‘How do you do it?’: 3 pillars of mama-actor success

How do you do it?



I’ve had a lot of people approach me recently to ask, “How do you do it?”


After fumbling some half-assed answer on two separate occasions, much to the dismay of the poor women seeking support, I sat down to craft a more thoughtful answer. I grabbed my kid’s crayons and construction paper and whipped up a slightly sad-looking but accurate infographic chart drawing thing (it’s stunning, I know)…




I thought my lifelines would be things like date nights, health insurance, and a great bottle of wine, but what ended up emerging was more foundational (though date nights, wine and health insurance are nice too).


Here are the pillars of my life that have allowed me to have clarity and vitality around my work and career and family. I realized that I have a pretty great life, and if this helps a new mama out there raise herself out of the ashes of Butt Paste and puke, I will have done my job here.

Pillar #1: Tribe

When I polled the mama actors in our TMA Facebook group about the one piece of advice they would give to a young actress who wants to be a mom someday, the unanimous response was, “Choose the right partner”. This is absolutely, bottom-line, vital. Like, even more fundamental than the three pillars I’m discussing here.


But beyond that one person who will make or break your parenting experience, a dynamic, well-rounded tribe is essential.


Inner tribe

Your inner tribe is like your inner, inner circle of soul-love. Your partner + kids + close family & soul sisters. I hope I don’t have to tell you why the inner tribe is important.


Outer tribe

Your outer tribe is made of all the people that you bring into your life that simply help shit work better. They may not be soul sisters, but they will watch your kids when you have a last minute audition. They may not have held your hair while you puked in college, but they will help you tape an audition or give you advice about your agent. You might pay them in exchange for their services and that is 100% okay.


Here is a partial list of my outer tribe: my babysitting co-op, my career coach, my neighbors, my agents, my theatre company, The Mama Actor Facebook group, my accountability partner, my Women in Film mentoring circle, the casting directors who know me, the Starbucks guy who knows I like a splash of heavy whipping cream in my coffee. In short, the vast network of connection that weaves together the threads of my life.


Part two of creating your outer tribe is knowing that you know them. Here’s what I mean: We take for granted the vast network of people that undergirds and enriches our human experience on this planet. Recognizing the breadth of my outer tribe makes me feel supported and connected and set up for success. This awareness in turn lowers my anxiety, fuels my ambition, and frees my creativity. See? Know who they are, and then know that you know.


Pillar #2: Purpose & Vision

Technically vision and purpose are two different things, but I didn’t have room on the green construction paper for another pillar so I combined them. I see my purpose as the thread that connects all the parts of my life, the thing that runs underneath everything I do. Most people trace their purpose back to a deep and early formative experience or condition, and this has been true for me as well.


As a multi-racial girl growing up in the time and place that I did, the feeling of belonging was something I struggled with deeply and continuously. For me it went beyond the sense of isolation that most kids experience at some point or another. It was a biological certainty that my DNA meant that I would never belong anywhere, not even with my own parents. This feeling of fundamental disconnection forged the core of my purpose: to increase true belonging, acceptance, and community in the world, and to decrease isolation, conformity, and separation. This purpose guides how I raise my children, how I operate in the entertainment industry, how I engage in my community.


While my purpose won’t change anytime soon, my living vision is more fluid and changing. It’s basically a document that describes my vision for all areas of my life–career, creativity, family, marriage, spirituality. It’s a specific, 5 sense picture of how I want to experience life moment to moment, day to day, across the various domains of my life.


What’s really behind the living vision is a sense of agency. A feeling that I can make my life whatever I want it to be, so why not design it on purpose? It makes me feel powerfully creative and in charge. Like the boss lady of my own life.


Pillar #3: Practice


The essence of practice boils down to choosing to invest in 2 things: habit over motivation, and growth over perfectionism.

Choose habit over motivation, growth over perfectionism. Click To Tweet


I’m so over striving. I was a striver for a long time. I lived with a vague sense of anxiety underlying all of my experiences, the feeling that I should somehow be better or further along. It’s bullshit, mama. It’s the Koolaid of the Ivy League.


