You CAN be both a mom and an actor: One mama actor’s story
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.
I have attempted to write this blog so many times over the last few weeks, but my mind starts to go crazy the moment my pen hits the page. I only have to think about ‘being a mom-actor’, and a million things flood my mind. I am still trying to process everything.
I’ve been a mom for a little over a year now, but I have identified myself as an actor for seventeen–all these years it was my identity. When I wasn’t acting I would question who I was and what I was doing with my life, but when I was acting – I always questioned if I was good enough…or wasting mine and other people’s time.
Will I become a background character?
When I first had my daughter I had my fair share of breakdowns: If I’m a mom now, is that all I am? Can I still be an actor? Am I still an artist? Who am I!?!?! Do I have to give up my career to give everything to this new human being? Moms are supposed to do that, right? Am I being selfish? I had my fun and now it’s time to settle down and be a ‘mom’.
Perhaps my confusion came from the millions of examples we see on TV. Mom is always in the background, rolling her eyes at the latest childish thing her husband does. Mom is there to wipe away the tears of the child learning a lesson. Mom is there to pick up the kid from the principal’s office, or she’s cheering on the side of the soccer field. Then she reverts back into a background character until a ‘real’ character needs her.
But I’m not a background character!! I love to be the host of the show. I love to make people laugh. Sure, I like to make people feel better and see things in a positive light… but I have hard days too: days questioning myself and the life I’m living; days where I think I can’t juggle all these responsibilities; and days where I think if I have to give up anything, it better be my own dreams. That way no one else gets hurt.
Chase your dreams, choose your joy
But giving up your dreams does hurt other people. If I’m not a fully-functioning, dream-filled person, who am I for my child? What kind of example would I be for my daughter if I gave up everything that gave me joy, just so I could do what I thought was “expected” of me?
My own mom was a great example of the mom I want to be. She continued to pursue her career when my sister and I were still little kids, and she encouraged us to follow our dreams because anything was possible. I am thankful for that encouragement every day. By continuing on with my passion-filled projects, my family finds me more delightful to be around, and I have more to give back to my family. (This is by no means saying anything against those who want to be a full-time mom and love it. That is an equally legitimate dream and aspiration; just not mine.)
You can be both an actor and a mom
The moment I realized I could both be an actor and a mom was when I booked my first TV credit this past fall. After eight years of living in L.A this was my first time booking a role that actually got to speak on TV! The audition itself was a real challenge. My go-to babysitter cancelled last minute and I panicked about what to do with my ten-month old daughter. A friend semi-jokingly said I should just take her with – especially since the scene called for me to be holding a toddler. Great, I thought, I’ll just bring my own prop. So I decided to buck up and just do it. When actors go into the audition room, we bring our lives in with us…. I just wasn’t expecting eighteen pounds of it!
On the drive I thought up a million apologies and jokes about bringing my daughter to the audition. When I arrived the casting director was totally excited to see her and was the one to make the joke about bringing my own prop. I played the scene a couple of times, they thanked me for coming, they said goodbye to my daughter, and we were on our way.
Later, after having booked the role, I was on set in wardrobe when I heard that the casting director had picked me because she could see I was able to work with children and wouldn’t have a problem holding a toddler in the scene. Baby prop for the win!
Even with that amazingly positive experience juggling “mom” and “actor”, I still have days when I struggle to keep all these roles and responsibilities afloat. On those days I tell myself:
- This stage won’t last forever.
- I will be an artist for the rest of my life.
- Today may be more challenging than others, but it’s just today.
- I can use this rough patch for my art.
- Breathe. And embrace this moment – whatever I’m feeling. This is life. -Crying is ok.
- Getting upset and getting angry is ok.
- My life isn’t spread thin – it’s just very very full.
- There is a bigger picture than what’s bothering me. Trust that.
This just barely scratches the surface of what it’s like being a mom-artist. If I can write something that might help another mom-artist shed light on this adventure, that would make my day.
In the mean-time, I may just refer to myself as a Martist. If anything, just to give myself a chuckle and help keep a good sense of humor about this funny life.