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Making it Work as a Mommy, Again

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“Shattered dreams are never random…They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit to awaken, then to satisfy our highest dream.” –Larry Crabb

I wrote this in my prayer journal in December 2013. I don’t remember why this statement spoke to me because I certainly was not experiencing “shattered dreams.” The year had been one of my best in terms of bookings.

Less than one month later, I began a dry spell that to this day has yet to pick back up.

I have chronicled some of my journey as a mom to two little ones in this blog before. Today’s blog completes the journey.

We become more introspective when things aren’t going as they should. We should also step back even when things are going well and ask if we are truly where we ought to be. Just because you’re an A-list actress with two Oscars doesn’t mean you should remain an actress. And just because you haven’t booked a paying job in three years doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remain an actress. I like to say that my success is not measured by the credits on my resume, and I believe that now more than ever before.

When I started my acting career, I just wanted to have fun. I wasn’t concerned with telling some grand story that would change the world. Really I just liked the high I got when I was immersed in a character. And, I liked being on set, any set.

I most definitely did not want to work in the faith-based genre because I believed the quality of those films were poor. And I wasn’t at all concerned about the lack of women roles or lack of jobs for women behind the camera.

Then a voice told me to make a movie about the life of Martha Berry. Suddenly I was immersed in this compelling story about a phenomenally strong, powerful female with a strong, powerful faith in God.

And then I took an honest look at my life as an actress. If I was going to leave my girls to work, then I wanted my work to be meaningful and not just fun. I always saw the co-star and guest star auditions as opportunities to build my resume so that one day I could book more substantial roles. And that is certainly the logical way to build a career. But I was starting to realize that I could have a decades’ long career of small roles on projects that didn’t matter and still never do anything that left a legacy.

I was waiting around on other people to invite me to their party. I realized I needed to return to being that girl who would take control of her future and make anything happen. And I realized the way to do that is to be the one who creates the story.

And as I looked at the auditions and breakdowns for women roles, and read articles like this and this, I became angry at the hypocrisy coming out of Hollywood. I decided I don’t have a right to be angry if I’m not willing to do something about it.

And the same held true for the faith-based genre. If I believe there should be higher quality films in that genre, then by golly I had better get to working on one.

As I delved deeper and deeper into Martha Berry’s story, I discovered a woman who would have led this charge herself. She was a strong, confident female not just for her time, but for all time. She transformed an impoverished area of Georgia. She led a truly sacrificial, selfless life in order to fulfill the call on her heart. She enlisted other women to help her along the way. And she was devoted to the highest of quality in all she set her hands to do.

Without realizing it, I was producing a faith-based film with a strong, mature female lead, surrounded by other female characters, and with a screenwriter who happens to be female. And when I admitted to myself that I was doing what I swore I would never do, the light at the end of a dark journey came on.

In 2008 I took a private class with an L.A. actress/coach named Janice Kent. She told me then that I had an executive mind and should be the one calling the shots in production. I didn’t completely dispute her, but I wasn’t interested in anything but acting and, most importantly, I wasn’t truly sure of myself. Now I am. And I am willing to believe Janice now.

I recently completed performances of The Crucible. Elizabeth Proctor is one of my dream roles and therefore, even though I was running a Kickstarter campaign for the Martha Berry film and homeschooling my oldest, I had to take the opportunity. I had no idea at the time that Elizabeth’s story was going to so closely mirror my own as well as Martha Berry’s. It has been a creative way to put my journey into words. And it reminds me that God always knows what we need when we need it—I could never have orchestrated any of this the way He has.

And now I feel that my story of mommyhood while acting has some closure. Oh, it will always evolve as I change and as my girls grow. But for now, I have no more struggle of how to make it all work. I make it work by working on projects that have meaning and I do that by not waiting around on anyone to invite me to the party. I am the one throwing the party and you are all invited.

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.