Thursday, 10 October 2019

Why Mums might not go the distance as actors...

I interviewed for an usher position at a theatre today. It pays £10 an hour.

It’s a lovely job. Nice people. I get to see some theatre for free. I can walk there in half an hour. I love the building, the ethos, I’d like an actual acting job there. It’s a job I can do without paying for childcare. Which is just as well, as childcare costs £12 an hour.

I’ve had many day jobs in my time. Some temporary, some part-time, some full-time and permanent. I was good at them. I worked hard at them. The last full-time EA job paid me £40k a year. I have a brain and skills and a good work ethic [I think! You’d have to ask some former bosses to be sure]. But, I want to act. And any day job, no matter how much I’ve enjoyed it or felt a sense of satisfaction from it, doesn’t engage my heart or my soul. Doesn’t make me feel alive. Isn’t where I’m meant to be.

And so. I guess if you’re in work fairly regularly as an actor, you can get by. Or if you partner has a steady, well-paid job, then you can get by. But if you’re both creatives, both juggling the need to pay the bills with the need to keep your talent and your soul alive, and your light shining (and that’s a biggie), and you’re not getting that much work, and you have 2 kids, what do you do? Does one of you take the hit for a few years and then you swap? I’m not sure the acting industry works like that....

So my options, as they seem to me currently (and bear with me but I think the actual practicalities/options are worth stating), in lieu of a well-paid acting job appearing forthwith, are:
  1. Work from home doing PA / typing stuff. Which is theoretically possible, but baby has a max 2hr nap a day, not guaranteed. Evenings are busy and in a 2 bed flat, there isn’t really a place I can hide from the kids to try and do some typing without them coming to assist with the “button pressing”.
  2. Sign up for temp work as a PA etc. But the joy of temp jobs is that they are mostly short notice, which I can’t do with school drop offs/pick ups and a 13 month old. Without paying for childcare. And I'm genuinely not sure I have any more space in my brain to do this sort of work currently!
  3. Get a job I can do out of office hours with minimal impact on family life, which may not pay as highly as options 1 and 2. See above usher job.
  4. Jack it in and find an alternative career, one that doesn’t require paid study or training, because no grants/loans are available if you’ve already got one degree, and CHILDCARE, and I have enough organising to do on a day to day basis with a husband and 2 kids, without going to work to organise some more people, no matter how well paid.

So those are the logistical, financial issues at play. And I haven’t even touched on managing on a touring wage when you need to find digs suitable for yourself and a baby (and childcare, that old chestnut), and indeed husband and older kid(s), at a weekend, or the travel. Or even just managing the logistics and finances of arranging or cancelling childcare for little ones at short notice when the call sheet for any given day in rehearsal / tech / production week, gets sent out late into the evening the night before... 

Let’s move to the emotional and mental issues for a mum who is also an actor.

Parenting, it seems to me, for all its many joys and hilarity, is also a daily exercise in how you deal with failure. And guilt. Which are by no means the lion’s share of the day, but are a very present and daily occurrence. Managed to keep calm for 90% of the day despite repeating every request at least 3 times, but focused on the 10% where I raised my voice? Managed to get them out of the house, clean and dressed and on time, only to look in the mirror and realise I have some crumpet squashed into my boob and a sliver of ham in my unwashed hair, as I navigate the hedge-fund mums in their floaty dresses and coiffed tresses who have their nanny in tow at the school gates? Remembered to write half the thank you’s for their Birthdays from 2 months ago, but haven’t posted them or written the other half? Managed not to crack open the wine before 5, but have moved on to 3 coffees a day to keep my eyes open? Tick.

It’s a tough gig. Rewarding. Joyful. Enlightening. Hilarious. Infuriating. Exhausting. And then there’s the acting. Which, as we know, is a world of excitement and anticipation and rejection and failure and excitement and anticipation and rejection.... that ever spinning wheel of emotions. Much like buying a lottery ticket. With only moderately better odds.

Life has felt tough of late. And in part that is due to the kids ages - Hector has just started school and Arno is crawling like a madman. And having no family nearby. It’s the toughest point. I know that. Deep down, I know. But I have genuinely wondered lately how people survive it. Not just in terms of their own mental and emotional health. But how they weather the storm of parenting and trying to carve out a career which feels so hard. And out of reach.

