7 reasons why every mama actor needs a babysitting co-op
Betcha one of these moms has a babysitting co-op. Either that or a million dollars.
Finding last-minute child care can be the hardest thing about the audition process. I know one mama who quit acting because the last minute nature of auditions was killing her. She simply decided it wasn’t worth it.
I recently reached a breaking point with this in my own life. Finding last-minute sitters was wreaking havoc on my sanity and my work, not to mention busting our budget.
One Friday night at the end of a particularly busy week in which I burned through my entire monthly child care budget in five days, my husband suggested setting up “some kind of babysitting trade thing”. 24 hours later I had a babysitting co-op. Mamas, it has changed my life.
Here are 7 reasons why every mama actor needs a babysitting co-op…
1. Every mom deserves a break, and creativity requires it. In the podcast Big Magic, Cheryl Strayed says of her process: “I’m not able to really sink all the way into a book when I’m in the company of a bunch of people who need me to make dinner for them and follow them around the house and do all the things you have to do when you have children.”
I believe that creativity requires the kind of mental space that is hard to achieve when caring for young children. Even if you don’t have an audition, a babysitting co-op can give you time that you didn’t know you needed and didn’t believed you deserved, to let your imagination do that deep dive that’s hard to do when you’re worried about making sure your toddler survives the day without killing himself.
2. You can’t predict an audition schedule, so it’s hard to budget for child care. Enough said.
3. When babysitting is free, you feel less guilty about it; when you feel less guilty about it, you can focus more on the work. Even though I’ve been in the green as an actor for two years now, I still sometimes feel guilty about all the expenses that come with a professional acting career. Now that little people are depending on me, it seems more of a zero sum equation. It’s easy to feel like everything I spend on my career is coming directly out of the pocket of my family.
Auditioning is hard enough without the added burden about feeling guilty about what’s required to get yourself to the room. Guilt is an energy leak, and when you’ve plugged the leak, you can put that energy into your work.
4. When babysitting is free, you can use that money elsewhere. There’s a saying that goes, “There are a million way to separate an actor from his money in Hollywood.” Go spend your newly saved child care money in one of those million ways, mama.
5. That informal trade you do with your mom friend is unsustainable. You may be thinking, “I don’t need a co-op, I have a friend or two and we trade and make it work.” I had that too, and it was great…until it wasn’t. One person seems to ask more than the other, or someone has a second child and the one child for two trade doesn’t seem as equitable, or you’ve asked once this week and you can’t ask twice.
Eventually some emotion starts to creep in, whether its guilt that keeps you from asking or resentment at being asked too much. It’s human nature. With a babysitting co-op, all emotion is taken out of the equation.
6. You may want alone time with your partner every now and then. If your partner is also an actor and you are each other’s child care when an audition comes up, well, I’m jealous of you. But even if this is you, doing grown up things in the grown up world without your children around is nice. And essential. Since child care can double the cost of going out alone with your partner and make you throw in the towel without even trying to organize a night out, a babysitting co-op can save your partnership. Or at least drag it out for awhile longer (kidding–I’m not that cynical in real life).
7. It will transform the way you think about child care. For me child care has always been a cesspool of negative emotions: guilt at leaving my child and spending money, resentment that the responsibility for child care always falls on me, or dread that I won’t find it in a pinch. Starting a babysitting co-op has transformed the way I view child care: from shouldering a necessary burden to creating a village for my children and family. This has been the biggest and most delightful surprise of the whole process.
Now that I’ve convinced you to start a babysitting co-op, stay tuned for part 2, and I’ll tell you how I did it and give you some tips for starting your very own little mecca of socialist child-rearing.