There are no official statistics on this but I would estimate that the piano teaching industry is at least 85% women. Which means that many of us at some point will come across the question of how to take maternity leave from teaching piano.
There’s no off-the-rack solution for maternity leave which is going to work for every mum who’s teaching piano. That’s why I’m delighted to bring you 5 different perspectives on how to take piano teacher maternity leave in this post. I hope one of them inspires the perfect solution for you and your growing family.
From Geri Green: Hire Outside Teachers
For all 3 of my babies, I have taken 4 months of maternity leave starting roughly 3-4 weeks before the due date. In Australia, this made sense as this is the amount of time we’re eligible for paid maternity leave from the government (meaning no teaching piano during this time).
For babies no. 1 and 2, I arranged another teacher to take over my students – including the full fee and all student communication.
However, for baby no. 3 (6months ago), I hired teachers and took a 40% cut. This time, I arranged lessons plans in advance, kept in contact with the teacher and the student and managed all the admin.
The transition back to teaching post-maternity leave was made easier because I was still teaching online due to the coronavirus pandemic. I was able to keep my baby close and return to teaching without the guilt and despair of leaving my baby for long periods of time.
Geri Green lives and teaches in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Read more from Geri at theevolvingpianist.com.
From Candace Hamm: Consider a Shorter Maternity Leave
My approach to maternity leave while teaching piano was unique compared to many stories I have heard.
I taught until I had been in labour for two hours, took four weeks off to recover, and then returned to work full time in my 65-student studio. Factors in our decision included:
- My husband deciding to take parental leave to care for our son
- My love for teaching
- My students’ needs
- My salary compared to my husband’s
Because of the decision to keep my maternity leave short, I found communication to be simple from the very beginning in August, when I notified them of my pregnancy prior to lessons starting up for the year.
I kept student families updated on our plan and backup plan (in case of a slow recovery), and arranged for a substitute instructor for those who wished. Most students chose to take the month off.
Part of the decision to return to work so soon after giving birth certainly stemmed from a lack of paid maternity leave and lost income. But in hindsight, I have no regrets and would do similarly with another leave.
I encourage thinking outside the box with maternity leave, basing your decision on your own unique needs and in conversation with your health practitioner and partner.
Candace hails from the in Winnipeg area in Manitoba, Canada. You can follow Candace on Instagram.
From Gemma Wilkins: Leverage Government Benefits
I have taken maternity leave twice in the last three years, and formally notified families about my pregnancy at about the 20-week mark.
Both times I hoped to find a temporary teacher to fill in, but where I live music teachers are already maxed out and it just wasn’t possible.
I intended on doing some packs for students, giving them extra assignments to work on. However, I quickly realised that would only work for a handful of highly-motivated students, so I simply allowed my lessons to wrap up naturally, promising to see students in a few months on the other side.
I live in Australia where there is an 18-week paid parental leave benefit available from the government. Both times, I’ve used that as my guide to taking time off with no promise of an exact return date. There are many countries which offer a paid parental leave arrangement. If there’s one where you live, check your eligibility and try to get it. It’s a relief to know something will be coming in while you let your body recover.
In addition to the paid parental leave, once I found out I was pregnant I diverted about $100 a week so that I’d be able to pay myself after the government payments finished. This meant I had some savings to cover any tight weeks, and I had flexibility with return dates.
There isn’t much I would change about the time I took off and how I went about it. Both times I made sure I was enthusiastic and energised to be back teaching, which I think was the best outcome for me and my students.
Gemma teaches in the regional town of Mudgee in New South Wales, Australia. You can read more from Gemma on her Facebook page.
From Shelly Davis: Extend the Traditional Holiday Break
My husband and I have four children, three of whom had the courtesy to be born in August or May (before or after peak piano season). Our last child, however, made up for the other three.
Our daughter Tracy was born in November. In addition to arriving just before the holidays, Tracy was born with a serious heart defect: Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. She would require open-heart surgery days after birth along with a lengthy hospital stay. We knew about her heart condition before she was born, which allowed me to plan my teaching schedule differently than I normally would.
Traditionally, my studio is closed during the 4th week of November for the Thanksgiving holiday. I then teach 2 weeks in December, with the third week reserved for piano parties (i.e. performance classes.) With this pregnancy, I informed my piano families ahead of time that the fall semester would end one month early. Of course I did not charge students for that last month of the semester; however many families still sent their tuition payment as a gift to our family.
My students and families were very gracious during that unusual fall semester, and I was glad to have been able to plan it the way I did. They were just as understanding again the following April when Tracy required a second heart surgery.
We didn’t have a Christmas recital or Spring recital that year, and I missed several weeks of teaching and income, but the relationships I built with those students and their parents during that time was an incredible blessing.
Shelly comes from the Tyler area of Texas, USA. Check out her podcast at www.PianoParentPodcast.com.
From Jenny Boster: Prepare materials Ahead of time
Figuring out how to take a maternity leave as a self-employed piano teacher can be a tricky balance, but there are so many things you can do to help your students to continue to progress until regular lessons resume.
When my youngest was born I took two (very needed) months off. Before baby came, I put together individualized binders for each student. Each binder had some fun at-level repertoire they could work through on their own, an exciting challenge piece, and some easier pieces they could sight-read. I also included a few piano games and theory worksheets.
I kept tabs on their practice through a practice app and even held a practice challenge during that time. I also offered the opportunity for them to pass off pieces for me via the Marco Polo app a couple of times per month.
Since my baby arrived in early December (and actually came two weeks early!), I had planned a pre-recorded, online Christmas recital which students and families could watch on their own time. I charged a slightly discounted rate for those two months, but I still had an income and my students were still able to progress.
My advice: Definitely take some time off, but be creative and find fun ways to keep your students progressing until you’re ready to go back to lessons.
Jenny lives in Farr West, UT, USA. Learn more from her at www.theplayfulpiano.com.
How did you approach maternity leave?
Was your experience different than these? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And for more help with planning and communication, visit my hub page devoted entirely to the business side of your teaching studio.