This week's My Mom Life is a special one for me because the guest blogger is a very dear childhood friend of mine, Diane Davis. It was a little surreal reading her piece because I can still clearly remember playing with her when we were very little. I can remember this white doll dress she had that had a green velvet ribbon, and we used to put it on her stuffed Velveteen rabbit toy, I loved it so much. The picture above is of the two of us in gymnastics class when we were in maybe first grade (I was growing out my bangs hence the fantastically awesome hairstyle, I'm on the left and Diane is on the right). She was such a big part of my life growing up and it is so amazing to see her become this fantastic mother, her daughter Eleanor is just so beautiful. Now for a little background on Diane. Diane is an actor and writer who has performed on Broadway (Festen, Old Acquaintance), Off-Broadway (at the Manhattan Theater Club, the New York Music Theater Festival, and the Cherry Lane Theater, among others). She has worked regionally in some of the most prestigious regional theaters in the country: the Huntington Theater , The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Hartford Stage, The Center Theatre Group, and The Williamstown Theater Festival. Her television credits include Michael and Michael Have Issues, The Beautiful Life, Fringe, Without A Trace, Law and Order, and Filthy Gorgeous. Her first play "The Uncertainty Principle" in currently in development. Diane has an MFA from the NYU Graduate Acting Program, and a B.S. from Northwestern University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Will and their daughter Eleanor.
These days I have 2-5 auditions a week, and sometimes a reading of a play one day a week (a reading is when a company wants to hear a play read out-loud by actors to see if they want to produce that play – readings usually go all day). So this week, for instance, I had a reading on Monday. So I took Eleanor to my sister’s at 9am Monday morning, rehearsed and performed the play, and then didn’t get home until midnight. My husband picked Eleanor up from my sister’s after he got out of work and brought her back home. Tuesday I didn’t have anything, so we hung out, went to a neighborhood playgroup, did the grocery shopping, straightened up the house, walked the dog … that kind of thing. Once my husband got home I went out to a coffee shop and worked on my audition for the next day. Wednesday, I had an audition, so I dropped Eleanor off at my friend’s house for two hours while I went into the city.
It kind of goes like that. We have our rhythms of the day, but no set day to day schedule.
2. Do you have time for yourself? What do you do during that time?
Eleanor is not the greatest napper, so my alone time during the day is limited. There’s about an hour of napping in which I can send emails and do a bit of writing. I’m writing a play right now, so most of whatever time I have to myself I use to work on that. I’ve also just started to use the child care at the gym, so that I can get some exercise in a few times a week. She can stay in the child care for up to 2 hours, and I can get a little bit of “me” time, which is nice.
Eleanor also goes to bed late – usually around 11pm. That probably sounds crazy to a lot of people, but it totally works for us. As an actress who has worked mostly in theater, my internal clock is set to start work at 8pm at night, and ever since I was a baby I have hated getting up in the morning. Seriously, one of my greatest fears about having a baby was that I would have to get up at 7am. But Eleanor goes to bed at 11pm and wakes up at 10am, which is completely wonderful for me. I usually try to get a bit more writing done once she goes to bed, from 11pm-1am or so. But truthfully, a lot of that time I just relax, have a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and wind down.
Well, I need to get better about a schedule for Eleanor in terms of napping. Does anyone have suggestions? We’re sort of evolving towards one, but I don’t have anything set right now, so I never know when/if I will have time during the day, and if I do, how long she’ll stay asleep.
I’m auditioning right now, so my schedule is all over the place, which can get tricky. I spend a lot of my time cobbling together people who can watch Eleanor for an hour or two at a time while I head to an audition. Those people are usually friends, or my awesome sister, who also lives here in New York.
It’s been hard for me not to be working because as an actor whenever you are not working you fear it means that you will never ever work again. But Eleanor is only 6 months old, and this time with her has been so magical, and sweet, and incredible … whenever I freak out about not getting a job that I really wanted, I just remind myself that jobs will come and go, but I will never get this time with her back. And she’s such an awesome, funny, cool little girl; she’s really fun to hang out with and get to know. God, it’s the never-ending struggle of being a parent, isn’t it? Balancing the things you need to do with the time that you want to spend watching your children grow up.
