How do you manage morning sickness and maternity leave when you’re self-employed? Two expectant vocal coaches share their stories on juggling pregnancy and singing teaching.
Keeping a singing studio afloat can be demanding at the best of times, but even more so if you’re pregnant. Who covers for you if you’re ill? And when should you tell students you’ll be taking leave?
BAST Training spoke to Sarah Joyce and Cat Ogden to learn how they’re dealing with these challenges. Sarah is a pro singer, actress, choir leader and vocal coach expecting her first child (conceived after IVF treatment). Cat is a vocal coach with a special interest in mental health and is expecting baby number two.
Teaching while pregnant
While some expectant mothers sail through pregnancy without a hitch, others, like Cat, have a tougher time. Cat suffered Hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) during the early stages of her pregnancy.
“It was relentless,” she says. “I was sick up to 20 times a day and hospitalised twice. But because I’m self-employed, there isn’t anyone else who can pick up my lessons. And there’s no sick pay, so it was a case of just grinding through it. I put breaks in either side of lessons to help manage the nausea.
“Luckily, because my singing lessons are all about my students and their vocal journey, I could mostly dissociate from that awful feeling of constant nausea.”
Sarah describes her experience with IVF as an “emotional, tricky rollercoaster”. “Some days were challenging, and I did have to reduce my workload,” she says.
“For me waiting to start IVF was more difficult emotionally than actually starting IVF. Teaching was a nice distraction from it all. I was lucky to have clients that had been with me for years, so I gave them a heads-up and explained that I might need to chop and change lessons. Everybody was fantastic.”
Telling students and planning leave
“There’s the dread of saying,’ I’m pregnant’ and worrying that everyone’s just going to drop and run,” admits Cat.
“And there’s the whole wait until you are 12 weeks thing [before you tell people you’re pregnant]. But I told many of my students before then, especially when I was in hospital – I respect them too much to lie.”
Cat returned to work four months after having her son Alfie, but she plans to take things a little slower this time. “I want to go headfirst into being with the baby and seeing my little boy become a big brother, so I don’t know what teaching will look like at the other end,” she says.
“I’ve spent a lot of time during this pregnancy getting teachers together to recommend my students on to. I’ve tried to think about each student’s personal journey and who will match them well. I don’t want my students to feel obliged to come back to me because it’s unlikely that I will teach in the evenings after maternity leave.”
Cat has also put a message on the landing page of her website announcing the commencement of her maternity leave.
Meanwhile, Sarah has been slowly building up her daytime teaching to make her schedule more conducive to parenthood. “I’ll keep some of my private clients, but I wanted to have more flexibility with the daytime slots. I have had a few inquiries recently about lessons, but you just have to be honest with people about your plans.”
Cat and Sarah are keen to point out that pregnancy has had its positives. “My lessons are better,” Sarah says. “I think I’m more relaxed and present. I love my job so much, and when you’re self-employed, you have the flexibility to change your schedule around to do what works for you.”
To listen to a full length interview with Cat Ogden and Sarah Joyce, tune into our podcast, Singing Teachers Talk , where the pair also discuss:
- The physical impact of pregnancy on the voice.
- Medications to reduce acid reflux.