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Support the “Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent-Filmmaker”

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I know several of you. I see you. I see how hard you work. I also have no idea how you do it. But, no matter what, you have my heart. I will freely give you any resource, any contact, and recommendation, any amount of time to give my thoughts/advice/support. I have your back. Forever.

A working parent is valuable beyond the surface education/talent/perspective/personality they bring to the table, all of which they have honed and fostered through years of experience, education, money money money, and focused commitment. A working parent brings life skills that cannot be learned under any other circumstances. A working parent has biologically broken the sleep cycle previously needed for their brain to work. A working parent may not be able to access simple vocabulary words or even what they did or didn’t eat for breakfast, but they can sure as heck remember what happened during the lunch break on the 14th day of filming on a feature that was shot in Arkansas in 2016. Yes, I can DEFINITELY remember a sh*t ton of crazy specific film work when needed. My prioritizing of details in my memory bank is super human. We save a priority list of memories that are remarkable given that we need every ounce of brain power to take care of our offsprings- the biological future of our species of which we take on full responsibility for over 10 years per human created.

I can remember every single day of filming for my last 2+ feature films of which I was the leading producer. I can see memories as pictures, a skill I didn’t posses pre-kiddos. I have woken up nightly and hourly at various intervals for years, and YES I will have a shorter lifespan, lose more of my hair, and fall asleep watching my favorite shows because I am borrowing brain real estate from 80 year old me. But I bring that real super power with me to my passions, specifically my acting/filmmaking work.

When you have a traumatizing event, any event that makes your cortisol surge (stress hormone), those memories are stamped with cortisol and filed away in a different part of the brain. Your trauma is filed in a trauma folder that needs special attention. It works that way in your passion projects. The hormones that surge with different types of experiences file away your memories differently, per person. When I work on my films post-parenthood, I explode with inspiration, confidence, and possibility. I am unstoppable.

This is all to say that the film industry and job creators should consider focusing on parent-friendly practices and hiring more parents. There is a lot to be gained from partnering with these super humans. I have been convinced, but maybe you need a refresher about what makes parents so special.

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Pros for Hiring Parents:

Parents Can Handle *More*

In the article “This is Your Brain on Parenthood: Parenthood affects, and reflects, your brain and IQ in surprising ways” by Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. (posted in 2013 on PsychologyToday.com), Dr. Krauss Whitbourne asks, “Is it possible, however, that motherhood itself triggers a pattern of brain development that leads to IQ improvements, not declines?” Which I found astonishing! Finally some support to what I have already discovered for myself. She continues with sources from other researchers, “In 2005, author Katherine Ellison’s “The Mommy Brain ” [TheMommyBrain.com] made the point that women become better- not worse- at handling cognitive challenges.  According to Ellison, who did her homework in looking up published sources, motherhood can reshape the brain, making it more complex and able to handle everything from perception to efficiency, resilience, motivation, and the emotional kind of intelligence.

Rather than destroy your brain, then, can motherhood, if not parenthood, help it build new, adaptive pathways? As Ellison indicates, defining intelligence as involving more than an IQ score, but instead incorporating emotional intelligence, the point gains even greater credibility.

In a 2012 article, psychologists Kelly Lambert and Craig Kinsley provided a recent update of this point.  Their review of the literature suggested that motherhood and fatherhood have beneficial effects on the brain by stimulating neurobiological changes that make parents more nurturing as they adapt to the demands of caring for their offspring.”

In exploring the barrage of new information intake, renewed awareness, developing and growing our own abilities further, and an overall push towards healthy living, parents are taking leaps and bounds in IQ as well as productivity possibilities. I have been a witness to it for years, but it was satisfying to be overwhelmed with evidence when I looked at the research.

 

Parents Are Emotionally Intelligent

Dr. Krauss Whitbourne took a closer look at something I found fascinating about parenthood: a spike in self-awareness. Not just in humility or time for reflection, but literally in reliving early brain development with a more mature point-of-view. I love this part of being the primary caretaker, I get to relearn and reaffirm life’s simplest lessons for a greater understanding of humanity. Dr. Krauss Whitbourne found that, “A considerable amount of research on parenthood suggests that parents relive their own earlier stages through the experiences of their children. However, you relive these experiences with the brain of an adult, not a child or teenager. Therefore, by having the opportunity to look anew at the classic issues that children must face (establishing autonomy, dealing with bullies, to name just two), adults can gain new insights into their own development.” And heal from that trauma. And this leads to better quality of life for adults. I can attest to this personally. 