Practice means movement, perfection means stagnation. Practice means that dissatisfaction & happiness can co-exist, that I can be happily, blissfully, gratefully dissatisfied. The commitment to a practice-based mindset as opposed to a perfection-based mindset allows for contradiction, layers, complexity, humanity. It allows me to love where I am at the same time that I am working to deepen my marriage, develop more patience, and expand my creative expression. It is bigger than striving, bigger than waiting for inspiration, bigger than setting goals and benchmarks.


Practice allows. Practice accepts. Practice does not wait to be motivated. Practice is. Practice does. Practice means I can fuck up and succeed at the same time, and I’m all in favor of that.



I hope that’s a more complete answer to “How do you do it?” than I was able to provide to the poor moms I recently met. What are your foundational pillars that support your ability to thrive? How do you do it, mama? Share in the comments here on the blog or in the TMA Facebook group.




September Meet Up: Producer Stefanie Huie

At our Mama Meet Up in September we had the great fortune of chatting with Independent Producer Stefanie Huie.


As an independent producer, Stefanie develops projects for film and television. She currently working on a film adaptation of the novel Belle Epoque and TV pilot Beast Mode. Stefanie also worked for the Sundance Institute as the Outreach Consultant for the Sundance Writer and Director Labs.  Before that, she worked as Senior VP of Feature Films at Icon Productions, Mel Gibson’s production company. She started her career at Creative Artists Agency after receiving her degree in Political Science from Stanford University.


In addition to her career achievements, she is the mom of two children–her daughter just started kindergarten and her son is a pre-schooler! She was still working at Icon when her daughter was born, and she shared what it was like working in a studio environment as a mom versus the more flexible world of independent producing.




Here’s some of my favorite tidbits from our conversation:


  • On the logistic, day-to-day life details: I try to mainly do work when my daughter is in school, and we have help with my son–he’s in preschool. So I schedule reading scripts and phone calls for those daytime hours.
  • On passion: I make sure to only take on projects that I absolutely love.
  • Advice to new moms: After becoming a mom give yourself a break, and use it as a chance to re-evaluate what your dreams and desires are. One day you will wake up and know what is the right next step for you.
  • The funny: She told a hilarious story about running into Mel Gibson in the break room at Icon, while she was in the middle of cleaning her breast pump. Go nursing mamas!


If you are a member of The Mama Actor Facebook Community, you can watch the full video by scrolling down the page and looking for our Live feed.


Next month, we’ll meet with legal and EEOC representatives from SAG-AFTRA to talk about maternity benefits for mama actors, working considerations on set for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, and much more.

August Mama Meetup: Director Tara Miele


If you’re a member of The Mama Actor Community on Facebook, then you already know about our monthly Mama Meetups. If you’re not, you are missing out on some gorgeous live and in person get togethers. (What are you waiting for? Only requirements: be a mama or a papa and an artist.) Every month I invite a guest mama–a mom who is working in the industry–to share her journey and insights about balancing mothering with a creative career.


In August, our guest mama was writer/director Tara Miele, who has directed feature films such as Starving in Suburbia, Thinspiration, and The Lake Effect (which she wrote and directed while 7 months pregnant). As a writer, she’s sold films to Lionsgate, Screengems, New Line, Gild Circle Films and Disney Channel. Most recently, she created the film ‘Meet a Muslim‘ to combat Islamophobia, and it has over 2 million views and has been featured on sites Refinery 29, Now This, and Huffington Post. She’s also mom to two girls.


Tara was so inspiring to the moms present at the meetup and those who joined us in the Facebook Live video feed. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the conversation:


Tara Miele


Becoming a mom has not only made me more emotional, but more human, more connected to other people, more stalwart in my beliefs, and more confident in declaring my opinion as a valid opinion. I think in my 20’s and even my early 30’s I was kind of like, ‘Oh, there’s some big conversations going on, but I’m actually not that informed, so I’m just not going to participate. I have an opinion but I’m not sure it’s the right opinion because I’m not totally educated on it, so I’m just gonna hold back.’ And I wasn’t like that as a kid…So now I’m way back to my childhood self, where I’m like, ‘I think I have something to say about this gun issue, because I have two young children and it effects me, and I actually have something to say about tolerance with other people because I live in a city with a lot of diverse people.’


