I remember the moment my wife told me she was pregnant. A strange creeping joy. That giddiness you feel when queuing for a truly terrifying rollercoaster. That. We were trying so it was not a complete surprise, just a life changing one.
Then the fears start to creep in. There are the generic ones that we all feel I suppose. The fear of a miscarriage or complication and how that would affect you and your relationship. The fear of an ever widening, achy wife with a million needs. And obviously the fear of the actual event.
But for me, there were some other fears too…
Let me put my life in perspective for you: I work as an actor when I can; I have done for ten years. Most of the time, though, I have to work making coffee whilst desperately telling myself its just temporary. My wife earns as little as I do (she was an actress too), so don’t think for one second I have a sugar mummy. We rent a small flat, work too hard, but are basically happy… if slightly unfulfilled. And free. Definitely free.
And so, my fears about being a father were, I think, those that are unique to struggling artists. They keep you awake at night questioning yourself. I’ll get to the crux of it. The fear that you will have to change career to provide a home for your wife and child that is suitable, a steady income. The nagging fear that maybe that’s really what you should have been doing for the last 10 years: living a life which brings security.
An end to adventure, to living on the edge.
The end of being free?
Amid all the congratulations and repetitive questions (Girl or boy? How many months? Are you now going to get a real career like a real grown up and stop wasting your life?) that I encountered since being a parent, Jonathan asked me to write about it, maybe shed some light on what it’s like scraping along in this profession whilst also having a newborn. I said I would, then, realising my child was only just born, I decided to hold off writing because I didn’t have enough experience to answer the question. I was merely on the edge of the abyss.
But now, being firmly ensconced in the abyss, I’ve decided to have a go. I was going to write about the logistical problems, (and believe me, the whole thing is one big logistical problem) but as I began I realised how boring that would be and instead of typing my hands reared up and slapped me in the face in sheer defiance. This is when I realised that what I really wanted to explore was the very human want of security, the importance we put on money and how the decisions we make affect the child.
I love acting (when I get the chance to do it) and it makes me truly happy. When I am working on a project I am more exciting, I am more intelligent, I am more. I’m lucky to have a job I love so much. Sure, not really getting to do it and being paid peanuts is annoying but hey, swings and roundabouts. I’ve still got my gourmet coffee making to keep me afloat. Because there’s loads of money in that. Right? Wait, hang on! There’s not. You see, I want my son to grow up seeing someone strive for what they are passionate about. For me this is paramount. I’m sometimes passionate about my coffee and consider persuing it to other levels and, if I did, I’d have no qualms about it as it was a path that I wanted to take. My son can do whatever he wants, but it has to be his decision and it has to be something that fulfils him. That’s the point. He could be an accountant if he had a passion for numbers and I’d be as happy as a pig in shit.
I love my dad and have a strong relationship with him but when I was young he would leave before seven in the morning and get back after seven in the evening, which means he was on the periphery of my childhood, a beloved presence who worked hard at a job he had no passion for and was continually tired. He earned good money and gave me and my brothers a secure upbringing. He sees me now working menial jobs and trying to be an actor and I get the feeling sometimes that he thinks he’s failed me somehow and that he wished I had a proper job. But he hasn’t failed me. Watching him come home from a job he was not passionate about set me to thinking “not me. that’s not for me”. Watching him work himself so hard for ‘security’ set me free of it. I don’t care about being rich; I won’t deal in the fear that they peddle about security. Life is short and I’m going to do what makes me happy (or try to) and I am going to make sure that my son sees that life is what you make it. Just do what makes you happy. Love and be loved.
If you are an actor and thinking of starting a family I would say this: forget about the money side as a worry or an excuse because that’s all it will ever be, an excuse. Also, don’t see it as a death knell to your career (successful or otherwise) because all it takes is perseverance and dedication and a belief that you are doing what you love. In my eyes, the child will grow up seeing that. There will be sacrifices to make, but you knew that anyway, right? The child may be the catalyst that eventually makes you decide to stop acting. Who knows? But it may have been a decision that was in the back of your mind anyway, chipping away. Just make sure that dosen’t translate to: I had a child so I had to stop acting. That’s good for nobody, least of all the child.
Please understand that all this is just opinion and above all, it does not mean that I don’t take my responsibilities to my son seriously. Nothing I have said has to do with not working hard, being responsible or making sacrifices. He now comes first in my life. He has to, he’s only little. I would do anything for him. But I will not compromise my dreams because, I fear, in the long run it will only lead to him compromising his.
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