 

Parents Make Good Judgements

Michelle Sutton-Kerchner wrote about “The Effects of Parenthood on Health” in which she pointed out, “The traditional “mommy brain” myth associated with a new mom’s supposed absent-minded behavior is officially debunked. Research has proven an increase in the brain size of post-partum mothers. A study published in Behavioral Neuroscience examined brain scans of women at two to four months after birth. Their mid-brain and prefrontal cortex regions showed growth, which respectively involve the experience of pleasure and ability to reason, plan, and make judgments.

Although the scans could only indicate brain size, this often correlates to intelligence. Researchers believe it is a strong indication that these women got smarter during new motherhood. This study did not involve new fathers. However, the concept is likely the same. The child’s brain is nurtured and developed from a mother’s input, who in turn experiences her own brain growth. The same can apply to a new father in that role. There is also the plethora of facts and advice, wanted and unwanted, thrown at new parents. Knowledge overload!

A parent’s ability to increase brain power goes beyond babyhood. The act of playing– which should continue throughout life, but is more likely with kids in tow– has a positive impact on cognitive abilities. Play stimulates nerve growth in the portion of the brain that processes emotion and executive function. It fuels creativity and builds problem-solving skills.”

 

Parents Are Resilient/Healthy

Michelle Sutton-Kerchner’s article opened my eyes to many aspects of positive parenting effects, one being something that puzzled me since I became a parent. I don’t get sick very often. If at all some years.

Sutton-Kerchner shares that, “Kids help build immunities– theirs and yours. To realize the ways children may positively impact their parents’ health, one must look beyond the obvious. With children, household colds increase exponentially (quoted by an actual pediatrician, not only parents congested with the tenth cold of the year). Strange viruses become commonplace. Bones break as a result of crazy mishaps. Here, those without young ones are usually healthier than their cute-but-germ-toting counterparts.

Surprisingly though, when children get sick, parents do not always contract the illness. One study, which followed almost 800 adults, proved parents were less likely to develop a new cold virus than their childless peers. It did not indicate parents contracted less colds than non-parents; rather, parents were less likely to catch a new cold virus when exposed.

The more kids, the stronger immunity: Parents with one or two children were 48 percent less likely to get sick than non-parents. Parents with three or more children jumped to 61 percent less likely. The finding held true for parents with adult children who no longer lived in the same household.

Researchers attribute this resistance to stronger social support systems and increased immunity via exposure to pathogens through their children. Psychological factors, such as decreased loneliness and increased sense of purpose, may also be responsible.”

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Super Parents Are Not Just *Moms* But Can Be Any Primary Caregiver

In 2014, Elizabeth Norton wrote a fascinating article called “Parenting Rewires The Male Brain” about a study conducted on a group of mixed gendered and same gendered child-rearing couples. She discovered in the study that, “The mothers, their husbands, and the homosexual father-father couples all showed the activation of what the researchers term a “parenting network” that incorporated two linked but separate pathways in the brain. One circuit encompasses evolutionarily ancient structures such as the amygdala, insula, and nucleus accumbens, which handle strong emotions, attention, vigilance, and reward. The other pathway turns up in response to learning and experience and includes parts of the prefrontal cortex and an area called the superior temporal sulcus.

In the mothers, activation was stronger in the amygdala-centered network, whereas the heterosexual fathers showed more activity in the network that’s more experience-dependent. At first glance, Feldman says, the finding would seem to suggest that mothers are more wired up to nurture, protect, and possibly worry about their children. The fathers, in contrast, might have to develop these traits through tending, communicating, and learning from their babies what various sounds mean and what the child needs.

“It’s as if the father’s amygdala can shut off when there’s a woman around,” Feldman observes. It could be assumed, she says, that this circuitry is activated only by the rush of hormones during conception, pregnancy, and childbirth.

