As a big fan of ballet (and former ballet student, ballet teacher, and ballet mom), I can totally appreciate the qualities and skills required by ballerinas. Those Grand Adages and triple Pirouettes don’t just happen. They take years of hard work, practice, passion, and a whole host of well-honed skills to master.
So, I got to thinking about the skills required to be a ballerina, and it occurred to me that parenting requires a lot of those same skills (in different ways).
Here are 10 skills (or qualities) shared by ballerinas and parents:
Commitment – Like being a ballerina who practices every day, being a parent is a major commitment. It takes dedication, passion, lots of time, and effort. It’s a huge part of who we are. Just like a ballerina, when we become a parent, we’re all in!
Focus – Ballerinas are focused on their craft. They can see the big picture, while honing the many intricate details. Parents too are focused: on their children’s health, safety, emotional well-being, education, and so on. As parents, we need to pay attention to what we’re doing in terms of raising our kids, and even more so, we need to pay attention to what our kids are doing and saying.
Discipline – Ballerinas are very disciplined. In order to commit to rigorous rehearsal schedule, and to become skilled in their craft, they have to work very hard, makes sacrifices, and often, delay gratification. As parents, we too use discipline – with ourselves and with our kids. We have to set a good example for our kids and hold ourselves to a higher standard to do that. We have to set boundaries for our kids, make sure they know and follow the guidelines, and carry out consequences when necessary.
Flexibility – Whereas ballerinas need to be physically flexible, as parents we need to be mentally flexible. Sometimes things don’t go as planned; often we need to alter our strategy. Challenges arise, new information arrives, the weather shifts. We need to be able to adapt and move on. This also takes patience, creativity and a sense of humor.
Strength – Ballerinas are athletes with a great amount of physical strength (and stamina). Parenting too requires strength – of all kinds – to get through some tough times, to be consistent, to teach the hard lessons, to not give in to kids’ every want even when it would be easier because we’re exhausted.
Gracefulness – Ballet is a graceful art form with soft, flowing, dreamy movements. Ballerinas are poised, polished, and well postured. As parents, we too need to be graceful (e.g., saying “no” with poise and style). We need to keep our cool under pressure, and smoothly transition from one task or activity to the next. Along with this, a little theatrical ability also helps.
Coordination – For ballerinas, this involves physical coordination, being able to move their bodies just right in space, to music. For parents, it involves direction, organization, and the ability to handle many tasks, wear many hats, and get things done harmoniously.
Balance – Ballerinas have to have incredible balance to be able to perform many steps. For parents, we have to find balance in lots of things: between being strict and lenient, or, nurturing yet firm. We need to find balance in our own lives by taking some time for ourselves – a little pampering, or a date night, or maybe even joining friends at the local “barre” (I couldn’t resist a lame attempt at ballet humor).
Ability to Learn Quickly – Ballerinas need to be able to quickly learn ballet sequences and routines. For parents, we are constantly learning about parenting, about our own children, about the different ages and stages – how to feed and change a baby, how to childproof the house, how to get through the toddler years, getting our kids to do homework, and how to deal with a teenager.
On Pointe – Also called “En Point,” for ballerinas this term means “on the tip,” or, dancing on their toes (with toe shoes). As parents, we also need to “be on our toes,” or, alert and ready for anything.
Just like ballerinas, we are passionate about what we do. So, we work hard, we enjoy the process, and revel in the rewards of parenthood. And maybe someday, when our children are grown up, we can take a gracious bow (or curtsy).