Actors’ Issues #8 : Accepting the Role of Motherhood

8
Proof: me as a 2015 IAWTV Awards Nom for Best Actress in a Comedy in April. Plus bump.

Proof: me as a 2015 IAWTV Awards Nom for Best Actress in a Comedy in April. Plus bump.

Hey gang, I’m pregnant!

Don’t think I didn’t laugh to myself as I typed this article after realizing that it happens to be coming after my last article entitled The Naked Code. Total coincidence, I promise, tho a hilarious one.

Also, let me assure you, that even though I am a married, relatively-secure lady well into the years for which child bearing is no longer possibly construed as “scandalous,” that, a full five months into this journey (flowy shirts FTW!), I STILL bit my nails down to nubbins when I had to announce that fact to the world (via THIS video). And to my agents – eek! (I should tell you tho, that those fears were needless, the auditions have slowed but the reps themselves were great about it.)

Why was I so nervous? Because I’m an actress, and while I’m hardly the first or only one to also be a parent, it does cause some unique-to-this-profession world upheaval. When your work isn’t a chore so much as a life’s passion you gleefully pursue, something that defines you, and for which you’ve worked hard to gain momentum in, it is dang scary to pump the breaks.

Many of my friends who are also moms keep insisting how the second I hold this little guy my priorities will change and I won’t care an iota about my work. They don’t seem to see the blood drain from my face when they say this. It drains more as they talk about how great it is to let the rat race go and just be with your little one.

But… but… I love the race. A lot.

Rather than put me at ease, as I know they mean to, the thought of giving into the rush of hormones and letting my career go makes me worry that I could resent the reason I have to (something I definitely don’t want to do) or won’t be able to get back into the swing of things later. *Muppet arm flail!*

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a very human side of me that can see how taking a break, especially one that no one would find fault with or call “giving up,” could be very attractive. This industry is insane. The pressures are ridiculous. Half the people involved are bonkers and the pace and instability are mind-numbing. A break could be nice. It feels like the Dark Side is calling to me. Must. Fight! *More muppet arms!*

Granted, this wasn’t a state I just found myself in. As soon as I hit my late 20s I had doctors not-so-tactfully reminding me that I need to think about having kids if I wanted them as my window was getting narrower (thanks for that, biology)! 20s? Come on, docs, chill out, it’s 2015 and L.A., lots of gals have kiddos in their 30s and 40s for crying out loud.

Obviously tho, I eventually fell for it.

There came a point where my hubby and I collectively decided to give it a go. I say collectively. I mean he was totally game and I kept stepping up to the edge of the cliff then running away (because of career and sleep-derivation fears mostly). Then I spent over a year being alternately thrilled/devastated as months went by with no plus signs on small overpriced sticks.

After over 18 months and being told we’d need scientific help, we found ourselves “in the family way” the very day fertility help was supposed to begin. Surprise! (“I’ll just take that check back, thank youuuuu!”) Doctors can be wrong! *Ensue maximum muppet arm panic!*

I immediately began research overdrive, knowing that only knowledge would quiet the Type A side of my brain. What I found was an abundance of articles about how tiring and awful parenting was, all ending with, “but it’s so worth it,” without any mention of why. What made all those horrors worth it?! That shouldn’t even be legal. Editors should be fired. Rather than throttle answers out of the authors I kept hunting.

I found a handful of lovely articles, some even on this site, written by artist moms who’d put their career on hold or on the sidelines for their kids and were happy with their decision. Kinda not what I wanted to hear tho. I found some interviews with “name” actress moms, some of which were encouraging (esp Kristen Bell’s for me), but the fact that I am not a “name” with big wig reps, nor would I have the benefit of a team of nannies, made me wonder how much my experience could possibly parallel theirs.

What I did NOT find were many inspiring articles featuring non-celeb artist parents who I felt could speak to and ease my fears. I knew things would change, but would I really have to give up my intense love affair with storytelling?! Surely some had done it? Some still kept both their old love and their new, right?

About this same time, I had begun to see myself miss out on roles (Requires a crop top and shoots in June…not this year. Minor stunts required… yeah, no. Romantic lead being pursued by beefcake… can the film have a twist in that the lead is also currently knocked up with someone else’s kid? No? I’ll sit it out. ). I even lost some roles where the character was written to be PREGNANT (“We think it’s safer to just use the preggo pillow on someone.” Or “We need a brunette.” *faceplam*). Couple all that with the inevitable hormones and struggle with (admittedly shallow) vanity issues of my changing shape and I had a full day of crying on the couch.

But wait! All is not lost!

Suddenly the clouds parted and the soundtrack changed to something hopeful!

Two emails popped into my inbox with roles people had written for me for which pregnancy didn’t matter! Yes, sometimes that is all it takes to start to cheer up an actor. #WeAreNuts

Then, my gem of a husband came to me with an idea for which I will always love him even more for. What if we turned this into an opportunity and all-around wonderful thing? What if we made a film during and revolving around the pregnancy?

So we are! We’ve shot about 1/3 of it so far and I’m super excited about it. It lets me channel my creativity into something I know could open doors career-wise down the road AND helped me paint the entire pregnancy in a positive light.

More on the film in a future article, BUT as my outlook shifted, other awesome things started happening. I started booking the heck out of voiceover (cartoons LOVE me – I’m growing them a new customer!), I met more and more working actor parents who showed me that the balance is possible and that I’m not a freak for wanting both (apparently they just hadn’t been writing articles).

