How being a Mother compares to being an Actor
Having a toddler (3-year old Sydney) and a colicky baby (4-month old London) is very demanding. Sometimes being a parent feels like I’m on set with the most peculiar crew and other times I like to pretend that I’m working as a performer, so I’m not completely losing control of my emotions or of the situation.
If you ever wondered what it feels like to be with two little munchkins 24/7 and how it compares to acting, here are a few examples for your entertainment:
Sydney is three years old and he repeats everything a gadzillion times which reminds me of the repetition exercise we used to do in acting class.
Sydney is three years old and I have to repeat everything a gadzillion times which reminds me of the repetition exercise we used to do in acting class. (I hear I will have to do this for another 20 or so years.)
When I’m reading to Sydney or my 4-month old baby, I make noises for things and voices for the various characters. It’s just like doing voiceover work.
You think reading a script over and over again can be annoying? Well, you haven’t read to a toddler yet. Toddlers like things repeated, that’s how they learn words and sentences and dialogue. Sydney loves to “read” his books and he repeats what I read. He makes noises just like I do and he now entertains his little brother with his book reading skills.
Driving to set or to the theater and finding parking can be frustrating. But not as frustrating as trying to find a good parking spot for your toddler’s soccer or gym practice, their swimming or music class, where all the parents are aiming for the closest spot to the entrance because nobody wants their toddler running across the parking lot between moving cars.
Toddlers like to repeat what they hear and see. When Sydney gets into “character” and becomes me, one of his friends, or another adult, he subconsciously analyzes what works and what doesn’t work. Sometimes I know exactly which girl or boy from his nursery school he imitates and I’m counting the days when he finally drops “that particularly annoying” behaviour. Sometimes I’m seeing myself in what he does and I must admit it’s not always pleasant. This gives me a great clue on what I can improve on as a mother because I always tell him “do what you want others do to you but never do things that you wouldn’t want others to do to you”.
During playtime, I let Sydney “take over” so he can tell me what he wants to do and how he wants to do things. That is pretty much his only time when he can tell me what I should do and how I should do it. When I do what he wants, he tells me it was wrong and I have to do it again or I have to do the opposite of what he said. When I try to explain why I did what I did, he likes to say “No-no. Let ME talk!” There is no creative input allowed from me and no excuse for doing things differently from what he told me. It’s totally like being on set with a very opinionated, self-righteous director, who doesn’t care about my artistic expression, only about his own ideas!
Practicing monologues can be a lot of fun but listening to someone do a monologue for an hour without interruption can be exhausting. Toddlers go through a Parallel-Play phase. This monologue phase I like to call the Parallel-Talk phase. Sydney sometimes talks on and on and on about everything and it seems to never end. When I zone out, he sometimes catches me not listening and I have to improvise by repeating some of what he said. I’m getting pretty good at it.
I get to practice lots of make-believe with Sydney, especially as he now starts to create his own make-believe games. It’s fun and frightening at times because I don’t know how far I can go. One day he said, “I’ll be right back!” as he was heading to the playroom. “When I’m gone cry for me like London cries.” So I cried for him with real tears. When he came back, he was surprised that I had tears. Then he “directed” me to cry again but without tears. And later he asked me to cry again, this time with tears again. Talking about a tough director!
London is colicky and when he was two and three months old, he spit up a lot. And the spit up came very unexpected, sometimes two hours after feeding. When I wasn’t ready with a burp cloth (which I rarely was), I had curdle milk all over my shirts and my pants and also all over my little one. Sometimes I had to change both our clothes only to be spit upon again, so I could change us into a third outfit. These weeks and months came very close to what my modeling years were like, especially when I used to go to fittings.
I have good days and bad days. When the bad days get really tough, it’s my turn for pretend play and I like to pretend that I’m on set and the director wants me to deal with a tough situation in a calm way. “No screaming, no yelling, don’t lose your patience” I pretend the director is telling me. My kids don’t know this but it helps me calm down, so I don’t lose my cool when one boy screams from being over tired and the other screams because he wants me to play with him. It’s also a tool I use sometimes when Sydney wants attention and he wants me to repeat something over and over and over and over again. I just pretend I’m on set with lots of takes. 🙂
Most kids and adults mirror each others emotions subconsciously. When one kid cries for example the other kid “catches” that emotion. Sometimes when London cries, Sydney starts crying as well and when I ask him why he cries, he says he doesn’t know. Sometimes Sydney cries and London starts screaming as well. When Sydney gets upset, it’s easy for me to get upset as well as I’m “catching” his emotion. Then we both end up screaming. He screams because he wants or doesn’t want something and I scream because I want him to do as I tell him. To keep my mirror neurons from responding to negative situations, I have to improvise and do the opposite, so that Sydney and London can calm down (and so I can calm down as well). So when both boys are upset, I have to distract them with something fun (or funny), I have to laugh (not at them!) or smile, or do something silly to change the course of the negative emotions. This is sometimes very tricky but it works wonders and the more I practice it the better I get. 🙂 And when we all are calm, we can talk about whatever the issue was that made us upset in the first place.
I admire both my boys’ focus and attention and being with them makes me a better human and a better parent and they also mold me into a better artist. While I’m no longer working on a regular basis on set or in the theater, I’m still sharpening my chops and my best teachers are my kids.
I’m still writing my “Plan B articles“, so if you have a second career, please email me and I will feature you in one of my upcoming articles. Please put in the subject line: “Actor/Actress with a Plan B”. Tell me your name, what you do, how long you have been doing it, and please include a photo of you (at your Plan B job) and a link to your acting and Plan B website.
Enci is a Mother, Actress, Artist and Activist (MAAA).
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