Let's play a little word association game. I say pole dancer and you say, stripper? That's my guess, and it's a problem because our society has presented a limited view of the aerial arts. (Not that there's anything wrong with exotic dancing — no stripper-shaming here). Pole dancing, however and thankfully, has recently become more mainstream. People (women and men) are checking it out as a fun way to exercise, express themselves artistically, and get in touch with their sensual side. As it turns out, pole dancing prepares you for motherhood, too, so the benefits truly are endless.
I was first introduced to pole dancing at a bachelorette party. When the celebratory group showed up to the studio a little early, I watched a bit of the advanced class taking place before ours. Now, I wasn't very interested in the sexy stuff (just not my speed), but I really wanted to learn those badass Cirque de Soleil tricks the advanced class members were pulling off. I took the intro class and, well, advanced through several levels. I bought my own pole to train at home (I even took it when I moved to Honduras) and started performing with my studio's troupe, eventually competing. I loved seeing my body get strong, my teacher and mentor who pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of, and my pole community of badass women.
Once I got pregnant, I decided to quit pole dancing. Some women continue to pole while pregnant, but I was too sick and worried about potentially falling. Still, throughout my pregnancy and later as a new mom, I often found myself reflecting on the many ways pole dancing helped me prepare to be a mother, including the following:
It Gives You Strength
It's not an exaggeration to say pole fitness (if you really commit) can help you tone and strengthen muscles. That was certainly the case for me. All those muscles you're building while poling? Totally helpful in this mom business.
Your abs of steel will be a huge asset during childbirth, and you'll need those core muscles when caring for a newborn while simultaneously recovering from labor and delivery. The upper body strength it takes to haul your ass up a 16 foot pole? Yeah, that'll come in handy as you carry that sweet baby around (and the things that sweet baby comes with).
It Aids Your Endurance
As a pole dancer, you have to master passes that require incredible stamina. I would liken a full routine to a 3 1/2 minute sprint. So, when it's time for the breastfeeding Olympics, you'll be going for gold.
Plus, the dizziness you feel as a new mom is nothing compared to the dizziness you feel after inverting on a spinning pole. #ProTip
It Improves Your Flexibility
Even though I danced most of my life, I was never particularly flexible. Thanks to my pole instructor, I got my splits for the first time at the age of 32. You know what I wouldn't have been able to do without flexibility? Install a car seat. I have a tiny Corolla, and I have to bend my body in ridiculous ways to get that thing in. Thank you, pole.
It Helps With Your Balance
In order to master most if not almost all pole dance tricks, you have to develop balance. There's simply no other way you can hold yourself upside down using nothing more than your hand and a perfectly placed elbow.
That kind of ability makes balancing a toddler on your hip while cooking dinner and answering a work email, child's play (pun intended). Suddenly, managing a diaper bag, groceries, and keys with a kid strapped to your chest doesn't look quite so impossible.
It Promotes Body Positivity
Pole dancers come in all shapes and sizes, and I would argue that most of us don't tolerate body shaming of any sort. We love aerial pole because of how it makes us feel. The first time you butterfly or handspring on your own, you're amazed at what your body can do as opposed to what it looks like.
With all the negative messages from the media and the general public, our children need moms who are body positive.
It Can Help You Live A Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise is an important part of living a healthy life. The only way you improve as an aerialist, is through regular practice. That's a great example to set for your kids. You're showing them that mommy takes care of her body, and they can do that, too. Continuing to practice what you love is also good for your mental health, and because children's emotional states are often tied to their mother's, that's good for everybody.
It Provides You With Some Entertainment Value
Some people study pole just for themselves, but others love to perform. I'm in the latter category — I love the stage. When I was part of a pole dancing performance group, I played Sloth in a production of the seven deadly sins, a donut shop girl, and Pinocchio. You never know what role you'll be asked to take on as a pole performer.
So entertaining your baby? Piece of cake. My train spoon game is the business. Pulling faces is my specialty. When baby girl is crying while I'm trying to make dinner, my "shake your booty" dance never fails to make her laugh.
It Teaches You To Face Challenges Head On
The first time I tried to shoulder mount from a seated position, I pulled with all my strength and still only managed to grunt. After a few weeks, I cleared the floor by an inch. In another month, I got all the way up. In time, the trick that was my nemesis became my warm-up.
It Teaches You How To Respond To The Haters
As a pole dancer, you've heard it all. Slut-shaming is rampant and, sadly, some feminists say pole dancing perpetuates sexism. Others find it morally reprehensible. There's a stigma around pole dancing and, for better or worse, you learn to deal with it. You ignore it and keep on keeping on, or you hit back with some education about what pole dancing is really about. The important thing is that you feel empowered.
This attitude comes in handy when you're a mom, because you will suddenly find yourself subjected to unsolicited advice and even harsh judgment about your parenting. Whether you decide to co-sleep or cry it out, breastfeed or formula feed, you own your decisions. No matter what you do, there will be haters, so you do you.
It Gives You Confidence
Pole dance can make you feel sexy, strong, and powerful, and in no time at all you're reminded that you are a woman to be reckoned with. Just like you know you will eventually get your jade split flat, you know that you're going to be a great mom.
It may not be easy, but in the end, hard work will pay off. In pole and parenting, alike.