Nicole Baker is kicking up her heels in the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes for her 15th season. But when Baker leaves Radio City Music Hall at the end of her workday, she hops on a train to Upper Saddle River, New Jersey and starts her second job…as a mom of four.
The Rockettes perform up to 14 90-minute shows per week each November and December. They precisely memorize choreography, songs, onstage travel patterns, and backstage costume changes. (One of their costume changes must be completed in just 78 seconds!)
To take care of themselves during their grueling performance season, many Rockettes train with physical therapists, take ice baths and get lots of rest. But what happens when your “downtime” involves sibling squabbles, carpools, and homework?
PureWow spoke with Baker to find out how she is navigating the Christmas chaos…
PureWow: How old are your kids?
Baker: Nate is 11, Zac is 9, Olivia is almost 7, and Alex is 3.
PureWow: What does a typical morning look like for you during the Christmas season?
Baker: I wake up at 6:15am, and I get myself ready. Alex is usually in my bed these days, so he gets up with me. I wake everybody up by 6:45 and then they get dressed. I get lunches ready, I get snacks ready, I line up their water bottles with their lunches and their backpacks, and the final touch is putting a mask on top of each water bottle. Can’t forget that!
PureWow: How does everyone get to school?
Baker: On the days I have early shows, I get everyone ready and I leave around 7:20 to go to the train. On the days I have later shows, I’m able to take the kids to school, which is really nice.
PureWow: Who does all of the after school running around while you’re working?
Baker: I have a nanny who helps me with the afterschool craziness. I also have some moms in my town that help me carpool the kids from school to sports and dance. And then my nanny will pick them up because I don’t get home from the city until 6:30.
PureWow: What sorts of activities do the kids do?
Baker: My boys have soccer, football, and basketball. And Zac had baseball. Olivia has dance four days a week. And they have Hebrew school. I signed Alex up for an activity but he never went because I could never figure out how to get him there. [laughs]
PureWow: How do you keep all of these schedules together?
Baker: [laughs] I have calendars but the system is not always working—the schedules are just so overwhelming! I have my main big calendar at home with everything written down on it. A lot of the kids’ sports schedules now automatically sync to my phone calendar. But I’m such a hands-on person that I like writing things down in a smaller calendar I carry with me. But that smaller calendar…I haven’t put all of the information in there so it’s really not doing me any good!
PureWow: Because you can’t exactly bring your cell phone onstage, you are legitimately unavailable for chunks of the day. If someone needs to get in touch with you about the kids, what happens?
Baker: So, it’s funny because all my kids have iPads and they have an iCloud account so they can text and call me themselves. And Nate…we got him a cell phone this year because he’s in middle school. And so, funny enough…slash not funny…they call me constantly. I’ll step offstage or in my breaks between shows and find they left me a ton of messages. I’m like, “Oh my goodness, will you please stop calling me?” [laughs] I have told them that if it’s an emergency, I cannot answer and so they should text Daddy or text the nanny.
PureWow: There was no Christmas Spectacular last year because of the pandemic. What did you do instead? How did you stay in shape?
Baker: I took a ton of dance classes at home. At one point, the kids were only in school in person for two hours in the morning. So I would pick them up, bring them home, and they would be on Zoom classes while I took a 1pm virtual dance class. There were definitely some times when I was so frustrated and mad that I just, like, left the class. I was trying to do a good thing, but I wasn't really focused. It’s hard to turn on a carpet, I've got toys all around me I'm getting nauseous from trying to spot a blank wall…it just felt like this was not working. But then there were days when it was perfect. Like, it couldn't have been any better.
PureWow: Did you do any other training?
Baker: I did voice lessons once a week and I tried to keep myself going as best as I could. And honestly, if it wasn’t for Covid, I never would have taken this many dance classes. I took the most dance classes I’ve ever taken since I moved from the city because I had the time. And it was so accessible. It was just so easy. The teachers were very nice. They would comment on the toys or when I was holding Alex while trying to do the combination.
PureWow: Were there any other people in your virtual classes dealing with the same parent challenges?
Baker: I’m sure there were some other moms who did virtual dance class, but none in that particular class at that particular time. Just me!
PureWow: So what else did you do with yourself last December?
Baker: Lost my mind a little bit to be honest! Being home with everybody…as much as it was a crazy loony bin, it was nice to have that time with them. And for Alex, he got time with his brothers and sister that he would never have had before. That was really special because otherwise they would have been in school all day and Alex wouldn’t have hung out with them as much. So, for the kids…even though they fought like crazy, they also bonded.
PureWow: Was your husband working from home as well?
Baker: Yes. He was upstairs, so he wasn’t helpful in [a hands-on] way, but he was here and he got to experience what my daily life was like. He got to appreciate the chaos and hear the kids shouting, “I did well on my test!” My family spent a lot of quality time together, and it was not always happy. But you accept those crazy moments and appreciate the good times, you know?
PureWow: Speaking of crazy moments…I heard you had some craziness on Opening Night?
Baker: Yeah, I had a cold run through my house. And [the Rockettes] had Opening Night and then a performance on The Today Show the next day. That back-to-back schedule hasn’t happened in a long time. It was so exciting, but so exhausting. And it was hard because Alex wasn’t really feeling his best at home. So I got home from Opening Night between 10 and 11pm, I didn’t sleep well [because I was worried], and then I woke up at 3:30 in the morning to get ready for The Today Show. I felt so torn [about leaving Alex]. In those moments, no matter what you choose, it doesn’t always work out. But it was okay. I managed.
PureWow: How many other Rockettes have kids at home?
Baker: We’re growing! Let’s see…there are six of us this year.
PureWow: You were doing the show long before you had kids. So how is it different now that you have basically two full-time jobs?
Baker: Well, I always say to other performers who want to have a baby that we’re all tired. Whether you’re a single person, whether you just sing in the show, or whether you’re a Rockette mom, everyone gets tired. It’s all relative, right? So I don’t feel any different.
The most challenging part for me is the scheduling. Like, I have six people’s schedules in my head that I have to keep straight. That’s the thing making me more tired…making sure that nobody’s missing an activity or nobody’s missing their homework or I’m not forgetting what I’m doing on which days. It just adds a different level of stress.
PureWow: On the scheduling front, how does your family schedule in holiday celebrations while you’re performing?
Baker: We celebrate Hannukah. Luckily, I’m in the Rockette cast that does the earlier shows each day, so I can actually be home for Hanukkah every night except one. So I can be home to celebrate with the kids, which is really nice.
PureWow: Have your kids seen the show this year?
Baker: Not yet!
PureWow: When are they coming?
Baker: They’re coming in December for sure. But I know they’re dying to see it before then. So I have to figure out a day when they don’t have activities so I can get them into the city.
PureWow: What do they like best about the show?
Baker: You know what? They just want cotton candy, to be honest. [laughs] They just want the cotton candy from the lobby at Radio City. I’m like, “What about me?!”
PureWow: Do you have the coolest job out of any of your kids’ friends’ parents?
Baker: [laughs] They all seem to say I do! You know, it’s funny, now that the kids are older, they’re just more aware of what I do. And at Olivia’s dance studio, a lot of her friends are coming to see me this year. So it’s fun!
The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes runs from now through January 2nd.