by Marimba Gold Watts
Recently I read an article in the New York Times that discussed how the pandemic is taking women out of the workforce. Families are forced to choose between staying home to provide childcare and virtual education and maintaining employment. The burden seems to fall disproportionately on women throughout the globe. There is an unspoken expectation that women will take care of the kids, a large chunk of the housework, and keep their career going.
The Pilates industry is predominantly female. On top of that, many of us have been unable to operate as usual for months. Even if we are open, the volume of clients has dramatically decreased. Week after week I hear of studios closing, and not just new studios. Those of us who have been around for years are faced with the realities of the new economy, along with additional family responsibility. It’s increasingly challenging to keep a studio running. Many of us will have to pivot our careers dramatically and not all of us will continue in our chosen profession of Pilates teachers. I wonder how this will shape the pilates industry in the coming years?
I closed my Pilates studio early in June. I work primarily with the performing arts community in New York City. Theaters went dark meaning most of my clients were going to be out of work for a long time. I knew I couldn’t hang on for very long. With the closure came a huge loss of identity. I was used to being a busy studio owner. All of a sudden the momentum of the last 8years of my life building a business ground to a halt. I’ve spoken to other owners who have made the decision to close since then. While all of us feel relieved not having to navigate the financial and health burden of staying open, we also experience a huge loss. Some are embracing the opportunity to pivot, some feel bereft. I personally oscillate between the two.
While I am thrilled to be able to stay home with my son, I also miss going to the studio, interacting with clients, running a business, feeling the pride of ownership. My zoom calls are my major connection to the outside world. I miss the bustling energy of the studio after a mat class and the peaceful quiet before the first client of the day.
Before the pandemic, I ran a modestly successful wellness business with my husband in NYC. I taught 35 hours a week, cooked elaborate farmers market slow-food meals from scratch, trained in martial arts 4 times a week, saw friends, went to the ballet. Then I had a baby and the birth coincided with massive shut-downs across the country. Now that I am a stay-at-home mom (while running a business remotely), the days go by quickly. Instead of relishing the forward momentum I am used to, I am reframing my reality around smaller (but not less significant) accomplishments; the fact that I have literally been by my son’s side for all but a few hours of his life, or finished a book, or cooked a wholesome meal with an 8-month-old on my hip. Things I never would have thought twice about, much less acknowledged, in this new reality, feel like major accomplishments. Like many others, I find it extremely difficult to manage the challenges of redirecting my career online while also having to manage full-time childcare. To combat the overwhelm, some friends and I started an informal pilates teacher/mom group over WhatsApp (we are in different countries) where we constantly discuss how to make it work. We give each other advice and ask questions. Whether to take a 30-minute break and nap or work on a website? Write a course, or actually do some Pilates? They all seem like luxuries these days, and I know I am not the only one grappling with these challenges.
With so many studios closing their doors and moving online, and so many mothers being forced to scale back their professional careers, what does that mean for the industry? I’d like to think that it means the content being created will be more intentional and well-thought-out, less slap-dash, as the market narrows. I know that I have seen a lot of instructors finally sitting down to write that course, make that tutorial they’ve always imagined, or start an online studio. I’m seeing teachers, previously at the fringes for various reasons, debuting courses, appearing on podcasts, speaking at events, and starting virtual subscription services. A huge part of that is directly due to a long-overdue movement towards creating a more inclusive industry in regard to race, body diversity, sexual orientation, socioeconomics…
While I still regret how much talent and opportunities in this industry might be lost because other responsibilities must take priority, I have noticed that this “pause” has also created space for more effective dialogue about how we can reshape the industry
moving forward. This largely female profession is being challenged in a myriad of new ways, but I hope that many of us will figure out how to reframe and rebalance our responsibilities, continue to serve our clients, and contribute to the industry at large. And maybe, in the midst of everything, have time for a roll-up or two.
You can find Marimba Gold Watts at www.Articulatingbody.com and on Instagram @articulatingbody
A graduate of Barnard College, Marimba Gold-Watts is the 2018 Winner of the Next Pilates Anytime Instructor Contest. Formerly a professional dancer, she began studying Pilates in 1999. She completed her Pilates certification at The Kane School of Core Integration under the direction of Kelly Kane in 2007. From 2010-2011, Marimba was a teacher trainer for The Kane School of Core Integration in the Comprehensive Mat and Equipment Certification programs.