The hardest thing, is knowing that you are good at what you do, not that I’m Meryl Streep, but I have a whole fucking world of parts I know I can do, and wondering if I’ll ever actually get to do them. Because work begets work. And if we live in a society where there isn’t enough support for parents (and for mums especially), where family aren’t as involved, where childcare is exorbitant, and the economy is about to go fully tits up, then you perhaps find yourself in a position where you have to do some other work. To survive. And then you’re not free for the acting work.

And the other hardest thing, is knowing that you can stand on one leg with one baby on a boob and a 4yr old “helping” you cook, whilst noting down what shopping you need and singing along to your repertoire playlist so you can fit in practicing your songs, whilst texting the PTA, and remember *some birthdays and learn a scene in one evening and work out some way to film it and send it at the crack of dawn without having a breakdown, and saying NO, I don’t already have loads of West End runs on my CV but I fucking should, and YES I can - just look at HOW MUCH I am doing, all at the same fucking time, so give me an audition and give me a fucking job for the love of God. Actually. Just look at how much I am doing. How much Mums are doing. Which is not to take away from Dads. But Mums. Mums are on fire and putting out fires at once.

I don’t have any answers. I can’t currently work out how anyone with more than one child, gets to bed before midnight. I’d be curious to know how people do that. How couples manage to have sex without paying a childminder to take the kids out so they can actually find the time and not be keeping an ear out for a plaintive cry. I haven't even managed to start reading the books on Motherhood that I want to read as research to write a play on Motherhood.What jobs parents do in between acting or other creative jobs. How you cope. How you pay your bills. How you sleep. How you keep your light shining. Tell me. I’m all ears.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Going to the Theatre with Babies and Toddlers!


Do you want to take your baby and/or toddler to the Theatre, but the whole idea brings you out in a cold sweat? Let me allay some fears and confirm some probables....

Yes, the toddler will probably want a wee 10 minutes into the show when you’ve just got the baby to sleep but haven’t managed to shove your boob back in your bra underneath the baby carrier. 

Yes, your baby probably will save his daily/weekly poo for when he’s in the carrier, on you, mid show. 

Yes, your toddler may well shout out at an inappropriate time or decide that the show would be FAR better if he was on the stage / in the aisle blocking all fire exits / sitting on your head. 

And yes, in all likelihood you are going to bump into a parent you know, who may well look perfectly coiffed and poised, whilst you look like absolute shit because you haven’t slept, or brushed your hair, and your nursing bra makes your entire body look awful because your tits are about a foot below where they should be. 

BUT.... 

It will be brilliant. There will be many other parents battling the same struggles. And every time you go, it gets easier. 


When I took our eldest to the Theatre (pre our youngest arriving), I remember thinking how proud I felt that I’d made it out of the house and managed to feed him and get him to sleep, and negotiated the buggy park (it’s a cut throat business, dropping off and picking up the pram). As he got older, and started trying to climb over seats and not sleep, it was sometimes pretty tough. Mostly because I felt we would be disturbing the other punters.... 

But look around. All the children are doing the same. At any one time, a child will be kicking another as they shift about in their seat, they’ll be joining in with the songs or singing their own entirely, repeatedly asking for snacks, and asking really loudly if it’s nearly finished when it’s actually only just begun. Or announcing the arrival of the Tiger, 3 entrances before he's actually due to appear, to the entire auditorium in his biggest voice (ah my lad 💗). 

I used to look at the Parent with more than one child in absolute fucking awe. Like that was an assault course that I couldn’t imagine ever completing. And now I have. Quite a few times actually. The baby sometimes sleeps or sometimes watches. The toddler asks questions and steadily gets more and more involved. It is joyous. Crazy, knackering, sometimes VERY frustrating. But joyous. 

So... what are your options?