But the brains of the homosexual couples, in which each partner was a primary caregiver, told a different story. All of these men showed activity that mirrored that of the mothers, with much higher activation in the amygdala-based network, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This finding argues strongly that the experience of hands-on parenting, with no female mother anywhere in the picture, can configure a caregiver’s brain in the same way that pregnancy and childbirth do, Feldman says.

She adds that in the heterosexual fathers, the activation of the amygdala-based network was proportional to the amount of time they spent with the baby, though the activity wasn’t as high as in the mothers or in the two-father couples.”

As a society, we attribute much of parenting’s biological and neurological benefits to women’s bodies through the means of pregnancy, birth, and breast-feeding, instead of recognizing that being a primary caregiver and becoming a parent (no matter how you become a family) is about the child. Parenting stems from bonds created with your little human, the time spent and energy towards parenthood. ALL PARENTS get the benefits of being parents because all parents are parents. And all parents are amazing.

 

Cons For Hiring Parents:

On a super independent level? Childcare cost or occasionally loud kiddos around. And the occasional kiddo sick day. So, just normal human stuff. Not that much of a con depending on the specific day. Also, IWAHPFs (Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent-Filmmakers) don’t work inside the box, so expect outrageous ideas. If they are gonna do it, they are going to get all their creativity juices flowing.

I’m not gonna write anymore cons, as each one that comes up is a seriously misconstrued stereotype. Our society doesn’t truly value parent-friendly practices in the work place built on stereotypes that hurt our world instead of help, so let’s let that go for now. Let’s just try to support parent-friendly practices as a global experiment and see how that goes.

People who choose not to parent as a primary care-giver are no less valuable to the work and community, people without primary caregiver status are necessary for this ‘village’ we all keep saying we need. Every single one of us has a unique and perfect purpose as we are in every circumstance we stand. This article is written to 100% bolster the EQUITY of parenthood in the film industry. Yes, it is one-sided and, yes, it may seem like I am not discussing equality. I have no need to bolster the working non-parent. This industry has been flooded with non-parent friendly practices. My activism is to create a dialogue around where the industry can evolve to create more parent-friendly work spaces. I am writing specifically to give a voice to the parents who are on the outskirts because the industry, as a whole, has pushed them out because of lack of parent-friendly practices. I do not need to tell you that people that choose not to parent are valuable and amazing, they deserve love and respect and support on their journey, they really do. But remember that parents, traditionally mothers, do not have people in their corner in the same way in the current state of the film industry. I am in their corner too. I support parent-friendly film practices. I give equity to the Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent-Filmmakers and it does not take away the rights and support of people on different paths. Again, equality and respect is not pie, it is not divided in loyalty, it is love. There is always more love to give. And my cup overflows.

Support fellow IWAHPFs by hiring parents. You’ll be blessed by inviting people into your project space that have little dependents at home. Their cups overflow with love, like mine does. Welcome them and share the love they bring to the table.

Oh yeah, and I’m writing a F***ing book called “The Indie-Work-At-Home-Parent” so when I announce it, buy it. Follow @JennicaRenee for announcements.

 

References:

 

 

Jennica Schwartzman

About Jennica Schwartzman

Jennica Schwartzman, a member of The Producer’s Guild of America, loves tackling a project from idea to distribution. Jennica has been published in the Producer’s Guild Magazine Produced By, Legacy Arts Magazine, Bustle and she is a guest writer on the acclaimed entertainment industry websites MsInTheBiz.com, FilmmakingStuff.com, Artemis Motion pictures’ #WomenKickAss Forum, & WomenandHollywood.com. She has been invited to speak on film festival panels and is a teacher & workshop speaker for The International Family Film Festival’s Road Scholars intergenerational filmmaking camp. Jennica has 6 feature film releases scheduled for 2018. Her films have collected TOP awards from Bentonville Film Fest, Big Bear Lake Int’l Film Fest, Eureka Springs Indie Fest, Film Fest Twain Harte, Worldfest Houston, Fayetteville Film Festival, The Int’l Family Film Fest, & the highest honor from The Dove Foundation. Jennica and her husband/producing partner/writing partner Ryan have 2 kiddos and reside in Hollywood.