I loved drama school. I was a ‘mature’ student you see, and even though there were things I didn’t like about drama school, I found my bliss there after years of trying to find fulfilment in other careers. So, when the head of my course asked me what I really wanted in the future, the words that came out of my mouth shocked me, “a family” I said, “and to earn my living as an actor”. I got my wish, but the reality feels very different to the dream.
What this meant in reality was, as a new drama graduate I had to convince my agent to still put me forward for things even though I was pregnant. They did the obligatory “congratulations, thats brilliant news”, but funnily enough the auditions just ‘happened’ to stop suddenly. Enough said.
The other reality was that I was constant throwing up and had to drag myself from bed or the sofa even at 3 in the afternoon. I was rapidly gaining weight and fell into a mild depression for the rest of my pregnancy. I was trying to fight for my fledgling career but had so little energy and a growing self doubt as the months went on. And of course, on top of all this, I was getting my head around the fact that I was going have a baby with all the responsibility that brings. I did a couple of very small TV soap roles, but honestly, learning lines with ‘baby brain’ was such a challenge (I did manage it, though!)
When my boy was born, I fell into a deeper depression (around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth,), which I attribute partly to the fact that I was missing acting so much, and struggling with a loss of identity as well as coping with all the sleepless nights and demanding nature of having a newborn.
You see, I’d watch highly successful actresses have babies, and then within months they would be back on set or on stage. I couldn’t even get out the house on some days and by comparing myself to them, I felt a huge failure; if they could do it then why couldn’t I? (Well, probably because I don’t have the money to hire a huge army of day nannies, night nannies, cooks and cleaners). But also, I just didn’t have it in me to do an emotionally demanding job on top of looking after a baby. Maybe some women can do it, but I couldn’t. In my experience ‘having it all’ in terms of family, children, and career is accompanied with ‘something’s got to give’. If I keep acting, then I miss out on spending time with my children and someone else will be there while they take their first steps, say their first words, ask their first questions, make their first jokes etc… there is always a trade off.
This coupled with the fact that this industry isn’t the most supportive of having a family (I’ve had directors turn their backs on me when I’ve mentioned my children (yes, I now have two!), you can literally see the interest drain from their faces. Yup, its been a huge learning curve and a tough ride for the last few years. BUT, and this is where I try not to use cliches, I do flipping love my children and I cant imagine them not being in my life. They are truly amazing and I want to be the one that’s there for them until they’re old enough for school, and so I’ll have to live with the reality of having a tension between acting and children for now. And finally, after the birth of my second child, the depression lifted and I have started working on small projects in my own (very limited!) time so that I’m doing something that I love until I can invest again in my acting career.
Today, I’m working on a short film that my husband and I will produce. It’s set in a playground so I can take the kids to work with me…
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