  1. A Theatre that specialises in shows for Children, or offers lots of family theatre - like The Unicorn,  Little AngelPolka and The Rose and The Lyric (I'm aware my knowledge is utterly London centric and apologies for not having the time to research more (cos you know, kids!) - if you run a Chidren's Theatre regionally, pls pop me a message and I'll add a list at the bottom of this blog post for reference). Their programmes vary by age. And babes in arms are usually free. The facilities are fab, and the staff are too.                                                                                          
  2. You can take them to a kids show at a Theatre that isn’t specifically set up for children. Loads of the classics like The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom are on at Theatres throughout the UK in the holidays. Tickets are a bit pricier than the Children’s Theatres, and the facilities aren’t always massively set up for babies/small children, esp in the older West End Theatres. (eg lack of baby change - take a mat with you). The Imagine Children's Festival at The Royal Festival Hall is also brilliant - with free stuff as well as paid. And Producers take note - it doesn't take much to add some baby facilities - the RFH set up some trestle tables with 5/6 baby change mats and some heavy duty bins, behind some grey screens. Parents aren't too fussy you know - we'll change babies pretty much anywhere; they don’t have to be snazzy (or all in the Ladies toilets, cos Dads do this too, right? 🙄) !                                                                        
  3. Or... you can take babes in arms to an actual adult show. You know, the plays/musicals you used to watch before you became a parent. Some fringe theatres offer a parent/baby or relaxed performance - Theatre 503 does one of each for every show that has a full run. And recently, Emilia The Play has announced the first ever parent/baby matinee in the West End (and the tickets are v reasonable as they’ve allocated a free seat for the baby for every adult ticket booked!).


Tips: 

Take lots of snacks. And water if you are breastfeeding. Make sure when everyone else in your row has taken their seat, you've got everything to hand.  

If you’re seeing a kids show in a West End Theatre that has set up a buggy park - avoid taking the pram if you can manage with a carrier or toddlers can walk - they are totally secure but it can add 15mins at the end whilst you battle to find yours and they sometimes want you to fold them up. 

Allow loads of time and take them for a run around before if you can - Soho Square is good if you’re in town - anything so they aren’t climbing the walls having to sit/stand fairly still for an hour or more. 

Take a coin for binoculars if in traditional West End theatres (not because the views are bad, but because as soon as one child has a pair, they all want some). 

Go to the loo before it starts, safe in the knowledge they, or you, will need another wee mid way through, and take a travel change mat if you have one and are taking a bubba. 

Grab a booster seat on the way in - the ushers usually have them but I only cottoned on after about 3 Theatre visits. 

Go with a mate or your partner first time - it’ll make it less stressful and you can get the lie of the land and be well set up for a solo visit next time. 

Have a chat with the kids about not buying merchandise before going in - they often sell loads. So if you’ve headed it off with a suggestion that they can ask for stuff for Birthdays/Easter/Christmas, you’ll save a small fortune. Or you can sometimes get a picture with some of the cast in costume after, which is a good distraction. 

Don’t stress about getting up and returning or your baby crying. Everyone knows the gig. And we all know our babies. I’d take mine out if he was full on crying but not if he was a little disgruntled. 

Enjoy it! It isn’t always easy, but there is such joy in hearing our toddler talk for days about a show he’s seen. Or just the feeling that having managed a Theatre trip with 2 kids, that you could conquer the world. And there might be the odd time you move heaven and earth, or just your bank balance (cos, let’s face it, it’s a privilege and sometimes a sacrifice, to be able to take them), and they don’t enjoy it. They get bored. And you want to hit yourself over the head repeatedly in sheer frustration at the effort/output ratio. But that’s Theatre. Or indeed any live performance. And at least you’ll learn that they’re more interested in Dinosaurs than Witches. Or similar 😜 

I’m taking our baby Arno, to the Emilia Parent/Baby show on Wednesday 24 April at 2.30pm ... Please come if you can - there's a handful of seats left. Join us! 


The more successful these parent/baby matinees are commercially, the more they will happen. Producers have to take a hit on profits as they require a little planning and need to leave some seats empty. But it means that those Theatregoers keep going. They still feel there is a place for them. They will keep going even when the babies grow up. They’ll be grateful for an opportunity to see something that isn’t specifically aimed at children. And I firmly believe that those children will grow into Theatre lovers. If it’s a place they feel familiar with, comfortable in, they will come and spend their money in due course. I should also say that the kids shows are a delight. It takes a massive amount of work to create something that keeps children entertained and also engages the parents - we are heading back to The Unicorn to spend the last of our Christmas vouchers watching Polar Bears Go, Go, Go! again, it was that good. 

I firmly believe every single major producing Theatre, and all the West End, should have a parent / baby matinee. No matter what the show. Admittedly the actors have to be on board. It may alter their performance for that one show. It may be difficult. It may be brilliant. Babies might cry in the poignant pauses. But let’s please open it up. Stand-ups get used to performing to rooms of silence and shouting (I once did a gig where all the audience were foreign and none of us got a laugh. For the whole night. Which was an open mic, and thus lasted about 2.5hrs. It was soul destroying and hilarious in equal measure. But we survived). Indeed, stand-ups do perform to parents/babies - check out Screaming With Laughter. 