There are lots of types of new mommas – some that are in heaven just cozying with their little one, some that get overwhelmed at first and can’t find the time to shower let alone worry about career goals, and some that go into hyper-productive mode (once they give their bodies time to heal and adjust a bit). There’s a whole spectrum in-between those as well! Just knowing that the first two I listed weren’t my ONLY options brought me great relief.

Hey, I’m well aware that there’s a lot I don’t get to choose about how I’ll react/feel once he’s here. I still have terrified moments realizing, tip-of-the-iceberg tho the part I’m aware of may be, that a huge life change is ahead, but I’m embracing the adventurous aspect of that now. I’m looking forward to growing in new ways, feeling new things, and the new depth that will hopefully bring me as a person and an actor.

The producer in me is starting to feel up to the challenge too. I mean, if I can wrangle some of the sets I’ve wrangled, this new production should be manageable. I’ll be dealing with a diva, but only one ; )

You can have the crop-top roles, I’ve played ‘em and had fun, but like the shirts themselves, they feel too small for me now. I’m excited for the intrepid entrepreneur, goofy neighbor, twisted teacher and quirky mom roles now, on-screen and off.

We’re a strange breed, us artists who want to have it all, but it’s nice to know I’m not one of a kind in that way at least. Perhaps you’re one of us too? Or you’re pondering your own parental fork in the road? I’d love to hear your joys, concerns, insights and experiences! Please share in the comments and stay tuned to see where I end up landing on the spectrum. Regardless, I’m now really looking forward to this chapter.

Paula Rhodes

About Paula Rhodes

Paula is a multi-hyphenate with emphasis in the geektastic genres and a founding member of the 5'2" & Under Club. She counts among her best diary entries teaming up with Stephanie Thorpe to turn their life-long love of the comic ElfQuest into getting the film/TV rights, and getting to embody some of her other fandoms as Wendy in The New Adventures of Peter & Wendy (a modernized transmedia adventure based on the classic Peter Pan tale), Lady Door in the West Coast premiere of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Zelda in Knights in Hyrule (Machinima), and Skipper & Stacie in Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. She's hoping to continue to grow her collection. She's also pretty sure owes producing in the web space for the last 7 years, and the connections social media allows, for the majority of the credits on her imdb page. Follow/add her adventures on twitter @paula_rhodes and at OfficialPaulaRhodes.com.

  • Glad to hear you are now looking forward to this new chapter, and thanks for making a new customer for us cartoon people. 😉

    • Paula Rhodes

      Thanks, Eric : ) Looking forward to more cartoons!

  • Cindy Marie Jenkins

    I’m in a different part of entertainment, and still figuring it out. I know for a fact that the work I was able to do (after recovery period) helped keep me sane. A little over a year later, I just embrace the times I have to work, put my phone away while at the playground, and take it day by day. Being a Mom does help me separate “options” from “opportunities”, and that makes the time that I work much more valuable and centered on what I really want to do. Almost any combination is possible.

    • Paula Rhodes

      I love that, thank you, Cindy : ) I also love that over 30 women have contacted me privately in the day since this came out to say they felt the same, but all of them mention not feeling comfortable saying so openly because of fear of backlash. Backlash? There should be no looking down on someone because they are self-aware and know they could love their work AND their kids, or have fears of change. But, perhaps most hopefully, I haven’t had one person so much as slightly show me any backlash, so maybe I can help put all my like minded mommas and potential-mommas fears to rest : )

  • Iz

    My husband & I are at that point we want to start trying (I’m 40). But I have to admit I feel like you. I honestly hate that comment that others make saying you’ll forget about your work & change your priorities. Ummm. no. Do they say that to professional women who run companies? I hope not. Because guess what, I’m not going to forget about it. I’ll just make changes, but I’m not quitting. Why do people think that’s what we’re supposed to do just because we produce another human? My husband knows this too. And that he’ll have to step up even more, especially since he works from home. He says he likes the idea of being a Mr. Mom.
    I have all the other fears you have as well. Body changes (I’m known for my physique & get called in a bit for that. Losing that scares the hell out of me). Not getting called in for the auditions. Would it be like starting over again? Scary. I will admit, I’m a bit selfish. Always have been. Being an only child does that. I do love kids, & don’t believe in doing things half-assed, so if I were a parent, I would be awesome at it. But I would show my child that it’s ok to be a parent & have a career & not apologize for it. Heck, my mom worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs her whole life & took care of me & I never wanted for anything, especially love & attention. Why should this be any different? Because I would never want my kid to feel like they took away something from me. How about showing them they enhanced it AND I kept doing it. Screw those naysayers.

    • Paula Rhodes

      I think we’re in the midst of redefining what being a great mom can be, and showing that there’s no one mold, you just have to love your kids and do your best. Part of that means doing what’s best for you. It’s like when you’re on an airplane and the staff explains that in the event of an emergency you need to put your own air mask on before assisting others, even children. That’s because they need us to thrive so we can take care of them, and too much self-sacrifice on a parent’s part can similarly hurt kids. One awesome actress friend and momma reached out with a great bit of advice. She said, “Your little one will grow up strong and happy because her parents exude love and strength. If part of that comes from your expression of self through work, then that’s how it comes! It’s when one replaces the other that problems happen. You’ll find the balance. It won’t be easy and many times it’ll feel like it sucks balls and can’t happen. But it’s there, and you’ll find it.” I love that. Here’s to finding our own balance!

  • Keiko Elizabeth

    Great piece, Paula!! I’m a actor mom of two, not a celeb just a working mama actor! I write about the intersection of acting and parenting and chronicle my journey balancing both on my blog, The Mama Actor. I’d love to talk about having you guest post at some point about your POV as a pregnant, first time mom. Let me know what you think! Keiko@keikoelizabeth.com

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