Better Acting Through Motherhood: 6 Things You Can Do To Grow Your Talent While Raising Your Children

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Jessica Leigh Smith1Last time, I shared with you a confession about my life as a mom and an actress. Some of you thought it was daring and brave of me to say some of the things I said. I simply wanted to be honest. I think the online lives of other people can sometimes fool us into thinking that we are the only ones who don’t have it together. And I believe it is important for us to be vulnerable and honest with each other so we can inspire each other to live fuller, more peaceful lives.

The times that I am able to spend on my career are very fulfilling. I only wish I could do more of it because it’s fun; I enjoy every aspect of the acting career.

As we have established, I am severely limited in the moments I do get to spend on my career. However, I happen to be very good at managing my time and multitasking. Therefore, I have come up with a few things I can do with my girls that are actually ways of growing as an actress. I want to share my ideas with you and please, please, if you have some of your own, share with us all.

1) Story Time

We all know how incredibly important it is to read to your children. At minimum, they need one book a day. Three or four is even better. When you read to your children, breathe life into the characters. Give each character different personalities and voices. Your children will enjoy the book and will develop the essential lifetime love of reading. You, will be working on your characters.

The other benefit to story time is that you can also work on dialects. Are you trying to lose your regional dialect? Reading aloud every day is one exercise for this. While you’re reading the narration, focus on reading with no regional dialect.

If you have that down pat, use story time as a way to work on other dialects. Are you trying to nail down that southern voice? You better, because we in the south are very critical of actors who can’t do it properly.

2) Craft Time

I just now realized this one myself, so I will be implementing it this week. I’m not a big fan of crafts. I do have ability to recreate awesome Pinterest ideas. But I don’t have the materials! I have a large craft supply section in my kitchen for my daughters to use whenever they want. And, boy, do they.   But every time I go looking for a fun craft to do, I’m missing at least one item; it’s just too much hassle.

However, no one said my craft has to be great, or something I reproduce from someone else. My oldest is a craft queen. She loves creating nonsensical art. And after my latest visit to the High Museum of Atlanta, I’m about ready to send her art to them for display. It would fit right in.

(No joke, one guy has a huge display of stickers, glitter glue blobs, and pencil scribbles. One display was just a different colored shapes).

Moving on, are you working on a scene for class? Be that character and make art that character would make. Make a collage of things that speak to that character. Just don’t tell your kids you aren’t Mommy right now.

3) Creative Expression Time

Do your kids love to sing and dance? Mine do. Depending upon how far you want to go with this, you can use this time with your children to work on your own choreography.   Are you in a show and need to learn some steps? Practice at home with your kids. Do you just want to open yourself up creatively? Become free spirited by simply turning on the radio and seeing what happens. Find a song that relates to a scene you’re currently working on. Through all of this, you will also be exposing your little ones to different genres of music.

Are you a singer? Sing with your children. They’ll just be having fun; you’ll be working on your range. You will also be teaching your body how to relax and just have fun. We all need to learn to just let go when the time to perform arrives.

4) Play Time

Miss improv class? I do. I enjoy improv and I believe it makes us better actors. Here’s the thing about children—their entire world is improv. All you have to do is sit around with your children and come up with your own stories. Act them out. Ask yourselves questions and make up the answers. Get out the Barbies and go crazy.

5) Nature Time

My oldest has started preferring television to anything else, so sometimes I have to drag her outside. But once I do, she can’t be stopped. She’s a force, for sure. She is also the most observant little thing I have ever known. Even as an infant, many people commented how observant she was. You could see her taking in and absorbing her world. I thought that was just normal baby stuff until I had my second and saw the difference.

Her powers of observation have inspired me to notice more about my world. And here’s the thing–as actors, we are supposed to be highly observant. So, while taking nature walks or while playing at the park, we can strengthen our power of observation at the world around us.

6) Education Time

Another very important aspect of being an actor is to know a lot about history and literature. I believe a lot of actors ignore this. I don’t think it’s out of unwillingness to learn; I simply think we don’t realize how helpful it is to know, for example, who were the Allied forces in World War II. Or, what type of dance was popular in the 1920s? Why is that angel in that movie you’re auditioning for named Clarence? Does that influence the type of angel he is?

Knowing history, literature, and pop culture references enhance our ability to make strong choices in our roles. Sure, you can always research and you always should. But sometimes it may be subtle and you won’t know what or how to research. So, always keep learning.

This is something you may not be able to do very much with younger children, but with older children, you can learn together. I will be homeschooling my daughters and what I’m most excited about is the continued learning I will get to do through the process.

The added benefit is my daughters will see that learning doesn’t just happen Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., August through May. Through my example, they will find that learning is a lifelong process.

If you’re a mother, you are probably doing most, if not all, of these activities. What you may not have realized is how you can use these times in a focused manner that works on different aspects of your acting life. I hope this list inspires you to do that.   And I hope it sparks some of your own creative ideas. Please, if you have some, share them here so I can use them, too!

Of course, I wish to point out that above all else, the greatest benefit of this is that your children will grow up with memories of a mother who loved them enough to play.

 

Jessica Leigh Smith

About Jessica Leigh Smith

Jessica Leigh Smith can currently be seen running around town in her yoga pants, toting her two little girls everywhere she goes. Being a mommy has played into Jessica’s latest projects, Mommy Parodies. The first is a parody of a song from the movie Frozen, which has reached almost 40,000 views (and climbing) on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86FY-AEdizA. Jessica’s most notable acting roles are co-starring roles on One Tree Hill and Drop Dead Diva. Coincidentally, Jessica was toting her daughters in those roles as well, since she was pregnant both times. In addition to acting, Jessica has co-produced an educational series for actors, called The Dinner Project, putting actors and casting directors face to face. Episodes can be found at http://thedinnerprojectshow.com/. For more about Jessica, the actress, please visit her website, http://www.jessicaleighsmith.com/, and follow her on Twitter, @JessiLeighSmith.