So it can be done. It just requires a shift of attitude. An acceptance that the usual pact between audience and performer might be skewed. If a Fringe Theatre like Theatre 503 can manage it for every show that has a 4 week run, then everyone can. Indeed, those with lots of funding or large charitable donations should absolutely feel an imperative to do so. And it's not only important for the general public, it's important for everyone in the Industry who have children, and want to keep in the loop. We lose talent along the way because we haven't adapted our practices - something that PIPA is already looking at. The very least we can do is make sure that that the Theatre is still accessible to those who work in it. 

If you are holding a Parent/Baby Show, or want to know more about them, pls join our Facebook Group, where you can share events. We'll aim to collate a list of venues which we can share on the group and I'll add it into this blog as well. 

My dream: that it’s standard for Arts Council applications to include budgets for relaxed and parent/baby shows. That Producers of large scale shows or tours, automatically budget in parent & baby matinees. And perhaps a subsidised crèche for the toddlers who aren’t yet at school (Mismanaged Theatre did this recently with Bea & Co providing the crèche). And that this happens for all shows, not just the female led ones. Let’s push for all of this - it’s all do-able xxx



Monday, 20 February 2017

A shadow of my former self???



When I listed myself on Guardian Soulmates in 2011, I stated categorically that I wanted a partner who preferred to stay in bed on a Sunday morning for some shenanigans, not one who wanted to go out for a jog, or whose profile picture was a shot of them skiing. I have nothing against skiers per se, it’s just that there only seemed to be two tribes of people on Soulmates in those days: artistes, and skiers. Also, I can’t see your face in a ski mask. Now, I haven’t started skiing. And I’ve barely begun jogging. But if you see me in the near future, I may bore you senseless with my talk of Banting. Not to be confused with ‘having a bant’ or some ‘bantz’, or indeed our beloved Swan Company Whatsapp Group ‘Dr Bantermist’. 

You can all google, I won’t go into the specifics, but Banting is a diet, or as the Banters like to call it, a WOE – way of eating. You basically can eat as much fat as you like, moderate protein, and hardly any carbs. I really do mean hardly any – under 30g* per day. As an average day, I have scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, protein and salad and cottage cheese for lunch (plus 2 squares of 90% dark chocolate which isn’t really permitted, but I’m still breastfeeding and I need some chocolate in my life), and protein and veg for dinner, followed by blackberries and double cream. Booze has sugar/carbs, but they don’t limit your booze – they leave it up to you. 


Those that know me or have read previous blogs, know that weight has always been an issue. I’ve done most diets. I’ve had colonics. I’ve been to the gym. Hell, I even did a couple of 10k’s about a decade ago (the St John’s Ambulance lady looked vaguely worried at my shade of purple, and I probably jogged/walked it in the same time your average Joe could walk 10K but, I did it). The only common denominator during all this time was that I was always hungry. I literally cannot ever remember being on a diet and not being hungry. In fact, most of my life I have felt peckish. All the time. Or been thinking about my next meal ;-)

So, why did I begin Banting? Well, I felt pretty lethargic and kept getting poorly, and I was fat.  But primarily, I had high blood pressure and wanted to get off the medication for it as I hate taking pills. I also wanted to be in a position that when another job came along (please God), I was ready and able to do whatever the director wanted, which is kind of important as an Actor. In Don Quixote, I kept busting my knee attempting to step onto a tall ish box (actually I had two people helping me up, bless them, but it still hurt), because I was overweight and I had zero stomach muscles post C- Section. It still bugs me that I couldn’t do what they wanted choreography wise. That I felt scared I might bugger up the routine or the symmetry of the piece. We’re watching ‘This Is Us’ on Sky at the moment and the character Kate had this scene where her boyfriend told her she had to stop letting the ‘fat’ rule her life. She explained that it is ever present – when you’re sussing out the gaps between tables in a restaurant to see which way you should go, when you have to put your bum in the face of people at the theatre as you edge to your seat (I used to face them but we were practically humping), the airplane seat belt, the knife edge every time you take in some clothes to try on in a changing room. I could go on. It’s not really a way to live. Though to be honest, most of the time I don’t even notice I make all those calculations and adjustments – they’ve become part of my every day life. And it wasn’t until that episode that I realised, shit, that’s what I do. Husband helpfully told me I wasn’t as big as her, but that’s not really the point.

