Perspective

2 01 2019

Having children has been the greatest gift to my life. And to my work as an actress. I was warned often about the perils of having kids when you are an actress throughout my earlier life. Initially, it was some who thought that I couldn’t really be BOTH a great artist and a mother. Later on, I was actually told that it would cripple my budding acting career if I ever even mentioned having children – because at my particular stage in my career it would be seen as a nuisance. That is probably true. But when I tell you that I would not be able to access what I now access as an actress without the birth of my two kids – know that THIS is what is really TRUE.

The touching stories you hear about actors bringing their babies to set, having them nearby to snuggle or breastfeed between scenes are wonderful, and I have great joy in my heart for those actors who are well known enough to have enjoyed that privilege. For the average working actor, however, that is a luxury never afforded to them. I understand why, it isn’t feasible to have every parent of a toddler, or baby, bring the kids to work! But for lower level actors this often means being away from their newborns (even!) for weeks at a time. As a supporting character, or recurring character, we actors are often traveling away from home for work, and so even the joy of coming home from work to our families is not a possibility.

I worked with an actor once who had a newborn, and we spoke quite a bit on set about the heartache that comes with leaving your littlest ones to pursue your art. Since this actor was the leading character, the production – which was quite progressive for the time – was making sure the actor’s schedule was flexible and very respectful to their need to be with their newborn. The actor’s family had moved to the town we were working in temporarily, so that this actor did not have to rely on strangers to help with the newborn while the work was going on. I didn’t tell this actor that I, too, had a very young baby thousands of miles away that I was missing. I didn’t want them to feel guilty, because ultimately, we have the same struggle.

But I think about all the actors who have chosen to have children, and I see the richness of this struggle and the depth of this experience in their work. And the same is true for me. As with all aspects of life, I find myself saying things to my kids in an effort to teach them, and within hours I find myself laughing about what I said. Laughing because the “wisdom” I am dispensing to my kids is something I need to hear and apply to my own life as well.

Is it Alice in Wonderland who said, “I give myself very good advice but very seldom follow it?”

The most recent grain of wisdom I found flying back into my face surrounded this:

One of my kids got the retro Nintendo game for Christmas. It has something like 37 games on it, MARIO BROTHERS, CASTLEVANIA, basically, all my favorite games from way back on one machine. We had Christmas at my parent’s house this year (they live in the same town), so he opened the gift there fairly early in the day.

As the day went on, all the cousins wanted to play his Nintendo… and he got fed up with having to share. This is an unusual change for my son, he is generally very generous, but by the end of the day he was beside himself with all the requests from his cousins to play. Once it was clear the kids were losing their collective shit we decided to pack it up and head home for the night.

On the drive home, he was still brooding and even a bit weepy about it. I told him, “Buddy, you have got to maintain perspective on this! I know you just got this game, and you want it all to yourself, but YOU decided to play with it at the grandparent’s house. If you do that, you have to expect that the other kids are going to want to play too! You need to keep the perspective that, yes, you will have to share this for a FEW HOURS today, but once we are home, it is YOURS and you can play to your heart’s content! This time where you have to share it is FINITE (explained what finite meant) and after that, it’s all yours. So, get some perspective.”

He understood and adjusted his attitude.

Later on that night, as I started to panic about this coming year, and the work that may or may not be afforded me as an actor, and what may or may not happen with the TV series I have written or the film I’ve written I started cracking up. I mean, you could probably make a 2 hour film by now, using the graveyard of audition tapes I have made over the last few years call it, ALL THE THINGS SHE NEVER BOOKED. I have circled the globe in pursuit of financiers, networks, all the people I need to make my series or film happen. And I sat there boiling in this stew of disappointment without…. guess what? Perspective.

I remember when my son was born 10 years ago. When he was an infant, he was a horrible sleeper. He slept no more than 1.5 hours at a stretch for nearly the first year of his life. On a day when I felt like I might throw myself off of the roof, I called my Mom in a panic. “I can’t keep doing this! I can’t! I am losing my mind!” My Mom said, “it isn’t always going to be like this Ann.” Perspective.

It isn’t always going to be like this. Thanks for the lesson Mom. And thank you God for my kids.


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