I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas

The performance side of parenting

Some careers lend themselves well to the joys of parenting. Musical theater isn't one of them.

Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas of LaGrange realized something would have to shift even before her now almost-two-year-old Devin was a glimmer in her or her husband's eye. She had graduated a music and performance major from Greensboro College in North Carolina and spent years working repertory theaters as an actor, singer and dancer. Her husband came from a similar background (she recruited him into her program at Greensboro). At a certain point they realized it was time to settle down.

"We moved home, and now live in the house I grew up in with my mother, who lives with us and takes care of Devin most days," Dvozenja-Thomas says of her story as a mother. "I got a master's degree in public administration from Marist College and have been working as the marketing and development coordinator at Arts Mid-Hudson, the region's main arts group, since 2015."

It was around then that Melissa's father passed away. A little over a year after she started her career as an arts administrator, her son was born.

Holding on to her old life, making sense of her new one
How much of her and her husband's old life has Dvozenja-Thomas kept as a parent?

"We go to KinderMusic at Dutchess Community College, where Devin quickly came out of his shell. He's got fantastic dance moves, and loves to bop and sway to Baby Shark, anything from Frozen (especially the trolls song), and has taken a liking to my childhood fave, Fraggle Rock," she answers. "He's not a singer, although he sure loves to yell. But he loves it when his father and I sing and dance!"

Such times are great connectors, given Dvozenja-Thomas' full-time career.

"My mom is his preschool program; they're best friends. And I can recognize things in her relationship with my son from my own childhood. She doesn't ever overstep her bounds and shows a great selflessness," she adds, albeit without any sense of regret or loss. "I grew up the youngest of five; if it was solely my choice we'd have tons of children but my husband kind of grew up as an only child. When we decided we were ready to have our first, it made sense to give up our lives of odd jobs and settle into careers."

Parenting, working, finding support
Melissa started in her position at Arts Mid-Hudson early enough before starting a family to be able to handle a six-week maternity leave.

"Everyone at work has been so supportive. Two of my colleagues have been through the working mom thing; everyone has advice, and are there for me and Devin as he grows up," she adds. "Devin's turned out fantastic. He loves everyone at work, especially my colleague's kids, and everyone feels they're getting to watch him grow up."

Dvozenja-Thomas has also found that speaking about parenting during the networking side of her work helps bond when others can talk about their young children.

"Parenting while working has deepened my sense of communion with the world," she says. "Yes, it's hard being away from him, or when we connect through Facetime, he and I, or both of us with his father when he's away. But I also get away-time. It's a balance and a way of maintaining energy."

The ultimate balance
Speaking of energy, Melissa talks about how active Devin was while still in the womb. She laughs at how people would talk about how kids grow up to be what they were pre-birth. Then she laughs even more to recall how she herself has always been likened to an Energizer Bunny for her go-go-go personality.

Does Dvozenja-Thomas, or her husband, miss their theater days?

She answers by speaking about how one performs as a parent... but then pauses.

"It's a balance, again. It feels right to always be doing what's best for your kid, while also empowering oneself," she answers. "I learn something new every day, from my husband, from Devin, from my mother."

And herself, as a mother and a professional.

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley.

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