So, said husband kindly said we could put a little of our savings towards me having some personal training, so that I could feel a tad more confident about what my body could achieve. My trainer, Malcolm, recommended Banting. And I’m not sure I could be more grateful to anyone. Ever. Because, after the first two weeks (I’m not going to lie, they were pretty tough folks), during which you’re in sugar withdrawal and what they call ‘Carb Flu’ descends, the hunger stopped. And I really do mean that. My husband didn’t believe me. It took me about 3 weeks to persuade him and then he tried and realised it was true. I’m not saying there are zero cravings, especially when I pass a doughnut shop. But I can go hours without food. I’m not thinking about food. My body feels calm. And it’s probably not just the diet – it’s the training (we started at twice a week, and are now down to once a week so that I get used to doing it on my own as well, quick smart before the dosh runs out!), and I’ve been doing yoga once a week at Battersea Yoga which is a true haven. And probably does more for my emotional and mental health as much for any toning or fitness. Malcolm is high energy and, for a trainer who primarily works in the parks, has OCD about dog poo, which I find highly entertaining. It’s like they can smell his fear and they all run over to him and look like they’re about to mark their territory, whilst he stands still as a statue pretending it isn’t happening.


Now, the key is, does the weight stay off. And I guess we’ll have to see. But every other major diet I’ve done hasn’t ever seemed sustainable, and this is. I began just shy of 4 months ago. I’ve lost 15kilos, 20cm off my waist, my blood pressure is 118/80 and my resting heart rate has dropped from 93 to 70. I list those not to brag, but to emphasise that all has happened WITHOUT being hungry. And I’ll be honest, I debated about posting this. Because I look at the women’s magazines on the shelves and they’re all covered in diet stuff. I’d say at least a third of all the posts in my various groups on Facebook (primarily for mums, but not all) are about wanting to lose weight or getting fit. And the story is always the same – always hungry, fell off the wagon, back on the wagon, etc etc. And I feel sort of evangelical about this WOE. And I want to shout it from the rooftops. And I know for many of my friends, weight isn’t an issue – they can eat what they like. But since the 70’s when the US suddenly decided fat was bad, and carbs were good, obesity has steadily risen. And it makes me beyond angry that we were fed advice that was actually wrong. The US has recently changed their dietary guidelines and there is now ZERO limit on fat intake, but there is on sugar. I could go on about this all day, but if you want to read more, I’d suggest starting with Jason’s Fung’s The Obesity Code. Similarly, if you want some personal training or Banting coaching, I’d highly recommend Malcolm. Just bring a pooper scooper ;-)

It’s probably also worth saying that according to the joy of the medical profession that is the BMI Scale, I still have 14 kilos to lose, just so that I fall into the ‘overweight’ category, rather than the ‘obese’ one. So, I have a little way to go, though I have no desire to be super skinny. I like being curvy. I like the freedom of it. The non conformity of it, I suppose. I like falling into the ‘character’ actress category, and given that even if I do shed another 14 kilos, I’ll still be larger than most actresses, I think that casting bracket is safe, though I might need some new headshots soon. Most importantly, I’ve assured the husband that even at my smallest, the boobs didn’t really decrease, so he’s happy.

Yours,

Gem (soon to be seen high kicking for 2 hours non stop in the West End. I’m not, but you know, I could… ) x

*for the breastfeeding mums – I started at 80g of carbs per day and reduced by 5g per week, so that I could check it wasn’t affecting my supply. I now average 40g per day.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Brother of Mine

Last year, my friend's brother died suddenly. I couldn't imagine what that must have felt like for him, or indeed his parents, his partner, or their young baby. Then two weeks ago my Brother died, alone, in the shower, and his wife and oldest son found him. And everything became unreal.

Unreal because we'd seen him two days before and he looked pretty healthy, and happy. Unreal because he was mid fifties and that is way too young. Unreal because some fucking narcissistic nut job has become the most important person in the world (or has he?) and Brexit is nonsense and the NHS is crumbling and everyone can see it but we don't seem to be able to stop it even though it feels like we are plummeting.... life goes on. But it also keeps stopping suddenly. Like when I look at the list of Christmas thank you's I have yet to begin and my Brother's name is there alongside his wife's. Or I scroll through my texts and there it is again.

