We took each day as it came during my unpaid maternity leave when I had my second baby. We are not entitled to anything, I thought, this is a result of our chosen careers, the careers we love. I work as a freelance TV drama production coordinator and my partner as a freelance film and TV editor.
I was at the point where I had spent months with fellow maternity leave mummies asking me when I would return to work and explaining that I didn’t know, it depended on what I got offered and if I could AFFORD to accept it. It baffled them, and me too. It’s always worrying not knowing when your next job will come in and even more not knowing if you will need to turn it down if timing is not right.
When my partner and I were both offered exciting projects, we found ourselves in a situation where one of us would have to turn the work down. We did not have the money to pay a nursery deposit and the upfront fees, we were living from one wage (that could and did on occasion dry up), we had no savings anymore. So one would have to work and one would be the child carer, it was our only option. We would have to save up over the upcoming months and hope that other projects would come up in the future.
In the end it came down to the fact that my drama project was longer and therefore we decided I would return to work, and to be honest after 13 months off (I had to leave a drama before having baby number 2 due to hyperemesis gravidarum) I was ready. It was difficult, I would miss the boys so much as there is no part-time option with what I do, so I knew I would be thrown back into long days. Returning to work didn’t feel great as my partner had to turn down a project he really wanted and that would help his career. And now that one of his best clients was on the lookout for a replacement editor, the worry of when he would get work again was incredibly stressful.
A week into my project, a friend shared an article on Facebook about Charlotte Riley’s intentions to change the film industry and make it more family friendly, and it linked to the Film and Television Charity Family Support Fund, set up with Raising Films. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. There was something out there, there was someone to help and there was a way out of this situation, and just in time.
I applied instantly and the following day was called by the Film and Television Charity’s Debby Mulling for further information. I was honest about my situation, and exactly what would help. In so many ways it wasn’t much that we needed but it felt like everything to us at the time. I didn’t feel like I was asking a charity to help me. I felt like I was talking to an understanding friend that was offering support. FTC offered to pay our deposit and initial childcare fees whilst we worked towards our first wages and got straight.
We are now both working, each of us has a great new project on our CVs, our youngest is settled and happy at his new nursery, and we are back to our full income.
Beyond what this has done for our family literally, there was the relief it brought us, meaning we could breathe for the first time in so long, and it has improved our mental health. We are different as parents, as friends and as a couple. We are happier. We feel normal again.
I never considered myself in a position to apply for help from a charity. I have raised money for charities in the past that support people in much worse situations than my family. That, for me, was the most difficult part, accepting the help. Accepting that I did qualify for support, and that is exactly what the Film and Television Charity are here for. To assist in the mammoth task of overcoming the difficulties this industry throws at parents. I will never be able to thank them enough.