director
in which I come back from Maternity Leave in the midst of a global pandemic…
Two weeks ago, Monday was my first day back to work from maternity leave.
That Monday, it was the first day all of our staff began working remotely.
That Monday, the office was empty except for me. It’s attached to my home, so there I was.
That Monday, I did many things that a mother going back to work would do. I got dressed. I kissed my baby. I wrote out feeding instructions. I waved “bye bye.”
That Monday, I stepped back into a world so completely transformed, a landscape so utterly shifted. This is not how I thought it would be.
I set up my desk, stared at an inbox full of emails, briefly considered the many cancellations I knew were already rolling in… classes, programs, performances, fundraisers…
And I wrote this down:
“How can we — as artists, a company and a community — help? How can we be of service?”
That question was the first thing I could wrap my mind around. If I had started with cash flows, cancellations and crisis, I would have spiralled. Instead of survival, I focused on service. I believe that being of service to one another is ultimately how we will survive.
I have since gone down more logistical rabbit holes – as Artistic Director, I am working in close collaboration with our Executive Director David Mack, our staff, and our board of directors. These people are a marvel.
I keep coming back to this idea of community and connection that is at the heart of Invertigo’s values. These are the three things that came to me, in answer to my questions:
- Combat isolation
- Cultivate hope
- Provide moments to recharge
They percolated up into my fingertips and through the pen. I have dreams and schemes for how to go about this. We’ll be sharing more soon.
For my artist friends, it is ok to mourn the cancellations, the losses, the would-have-beens. I am too. I have also been deeply inspired by the outpouring of love, support, online offerings, and opportunities for connection that you’re all cultivating. Within a couple of weeks, we have seen artists – whose entire livelihoods have been called into question – doing what we best know how to do. We are putting classes online, performing in living rooms, teaching through new platforms, reaching out to more vulnerable communities, sewing masks for hospitals out of old costumes, providing entertainment and deeper questioning and perspectives, holding each other together.
In a new world, we need artists to help us re-imagine who we are and become who we must be in order both to survive and to be of service.
This Monday is my third week back to work from maternity leave.
This Monday, I am breathing through fear and uncertainty, and nurturing hope.
This Monday, I am clarifying how to be a leader and an artist.
I hope to share what I find with you.
Be well, my friends, and take care of one another.