I've never lost someone this close to me. I've never lost anyone suddenly. And 'lost' is a ridiculous word, isn't it? He's not been misplaced, mislaid, misdirected. 'Passed away', though I have used it frequently in the last two weeks, isn't much better. It doesn't convey the brutality or rawness of a sudden death. 

A toddler is a fair distraction for grief. A toddler means you don't have much time to think. And for that I am grateful. There seem to be two modes - the engaged mode when I am socialising/chatting/taking Hector to a class; the mode that has briefly forgotten. And then the default, core mode which is honestly just one of sadness. Overwhelming, barrier smashing sadness.

It's a peculiar state of affairs for two reasons. One, that we had to wait for an autopsy to establish that he'd had a heart attack, and thus are having to wait almost a month for the funeral. There is no real progress on the processing until that funeral has happened. There's no real sinking in that we won't ever see him again until we all gather and remember and celebrate and mourn. And drink, probably, given that everyone is Irish Catholic.

The other reason is that circa 8yrs ago we all thought he was about to die - he had a tumour in his pancreas, and everyone knows pancreatic cancer is unbeatable. He said his goodbyes, made a video for his boys, my work gave me a day off to have lunch with him. It felt like the end. And then they operated and it was benign. As if by some miracle. 

And so it feels like we got almost a decade we thought we wouldn't get. But yet it also feels like we were cheated - that we thought he and we had won at this game of life, and then one day he hadn't.  Though he did take early retirement, spend much more time with his family, get an absolutely hideous tattoo, buy and sell a few more cars, die his hair green for Christmas Day (nope, I don't know why either) and continue to wind my Mother up.

That's the other thing. I've lost my ally. The only other person in the world who truly understood my Mum's level of crazy. Who understood why I can't often rise above it or ignore it. But who loved her like I love her. I've lost the person who I thought one day would help me go through my parents' things (morbid I know, but if you knew how much stuff she's got in storage, you'd be sending her a copy of Marie Kondo to go with the one I've sent her). 

He was older than me, my Brother, so I often felt like an only child growing up,but as an adult, I've had my sibling there. We got drunk at Joe Allens and I fell out the cab, much to his horror. We stayed up drinking red wine at his house, relaying our separate childhood stories. He tied our marriage knot along with my sister-in-law (sounds sexual - it isn't, it's a humanist thing). I think he thought it was slightly bonkers but he went with it. He was a loving man, a brilliant father, and a great husband by all accounts.

My Dad always says all you need is health and happiness. Everything else is surplus. A bonus. 

I'm not sure I have anything else to say right now. Other than the usual cliches. To cherish every day and everyone you love. To go after what you want full throttle without embarrassment or shame, because life is super short. To maybe have/take a phone with you at all times, even in the bathroom.... And to bear with me if you are due a thank you/Birthday card/email reply/coffee date - it'll come.

With love and good intentions on this new moon xxx

Friday, 14 October 2016

Who am I, now I'm a Mother?

I'm 36 years old and I'm having an existential crisis. I doubt I'm alone. I fear this happens to everyone at some point, but most definitely to Mothers. And Actors.

I've been out of work two weeks and I am, as my agent amusingly suggested, 'twitchy'. I had forgotten the neuroses of an actor. The lack of control. The waiting for the phone to ring. It's struck me that I find the admin of acting much like the admin of dating. I bloody hated first dates. When other people would tell me how exciting they found it, the 'will he, won't he like me/will I like him', the analysis of conversation and written communication after the event, the waiting, I hated it. Did I mention the waiting? And acting is much the same. Not the actual 'acting'. But everything else around it. It requires an ability to appear interested and engaged, but with no hint of need. To keep abreast of everything that is going on in the acting world so you can spot possible opportunities but without actually stalking anyone. Tricky. Twitch.

Now. So that's half of it. The other is being a Mum. Well, a parent, but I'm gonna go with Mum for now.

It strikes me that most Mums who do go back to work head back after 6 months plus. So they hit the 'Who am I, now I am a Mother' question pretty early on in the child's first year. I think somehow I've delayed that existential question. Until now. Because if you go back to work swiftly (15weeks) and it's different work, and it's all consuming work (as theatre really is), then you don't really have time to ponder the meaning of life.

