Life, Interrupted: The Circus Mom

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Why you should care

Because maternity leave is what you make of it.

In August 2014, maternity photos of professional aerialist and Circus Warehouse co-founder Michelle Arvin went viral. The photographs, taken by her friend Rachael Shane, featured Michelle practicing on the trapeze while she was 38 weeks pregnant. Michelle was asked to go on the Today show to talk about the photographs, but when the day came, she was a no-show.

She had a good reason, though: She was going into labor. While the TV hosts debated the risk factor of Michelle’s training habits, the aerialist welcomed her son, Lucca, into the world. “I thought that coming back after the fact would be that much easier if I continued to train as long as I could,” says Michelle. “Also, I just saw no reason not to.” Three years later, Lucca remains a part of Michelle’s circus life.

Michelle’s job is multifaceted. She teaches classes in aerial arts and trains at Circus Warehouse, performs and basically does whatever she needs to do to keep the school in Long Island City, New York, going. “The fact that the Warehouse is in existence is kind of amazing given that we live in this city and in this economic climate,” says Michelle. “The fact that we’ve been able to keep it going for as long as we have is kind of amazing.”

Pursuing her passion has always been a part of Michelle’s path, and it’s even more important to her now that she’s a mother. “I hope that [Lucca] sees that going to work doesn’t have to be a life of drudgery, or just a means to an end. I want him to realize that that’s not the only path,” she says.

For three to five days a week, Lucca hops on the seat attached to Michelle’s bicycle after a morning filled with questions and breakfast and accompanies her to Circus Warehouse. “He’s everything,” Michelle tells me. “Having him around makes me rethink the way that I see the world. There are so many questions, so many random things … his sheer excitement about every aspect of life is infectious. When the time comes, I want him to do the thing that feels right for him to do. I think he’ll have a lot of choices.”

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