My second favorite story was when she shared how the project ‘Meet a Muslim’ started over dinner one night when she was trying to explain to her 7-year old why her grandmother was afraid of Muslim people. She says, “Being a mom makes you have to explain the world and what else are you doing as an artist but explaining the world.”


I really related to this, as I also have an inquisitive 7-year old. In trying to help our tiny humans navigate the world, so many things that we’ve glossed over in the hustle of life come into stark relief. These explanations of what it is to be human in our world, in our country, in our town, are the molecules of meaningful stories. And in explaining to our children, we explain to ourselves, we relearn what is important, we resee what we’ve learned not to see. I know I’ve become a stronger, braver artist since becoming a mother. I’d love know how motherhood has changed you as an artist and storyteller. Feel free to comment below, or join us on Facebook, where you can also access the rest of this conversation with Tara Miele.


In September, producer Stephanie Huie will be our guest mama, so if you’re not a member of our Facebook community, head over to the page and request to join or shoot me an email and I’ll add you.



Lessons from the Ladies of Mom 2.0 (2 of 2): Gather your secret squirrels

Awesome secret squirrel patch

Who are your secret squirrels? And more importantly, do they have this patch?


My second take-away from Mom 2.0 is the importance of a war council, a tribe, or as the fabulous Karen Walrond describes it, your legion of secret squirrels.


Gather your Legion of Secret Squirrels.


To be 100% honest, I’ve never really felt a part of a close-knit group of girlfriends. Maybe it was growing up mixed race and always feeling “in between”, or maybe everyone secretly feels like they don’t belong. Whether it truly is me or whether it’s more common than I think, Mom 2.0 convinced me to get over my lone wolf syndrome.

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Lessons from the Ladies of Mom 2.0 (part 1 of 2)

Mom 2.0 Summit 2016 Dana Point, CA


I got to attend the last day of Mom 2.0 this year, the premier annual conference for mom bloggers. There were thousands of bloggers, brands, mompreneurs, influencers, and social media gurus, most of them moms.


This year’s conference was at the Four Season in Laguna Niguel. It was a gorgeous location, lots of pampering, free swag, and a great catered lunch.


So good! My massage therapist was a hapa mama too--we bonded.

So good! My massage therapist was a hapa mama too–we bonded.


But what I got from the day was more than just a free bra and a foot massage. These lady business folk had A LOT of knowledge that applies equally to pursuing an acting career and being a parent. In fact there was so much knowledge dropped that I had to break it up into two parts to make it more absorbable. Here’s lesson number 1…

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Listen to the wanderlust


I felt edgy the last Friday of Spring Break. We’d just recovered from a nasty stomach virus (I’ll save you the details), and I felt that cooped-up-too-long, I-want-to-go-somewhere feeling.


So we went on a last-minute trip to Joshua Tree. It. was. grand. The desert is stunning this time of year and there was something for everyone–lizards and rocks for my son, flowers and plants for baby girl, and big gorgeous sky for mom and dad. If you’re feeling like you want more bloom in your Spring, go east, my friends!

Nothing like a trail us-ie!

Look at this cute-ness!


What are your favorite last-minute, weekend getaways?

You CAN be both a mom and an actor: One mama actor’s story

giving up your dreams does hurt other people. If I’m not a fully-functioning, dream


Enjoy this guest post by fabulous funny-lady Julisa L. Wright in which she shares how her baby helped her book a role on the CW’s hit new show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She also dishes some fantastic words of wisdom for mama actors everywhere.


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[Other People’s Words] John O’Donohue


Poetry speaks to my soul in a way that nothing else can.

For the Artist at the Start of the Day

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