Cut to today. I've been out of work for two weeks (after nearly 11 months), so I am, bar the auditions and the odd pockets of time for writing (his one a day nap or when his Dad takes him off for an afternoon for me), a stay at home Mum. And I'm not gonna lie folks, it's been hard. And I'm not even talking about the obvious stuff, like how knackering it all is when it looks like you've achieved nothing. I'm talking about the question of 'Who am I, now I am a Mum?'

I believe we have character and personality traits that are probably fairly embedded by 36yrs. But it's also true, I think, that we are what we do. We are who we hang out with...... So on some days, I am a hopping rabbit (I'm trying to be more energetic animals in an attempt to get fitter), who speaks, and points out what EVERY single object is, what colour it is, whether we've seen it before, a tired rabbit who has changed some nappies and wiped up (let's be honest, occasionally eaten) my child's regurgitated food, whilst breastfeeding and ordering the weekly food shop online and put some washing on and wondered just how demented my own Mother is when she keeps calling to tell me about this extra special kitchen top surface she's had put on, which is so brilliant you can't put anything hot on it (No. Me either. Sounds something like calico. Who designs a kitchen top that can't have hot shit on it???!!!), whilst also enquiring how long we can survive without me working, a zombie rabbit with high blood pressure. If that's not an oxymoron.

We had two nights out this weekend - dinner on our own, and a friend's wedding on our own. We barely socialised and spent much of the evening snogging in a corner. I felt a vestige of an earlier incarnation of me. Of us. Our early dating (the good bit, when we'd already established we liked each other). Our child-free days. I felt horny. Then we got home and I felt guilty for enjoying those feelings. I felt excited that our son was still awake and we could hang out with him. I felt disappointed that after that, we were both too knackered to act upon our earlier foreplay. This is parenthood. A fucking maelstrom of emotions. Often conflicting.

I rarely feel like the old me. I hang out with friends and we click right back in, but I'm always only 75% in the conversation because I have an eye on my child. Or on my phone if he isn't with me. I've also turned into someone I used to hate. Someone who used to utterly baffle me. The person who doesn't reply to emails or texts for days. Weeks. Months even. I never used to understand that person. But now I do. I've got them all. I know I need to contact them. I want to contact them. I just need time. And headspace. It's the headspace that's the thing. There's no room at the inn. It took me 6 months to send Thank you cards for Hector's 1st Christmas. We're knocking on the door of 3 months since his Birthday and I have yet to begin. To be fair, I haven't even spent all the birthday money he got yet. Lucky him!

I tell my husband I've become a version of me that I don't like. The nagging one. I mean, I nagged before, but now, boy can I nag. Because that chore I mentioned 3 weeks ago, and 2 weeks ago, and 1 week ago, is taking up precious headspace that I can't afford. He's getting better. I am doing more chores. Only fair. And necessary. Because a nagging wife ain't hot. And a nagging wife doesn't want sex because she is too irritated. And irritated is just a little too far away on the continuum from angry, for good angry sex.

And yet, I'm a good version of me overall, right? I'm looking after a whole other person (two, if you count the husband). Thinking for them. Organising for them. Loving them. And I'm working a bit: researching what theatre and tv is coming up, aka stalking everyone. I've even made a spreadsheet. That's how I roll. And I'm writing a web series with my friend. And I'm trying to write jokes for a new set. But the mechanics of joke construction and uncensored thought seem, on occasion, to be a pipe dream I can only wave at on my two free afternoons when my husband takes Hector to art class or to the park (he basically throws glitter at glue and then eats it from what I can gather). I'm a less fit version of me. I've managed 3 days of long walks and one online yoga class in two weeks. There's a long way to go. I carried a child and the stomach knows it. It displays it proudly as I resignedly hoik up my Asos leggings that have become staple clothing. That and the two nursing bras I am yet to replace. And yet I get to throw a ball with my child and sometimes not realise that an hour has passed as we laugh at each other.

So do I want to be the old me? Well, yes, sometimes. Do I want to be the new me? Sometimes. When I work out exactly who that is. If I work out who that is. I'm told I do a good impression of 'scary wife with a heart', and my friend referred to us both as middle aged last week, so at least I know my casting finally, if nothing else.

PS if I owe you a text, an email, a thank you card, a play date, a coffee.... I'm on it. By Christmas at least.