Lights, camera…oh crap I can’t find a babysitter.
This is often how my daydreams come to a grinding halt. Inspired by reality, as a mummy to three and an actor even when I visualise success, my own world pops the dream. My reality is not a bad reality by any means. In fact, I consider myself rather fortunate. However, my chosen career path does have its obstacles as most of them do but I am here to tell you about mine.
Having kids and working be it part time or full time is always a juggle. Having kids and working full time as a mummy is always a juggle as well. So throw in a career that is last minute, involves castings that are unpaid though childcare must be paid, combined with a husband who has an almost equally unpredictable schedule you get a healthy number of obstacles. The best part of obstacles though, is learning how to jump higher than them, run around them or know when to accept that some you simply cannot overcome.
My agents are lovely. They put me forward for jobs and when I get a casting, these can be anywhere from 3 a week 1 a week or 1 a month. Either way, the casting details are usually emailed the day before. The majority of them are in London and inevitably I will need childcare in some form. First reaction is ‘woo-hoo a casting’ followed by ‘arrrg what if I can’t find childcare’ Then my impatience grips me as I stand waiting for the childminder to text back her answer. I fret. I mean really, isn’t-2 mins far too long to have to wait for an answer? This is my career, my life my….*thought/rant interrupted by affirmative text stating childcare is possible’*. Relief sets in; I call my agents and say I can go. I read the casting brief, prepare my outfit and finally breathe. The next day, once the kids are safely at school I get ready and make my way to the station. The train is peaceful. My coffee is uninterrupted and Grazia is my reading material of choice. Not very advanced I know but it doesn’t add extra strain to my already overloaded brain. The commute to the casting is one of the biggest perks to my job. A 30min journey on a train during off peak hours all by myself. I don’t need to worry about finding room on the carriage with space for buggies nor do I need to growl and snarl at the people who ignore me and continue to sit in the flappy seats while I stand with my buggy ‘accidently’ running over their toes.
At the casting I get the usual nerves, compare myself to the other actors in the room, realise we are all doing the same thing, smile say good luck. There was one time when a young model said how she was at a loss because she only had the one casting that day and had nothing else to do. She felt unproductive and it was a bit of a waste coming in to town for just the one. The other mummies in the room all had a communal gasp and looked at one another in solidarity. For we all knew, that this casting wasn’t just a casting, it wasn’t just a chance to show the casting director our talents for potential paid work. It was also our little escape from the house, a break, a chance to wear make-up, have a coffee that didn’t get cold or that didn’t involve a competitive coffee morning. Read a book or e-hem Grazia. They were sacred. A moment of silence. All hail the casting.
The casting comes and goes. On the way home I ruminate about the casting as most actors do. Some don’t’. I admire them. My rumination tends to go something like this; Did I blink during my ident? Did my eyes cross? Was I believable in my dismay at burnt toast? Then my mummy reality hits and it is “arrg I’m running late. Child care has just rolled over into another hr. I’m stuck on a bus and need to get food for dinner before picking them up but now I am out of time.
I mentioned obstacles earlier. Here they are. Sometimes, I can’t find child care so I have to bring my 4yr old with me and hope I friend can collect my older two from school. If this isn’t’ possible I need to see if I can negotiate the casting time so it finishes in time for me to get back to do the school run but also with enough time for me to collect my 4yr old from morning nursery. He also models so he is used the casting studio and he is so lively I don’t ‘have time for nerves. The nerves can shift from I hope I get the booking to I hope they don’t’ run late so I can collect my kids on time. However, I know this sound selfish, but this means Spider man comics take the place of Grazia, the coffee will be cold and most often spilled, and the planned attack on people sitting in the flappy seats must be organised for my buggy, my son and his Trunkie full of dinosaurs.
One time I had a casting in Kent. It was being held in a conference room at a hotel and one this day I had one child off school with a non- life threatening illness and the other didn’t have nursery that day. I rang my agents in a panic and they soothed my nerves by reassuring me the kids could come with me.
Flash forward to casting. In the room is the casting director, some other people another actor playing my husband, the kids and me. We are asked to improvise a normal morning before work. The scene ends in a kiss goodbye, well a peck really. The kids gasp. Panic sets in. They will return home and that night tell daddy of how mummy took us to a hotel, a man kissed her and we were told he was just an actor. The therapy bills for the kids are already adding up.
Reading this you might think but why do it? Why not work at John Lewis and do am-dram in the evening? I could do this but I don’t’. I love what I do. I enjoy castings and the spontaneous nature of my job means I don’t’ get bored or feel trapped at home. I can choose my schedule as well. If it is a hectic week I can block out days with my agents. A few shoot days can be equal to a few months of other work so I can concentrate get my work days over the course of a few days. As deranged as it sounds, I hope the kids can see that you can work and be a mum without missing out on their lives very much at all. If you love something that involves hard work, keep doing it as you will find a way to make it work. If you can’t it is okay to step back. (I m not the sole income earner which makes a huge difference as well I must add) As hard as it is because in the blink of an eye another chance can crop up. One of the kids said the other day ’Mum can you go into to London soon and have your picture taken so we can go to the child minder? She has cool toys.’ I think the kids are cool with it all When I do get a booking it is all worth it though this sets the wheels in motion again with the same stress of can I find a childminder, what if the kids are sick on shoot day, will I pay more in child care than I earn …..