My friend from ‘Mums In The Know’ asked me to write a blog explaining how I juggle a career and being a mum. It’s taken me a good 4 weeks to pluck up the courage to do it. Not because I am shy but because once you all know exactly what’s involved and more importantly NOT involved then I am sure some over zealous yummy mummy’s or glamorous grans are going to want to call Social Services straight away and report me for
a) too many late nights
b) too many Mc Donalds (1 a week is too many right?)
c) not enough ‘male’ role models in his life
d) having way way too much fun
I am a professional actor (yes I have been on cori and no I am NOT an ‘extra’ and I don’t know your cousin Barry who’s an extra in the Rovers, and yes Maxine Peake has got my career). I also run acting classes for children and adults in the evenings, and during the day at various different community groups including adults and children with disabilities and learning difficulties. I run the only actors agency specifically for disabled actors, working class actors and LGBTQ actors in the north and I am responsible for launching the careers of lots of young stars of stage and screen. So yes – I am a bit busy and clearly not a spring chicken.
And this is the thing I struggle with most. I don’t have any family and I don’t have a partner. So childcare is an issue. It’s hard. Leo goes to see his dad for the weekend every 2nd weekend but aside from that it’s us two battling the M61 and M6. Life isn’t perfect. It’s not exactly what I wanted for him. I thought I would be a stay at home mum, just taking on the occasional filming job to ‘keep my hand in’ between baking Victoria sponges and maybe a bit of charity work? At one point I even thought I might join the Women’s Institute for something to do?????? In fairness this was shortly after giving birth – my hormones were everywhere.
But then I was single. I had to pay the mortgage and I had to go to work. It was easier and cheaper to take Leo with me as I breastfed him till he was 3, I didn’t want him to go to nursery either. If clients didn’t like it they could ‘do one’ as far as I was concerned. I never had anyone tell me it was an issue. I have taught classes with him on one hip, given presentations and asked clients to rock the pram while I try and work the power-point, even taught the adult classes with him hanging of my boob. Smuggled him into dressing rooms at the BBC, hotels….. all sorts. So what?! Live with it. It didn’t mean I couldn’t do my job. In fact it meant I did it better because I knew he was OK and safe with me. We managed like that till he was 4 and it also meant I was able to travel the world with him. Which wasn’t ‘scary’ as a single woman and mother at all. Well it wasn’t as scary as realising you’ve not had time to do the homework this week, or remembering last minute that it’s SATS and he must be in bed for 7 pm at the latest or else you are a terrible mother.
It’s harder now. He is older, he has to go to school and has to do SATS and has to do everything society demands of him already (at age 6). As we were going to work – he comes to work teaching with me sometimes in the evenings if I don’t have childcare – he said ‘I need to start thinking about settling down and what high school I am going to mum’. I nearly had a fit. He is 6?! I haven’t even settled down yet?
It’s been hard juggling his needs with a career. I look enviously at those mum’s that have help from husbands, parents and in laws, whom don’t have to use out of hours childcare and aren’t bombing across Manchester at 7.30am, racked with guilt at not being able to sit and eat breakfast with him. I get insanely jealous and quite upset if I can’t get to a school performance he is in. Once – he won a shield for being amazing at school, and I missed it. I still haven’t forgotten seeing his little face after when he asked me ‘why can’t you come to the assembly’s like the other mums?’ Though my guilt soon turned to anger as it was followed by ‘why can’t you have nice long normal hair like ******* mum?’
The excitement and pure rebellious attitude I faced in the early stages of motherhood is wavering. The idea that us single mums can do ANYTHING is becoming exhausting, and the guilt is phenomenal sometimes. I guess that’s the worst bit. Realising that my amazing son and I can’t just get on with it.. He has to go to school. He has to have his life and he can’t just fit into mine…….
So in answer to my friends request – how do I manage being a single parent and having a career? I manage it with some incredible female friends, women that have become my sons aunties, grandma’s and incredible role models. Mostly I manage it with a really big, strong, double measure and nasty dose of guilt…….. which if I am being completely honest evaporates when he see’s me on TV and his face lights up, or when I am able to get the X box for Christmas that he really wanted but thought I couldn’t afford, or when I see the way he copies me teaching and explains things to younger or disabled children with so much patience and love. When he tells me he is proud of me and I am the best mum. When he is able at 6 to talk about equality and diversity because he hears me constantly on about it work, when he knows that girls get a rough ride and are not treated equally so he goes out of his way to try and push my feminist agenda, to make me proud, to make a difference. When he is so emotionally intelligent he can give me advice……. then I think ‘he’s gonna be ok’. It’s all going to be worth it. And I am not a bad mum really……. I just have to do things a bit different.