Life’s complicated right now. I wake up everyday a ‘Mom.’ But I also wake up a wife & filmmaker… Filmmaking is a passion, so it creeps into everyday even when it isn’t planned.
The work? I’m an actress/producer/writer. We are all hyphenates now. I arrived in LA just before the writer’s strike and never knew the world before. I live in the digital indie wild west film world where we make stuff whenever, however we can and work many jobs of many levels at the same time. I am presently drowning in work wrapping up my last feature I shot out of state in January. I am working on accounting, organization, taxes, premiere planning, festival strategy, and much much more. And I’m occasionally managing my other released films and checking in on actual post-production. My team is technically working on post-production for 3 projects I have a hand in- there is a lot of work involved. I also have 2 other features I am working on outside of my team in post-production that I am trying to be prepared to support on their premiere and festival tour. My mind is in a thousand places all the time. And I don’t really get paid for most of it.
I feel guilty. I do. All day long. It never goes away. I’m an attachment parent- we breastfeed for years, co-sleep, babywear, snuggle constantly… I ergo that boy everywhere. We’re very attached. But my 2 year old has come to LOVE Sesame street, The Good Dinosaur, The Incredibles, all The Toy Story Movies, Superman, the Monster’s franchise, Star Wars, … and gets to watch something everyday. And in the car. I take him to the beach pretty often when its warm, I take him to Disneyland almost weekly, I take him to several different parks, and I TRY to make it up to him. I try. I know that focused and unfocused work time allows for me to attend to him when it matters most. I know how to put down the phone and the computer to play light sabers on the bed at least once a day and fly him around the house like superman when he asks. But I still feel guilty. I just can’t give him 100% of my focus for more than 50% of my day most days and it hurts.
Being a real person and having dreams you are actively pursuing is hard. But it’s hard on everyone in every stage of life. It’s what sets you apart. AND it’s what makes even the little successes feel so good.
And we’re not alone. I am meeting more and more #IWAHPF folks all the time. My friend Michelle Lang, an actress and producer (fellow IWAHPF, Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent-Filmmaker) was just shooting a film out of state, she shared with me that, “With two kids (2.5 and 1 year old) it took a very long time to organize everything. They, however, are being little rock stars! They love all the people and I also believe it’s good for them to see their parents being inspired and working hard. … The good thing is, the film will take 3 months, this isn’t a yearly lifestyle where I’m gone 75% of the day. It’s just a brief time, and I’ll get to keep the warm fuzzies well after the film is shot!” We WANT to keep making movies and we GET to be parents- finding a balance is hard, but completely possible!
But, I know this is what you’re actually searching for- I have some tips on keeping it all balanced…
1.“Working Remotely” means the phone will be loud on my end, I can talk/answer texts/short emails, but I cannot do serious long form projects or paperwork.
What that really means is I’m at the park, at the beach, at Disneyland, in the car, or visiting family. I work all day long, little bits here and there accomplish a lot at the end of the day- but be careful that your toddler doesn’t think you are staring at your phone for more than a few minutes at a time- it’s not safe or polite. No games on your phone. Delete them. Videos are fine, but I cannot get a text in if my son thinks I’m playing a game without him every time I pick up my phone.
Passed out drunk on boobjuice – @JennicaRenee Instagram
2. “Nap Time” is when you do focused work- no phone calls and texts.
You must be actively reading and responding and working. Long jobs here. When someone wants to make plans, prioritize nap time as the time you MUST be home and working. Your kid deserves a good nap and you do too. Some dark & cool space with white noise is a good focused work environment AND sleep environment. Don’t snuggle up to that snoozer even when it looks inviting. But if you must, you must.
Flying in style, toddler heaven – @JennicaRenee Instagram
3. “Would you like to come over for lunch?” spend the morning prepping and invite someone to come for lunch around 30 min into nap time.
