I wrote mainly for TV and radio drama when I had my kids. I took a few months’ maternity leave with my first son, and had to turn down a couple of cool work opportunities because I just didn’t think I had the headspace for everything then.
But with my second son, the day after giving birth, I got a text from my DOCTORS script editor offering me a shot at an episode of LAND GIRLS, the next step up the ladder. I wanted it and I figured I’d done this baby thing before so I went for it. The next few months were a little crazy to say the least, but I nurtured the script and the baby and they both turned out fine. The low point was hiding in a TV exec’s office, breast-pumping during a break in a story meeting. The high was discovering a flexible childcare agency in London (Likeminders) that I could use to book random-but-good nannies for a few hours whenever I needed them. God knows how I’d have got through those baby days without them, or my family, who flogged here from opposite ends of the country to help out whenever possible.
For me, with each kid, it seemed to take the first two years to get through the firefighting stage and find time to really get myself back in focus again. When my youngest turned two, I was able to step up my efforts to break into films with renewed vigor. It hasn’t been easy – one reason I skirted around film for so long was the sense that it’s nigh on impossible to make a living from it in this country – so I’ve had to keep up my TV, radio and theatre writing, whilst also pouring my heart and soul into my screenplays and no end of pitches, R&D and networking opportunities. I’ve had to be pretty selfish, and admit to myself that I am not the greatest with pre-schoolers anyway, so if they’re with pro childcarers they are likely having more fun than they would be with a bored and frustrated mum.
Now they’re both about to be in full-time (free – hurrah!) education, just as my project slate is shaping up nicely. I’m starting to get paid work in film and have been able to put some of the other stuff on hold. As we all know, there are no guarantees of anything in film. This time next year it could all come to naught, but it has still been worth investing this time and effort into progressing my film career. I’ve met some brilliant creative people, forged exciting collaborative relationships, and found ways of working that have made me a better writer. And a better mum, because I’m happier, and I get to take the kids to see lots of movies ‘for research purposes’.
Whilst writing this, I’m hyper-aware of unintentionally implying bad things e.g.
- that a new mum might not have headspace for new projects
- that it’s a bit selfish to choose a career over childrearing
- that it’s impossible to do this without supportive family/paid carers
- that it helps to be a bit inept as a mum, so you can get out of doing it
- that I am only interested in film if I can make a living at it
It’s a minefield, and there’s always the thoughts – ‘Would I think in these terms if I was a bloke? Would I think in these terms if I was a real artist?’ But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, and one thing I try to teach my kids, it’s not to compare yourself to anyone else. Especially not some phantom better bloke/artist self. So don’t listen to me. Just do what you can manage, paddle your own waka, and enjoy the journey.