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New York and mother guilt

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#1 F.E.B.E

Posted 09 August 2013 - 10:46 AM

Posted on behalf of Amity

In the last few years of writing about motherhood and the working mum juggle, never have I never experienced mother guilt so keenly as I have over the last few months.

As I have been presented with a series of wonderful career opportunities I have felt the absolute push and pull of juggling my two loves, my children and my work. And in my efforts to ‘have it all’ I have realised that it can be done, it’s just not easy.

When we were asked to do The Block All Stars the thought of leaving my kids for eight weeks was unimaginable, so it was either take them with us or not do it at all. Luckily we were supported in this, so they came to Sydney for most of the filming and the longest time we spent apart was three weeks. Which seemed like an eternity at the time, but felt like barely a moment as soon as we were back home again.

I learnt from that experience that we could all survive the time apart and I was so grateful I didn’t let my fears about the unknown stop me from taking the opportunity. But I never expected that on my return I would be presented with another once in a lifetime opportunity, when the musical I wrote (fittingly titled Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life) was selected for the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

In a funny twist of fate I wrote the show when I was home with a newborn and a four year old, when my career was at a standstill and I was content to stay at home raising kids for a few years. Isn’t it always the way that things happen when you let go of them?

That same show has had me touring and performing it for the last three years and had now been chosen amongst hundreds of worldwide submissions, to feature in the biggest musical theatre festival in the world.

It was insanely exciting, but the reality of making that work was a little trickier.  Could I take the kids, who would have them if I didn’t, could they survive six weeks without me, could I survive six weeks without them?
After much deliberation we made the decision that it was better for them to stay here in their routine, so Phil would stay home for three weeks and then join me for the final three, when they would go to their grandparents. Three weeks we knew they could cope with.

Phil was slightly daunted at the prospect of three weeks of sole parenting, but he agreed to it without hesitation. Ok, maybe a slight hesitation. But he agreed to do it. Because the only way us mothers have any chance of ‘having it all’ is by having a supportive network around us to make it possible. I feel so fortunate to have a husband, parents, parents-in-law, siblings and friends who all pitch in when I need them. It truly is the village you dream about and my life and my children’s lives are so much richer for it.

When the day finally arrived, it was with a heady mixture of excitement and heartache that I kissed my 3 year old as she slept in the car, stayed strong as I held my 7 year old tightly, put on a brave face as I checked in, walked through security, made it to the restrooms, shut the door – and sobbed.  

The reality of not being able to see or touch them for six weeks sat in my heart like a stone. This may have been ‘having it all’ but it than moment it didn’t feel like it.

When I dried my eyes and walked out to compose myself I found myself standing next to another mother who knows a thing or two about the juggle – Penny Wong. I have never met her before, but in a moment of fragility I caught her eye in the mirror and said ‘Do you ever get sick of it, leaving your daughter to go away to work?’
‘All the time,’ she replied.

That first day was tough, but walking into Times Square on my first night I knew it was going to be worth it. I have never been somewhere that feels so alive. It was crazy and noisy and stimulating and overwhelming and I absolutely loved it. What surprised me was that I felt safer walking around at night in Manhattan than I do at home. And why wouldn’t you be walking around at night when there are endless things to do. It truly is the city that never sleeps and I tried to make the most of every moment.
I knew my life would go back to the domestic routine the second I got home, so I enjoyed experiencing the ‘Sliding Doors’ version of myself, sans kids, while I could. Like a fellow mum instructed me, ‘You have to enjoy this, for every mother who only dreams about it.’

So I did. I stayed out late, I slept in, I made spontaneous decisions, I ate what I wanted, I went where I pleased. And I shopped. Oh, did I shop. I remembered who I was before I was ‘Mummy’ and I decided it should be the law that all mothers have two weeks off a year to do the same.
Because, damn it, we earn it.

But mostly, I worked. I was re-writing and producing a whole new version of my show, with a NY cast and creative crew, which was both exciting and often difficult. It was hard in moments, being part of a new team, when my old one was like family.

Seeing how they interpreted the script was also very interesting and there were moments when they interpreted it completely differently to us. Our sense of humours can be quite different, they are very literal and we are very dry. I had to explain how we make fun of ourselves and others, but do it with love.

So the show was very different to our version, but the audiences really liked it. Hopefully it’s only the beginning of its success in the USA, so that I can go back. But next time, the kids will come.

Of course I missed them, but thanks to the wonders of Skype and Facetime I still saw them everyday. We read stories as we lay in bed at opposite ends of the evening and I cheered my son on during his soccer game from opposite ends of the world. In moments, when they both had colds, the ache of mother guilt got to me. But then I reminded myself they were with their Daddy, surrounded by love, and that it’s not just me who can fill that need for them. And that quality time together has only strengthened their relationship, which is precious in its self.
Then, just as it stopped being fun and we’d both had enough, it was time to come home. And what a beautiful homecoming it was.

It has been a bit of an adjustment getting back into the routine of school drop off, homework and referring squabbles after such a long break away from it. The pace of producing a show in New York versus being home with the kids in Adelaide is a fairly massive shift in adrenaline levels - but I would never trade one for the other. And I am so grateful I got to experience both.

So the juggle may not be easy, but I’d say it’s worth it.

#2 Fourteenyears

Posted 09 August 2013 - 10:58 AM

Congratulations on the show!

I'm glad you didn't let motherguilt do you out of such a marvellous opportunity.  It sounds like despite all the worries it turned out beautifully for everyone.

#3 FeralProudSwahili

Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:24 PM

Someone's not well.

#4 Liz Lemon

Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:30 PM

I've reported it as spam.  Only explanation I can think of?!  I hurt my head reading it :smile:

Not the original post!!  I meant the weirdy spam post that has now been removed.

Thanks mods

Edited by Liz Lemon, 28 May 2014 - 04:47 PM.

#5 Black Velvet

Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:38 PM

View PostLiz Lemon, on 28 May 2014 - 04:30 PM, said:

I've reported it as spam.  Only explanation I can think of?!  I hurt my head reading it :smile:

Thank God. I thought I had a stroke.

#6 Toomanytocount

Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:40 PM

View PostLiz Lemon, on 28 May 2014 - 04:30 PM, said:

I've reported it as spam.  Only explanation I can think of?!  I hurt my head reading it :smile:

I thought I didn't get enough sleep.lol

I love the original post though. So true and good :)

#7 JustBeige

Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:41 PM

thanks for reporting it :)

#8 Suz01

Posted 25 June 2014 - 12:24 PM

Your writing is wonderful Amity.  A great reflection for a busy mum.

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