This is your focused networking time. Feast and talk, you still have to be a person and this type of vulnerable experience is friend-making. Meeting somewhere for coffee, dinner, drinks- are a thing of the past for a while. If you want to meet someone, catch up with a colleague, or even just see other people with like-minded industry interests- have them over to your messy house (I’ll go into this more in a minute). They will be seeing the real you. They will likely stay only a short while after your child wakes up, so this won’t take away your whole day. I’ve found it handy to immediately take the kiddo on a walk with said guest so you can continue talking and it’s also a super fit choice to go on a walk while you’re hanging out (very ‘LA’). You can network without the cost of a babysitter and all it takes is some brunch food and putting aside your other work for a few hours.
Bed also serves as a fortress of solitude, getting some good superhero advice from Daddy – @JennicaRenee Instagram
4. “Clean House” has new meaning. It is a fantasy that has been replaced by a ‘picked-up floor’ and cleared off counter.
Concentrate on the toilet, sink, living room floor, and kitchen counter when anyone is coming over. No one cares about your laundry, the mess, the dishes (they likely won’t spend much time in your kitchen anyway), or your work space. Your work space should be messy if it needs to be messy- no one is judging you. They think you’re a superhero for just keeping your kid alive and doing the bare minimum work that keeps you relevant. I think you’re a superhero too.
Team Schwartzman is always on the go #Ergo #LAX – @JennicaRenee Instagram
5. “Multitasking” is when you put a baby on a nursing pillow up against the table and type on the computer on the table above the child.
Multitasking is taking a work call on speakerphone while you build blocks or color with your 2 year old monster. Multitasking is putting your kid in the ergo on your back with two toys so Buzz and Zurg can fight your ponytail while you listen to Toy Story blasting in the living room while you actually prep and cook a full meal in the kitchen.
The Incredibles getting ready to go on a walk – @JennicaRenee Instagram
6. “Play Date” is when you get together with another WAHP and take 30 minutes out of that play & hang time to do a little work.
A girlfriend of mine knew I was swamped and asked if I wanted to come over for a playdate with her 2 kids and then at some point sneak away to another room for an hour or 2 to get some focused work done. I had never thought of that.
Kids LOVE play dates and require very little adult interruption aside from safety measures and assistance. So after an adequate amount of time together bonding and catching up, you can get some well-needed work done and vice versa. You ‘may’ be able to arrange a weekly play date where each mom can get a little bit done rotating between your two houses weekly. You may also be able to arrange or join a weekly play date of 3-4 moms so that 1 day out of the month you get to be the mom that gets 2-3 hours to herself while the other 3 moms watch the herd. This is how things used to be and how things are in the rest of the country. People out there have parents & family too. But, sadly, in the big city we are mostly on our own. And many folks have kids and move out of the city or out of the state. I have lost SOOOOOO many friends to having kiddos & moving. I’m pretty sure its gonna happen every time someone tells me they are pregnant.
Just feeling super sexy on a Saturday) – @JennicaRenee Instagram
7. “Community” is reaching out and finding the people who stayed.
We NEED the fellow indie-work-at-home-parent-filmmaker to step up and be a part of this community. I know it’s hard, but we need Moms and Dads to go online and share their burden in the hopes of finding a like-minded individual equally pulled between marriage-family-filmmaking-budgeting-dream seeking and rally together. We need groups of people to share the bad AND the good. Imagine the joy of bonding with new friends at this point in your career- finding new people who stayed.
We’ve all lost people to the tempting housing prices and ‘back home’ safety of family support. We’re all constantly pained to turn down our childless friends’ invitations to that cool (probably boring) artsy thing downtown that ‘could’ be a great networking opportunity because my son has the sniffles and I can’t be bothered to shower and go out when I don’t want to… -maybe that one was just me. We need more people in the same stage in our lives. I don’t have to lose my other friends, I don’t want to. But, I do have to expand my circle in order to make this work.
I wouldn’t have it any other way! Engage with me online fellow #IWAHPF