With my husband! This is what’s hardest for me right now. Since Eleanor goes to bed late, we don’t’ really have the evening to hang out with each other. And then we have so little time to ourselves that it’s easy to spend it catching up on our own hobbies, staying in touch with friends, or taking care of things around the house. We really need to get better about “date nights”, and just spending time each day with each other. I feel like a solid partnership is such an amazing gift to give Eleanor, it doesn’t serve her or us to neglect that. But it’s hard!
5. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
Be confident. Act from a place of confidence. That is easier said than done, of course, but when I need time to work, I try to take that time and not feel guilty. It helps that I really love what I do; being an actor is such an integral part of who I am that Eleanor would not have a full, happy mommy if I didn’t keep that part of myself alive.
I feel like there is this pressure on women to make children the end all be all of their lives and when you do that, it becomes very easy to neglect yourself and to spend most of your time feeling guilty. My husband always tells “guilt is a useless emotion” and I love him for reminding me of that.
People may disagree with me here, but I tend to think that if your life is a crazy ride, your kids are along for that ride. The ride doesn’t stop because you have kids, the kids just get on and the ride continues. (Talk to me when Eleanor is 3 and we have a second kid, and maybe I will be eating those words). And of course, Eleanor is her own fascinating, amazing self and I want to help her become the fullest expression of who she is -- I’m not saying that she just has to go along with her mom and dad and become some kind of extension of us. But me sublimating myself in order to try and be “the perfect mom” won’t help her learn how to be a strong, independent woman. I want her to be proud of me, and to have an example in her life of a woman who followed her curiosity and passion, who tried to make a place for herself in the world.
Yes and no. I am incredibly grateful that I have a strong community of moms here in Brooklyn who support each other. I have three other mommies that I get together with every Monday evening; our kids play together, we drink some wine and we talk about how hard it can be to balance it all. And I compare that to when my mother was raising me and my two sisters, while working full time as the family breadwinner -- I know she didn’t have a support network at all, or even anyone to talk to about how incredibly difficult it is. I can’t imagine how lonely it must feel not to have anyone to talk to. I know that I need people to vent to, to confide in, to be honest with, and so right after Eleanor was born I went online and started a mommy group in my neighborhood. I also reached out to all of the other actresses I know who have kids. I find that if you look for it, you can find and build community, and the internet can truly be a wonderful way to do that.
The thing that’s the hardest for me right now is work. I love being an actor, but show business is awful, and at the risk of sounding cliché, it’s especially awful for women. I had someone recently tell me that I was getting older, and there were “just less parts for women my age”. I’m like “I’m 33!! Life is just getting interesting!” I know that I am a better and more interesting actor than I was when I was 25, but youth is valued so highly in this business. Having a baby really signifies that you are a woman not a girl anymore, and in a business that is all about youth and sex, real women are not valued very highly. Having a baby kind of desexualizes you in this way that I find totally bizarre; I think it has something to do with the fact that our society is afraid of the power that comes along with a woman who really knows what she wants, who has created life and is responsible for it. Maybe I’m getting carried away there …. Regardless, what can you do? I’m certainly not going to change our societal dynamics anytime soon. So all I can think to do is put my head down, be who I am, and try to do work and tell stories that mean something to me. Not to sound hoity-toity there, I would also hock soap on TV if they paid me enough. I do have a family to take care of, after all.
7. What is one thing you’ve realized/learned about motherhood that no one ever told you before you had kids?
That your life changes, but you don’t. I mean, you grow and some priorities shift, but you don’t become a different person. I think somewhere in my head I thought that once I had a kid I would become someone else; I don’t know where that idea came from, really. I guess you hear that a lot “then I had my kids and everything changed”, and before I had a kid I didn’t really know what that meant. Now I realize that having Eleanor didn’t change me so much as bring certain things into focus. Maybe because I just have less time and energy for bullshit (excuse my language). But at the core of it all, I’m still the same person, I still enjoy all of the same things and what was important to me before she was born is just as important; it’s just that I have this new other thing that is incredibly important to me, and that’s Eleanor.
I also didn’t realize how much you fall in love with your child over time. I mean, I loved Eleanor when she was born, but that love was almost more of a fact than a feeling. But 6 months later, I have just fallen head over heels in love with her; I love her more and more every day and feel so lucky that I know her.