Or perhaps the more accurate statement is that nothing fits like it used to.
But here’s the thing. I have lost the baby weight. The number on the scale is the same as it was before I had Curly Girl. But my body is completely different: Mushier in new places, stronger in others. And this seems to be an external reflection of what has happened to me on the inside.
When my husband and I first decided to try to have a kiddo, I was terrified. How would I continue to work as an actress, broadcast host, writer and producer? How do you provide a stable environment for a child when engaged in a career that is defined by unpredictability? Would I be able to do theater again given the long hours and (usually) low pay? And even worse…what if I decided I’d rather stay home with my child than continue to work? What if I not only decided I didn’t want to Lean In…but that I wanted to Opt Out entirely? What if I lost myself and turned into someone else?
There are many moms in the entertainment industry who have the work/life balance issues all figured out. I know this because I have it on expert authority from US Weekly and People and In Touch magazine. Walk into a grocery store and you, too, can find plenty of evidence.
“Hands-on mother Jennifer Garner picked up younger daughter Seraphina, 4, at ballet class…Jennifer has been taking advantage of some time off from filming Imagine in L.A. to enjoy her family.”
“Happy B-Day, Charlize! Jackson, 17 months, amused bikini-clad mom Charlize Theron by trying to put on a snorkel mask as they celebrated her 38th birthday in Hawaii.”
“There’s no better way of encouraging a child than leading by example. And Jessica Alba went as far as hopping onto a playground slide to prove a point to her youngest offspring Haven on Saturday. The 31-year-old actress was seen squeezing her adult frame onto the playground apparatus in order to show her 19-month-old that there was nothing to be afraid of.”
The tabloids now include regular Celebrity Moms sections, featuring glowing pics of well-dressed, in-shape celebs surrounded by their broods, engaging in Halloween Pumpkin Patch Fun! Grocery Shopping Like The Rest of Us! Family Beachtime! And of course, if you turn the page, you’ll find the one sheet for their next movie, reinforcing the idea that You Really Can Have It All.
[FYI, I’m leaving Angelina and Gwyneth out of this conversation…they exist in their own special universe along with the Victoria’s Secret models, perfect bachelor George Clooney, and rock star/world savior Bono.]
But what readers rarely see mentioned in these stories or included in these pictures is the army of support these SuperMoms have to help them get through the day. Sometimes it’s a Nanny. Sometimes it’s a Housekeeper. Sometimes it’s an Assistant. Sometimes it’s a Cook. Sometimes it’s Family. Sometimes it’s a Stay At Home Husband. Having help doesn’t take anything away from the dedication these celebs appear to have for their kiddos. Heck, if I had the resources, I’d love to outsource the scrubbing of the bathroom floor and the piles of laundry, and instead spend that time playing Ballerina-Astronaut with Curly Girl. But that’s not my reality at the moment.
Sarah Jessica Parker addressed this in an article in PARADE a couple of years ago. She talked frankly about the fact that she’s afforded luxuries that real moms may not be able to have. “It’s really unfair to working women in America who read celebrity news and think, ‘Why can’t I lose weight when I’ve had a baby?’ Well, everyone you’re reading about has money for a trainer and a chef. That doesn’t make it realistic… I’m allowed to be a working mother because frankly, I can leave my child with someone I trust and love and a lot of mothers can’t do that.”
So what about us “real moms?” What does work/life balance look like when you haven’t quite reached star status and access to the luxurious support systems it can provide? How does it work when you are already trying to balance a day job and your creative pursuits, and then you add a baby to the mix? When you don’t have a nanny to bring your toddler to set, how do you handle the long hours that shooting requires? What’s it like to juggle auditions with preschool drop off and a creative husband who also has a crazy schedule? Is there a tactful way to tell your toddler you just really need her to play by herself for a bit so you can finish up an article? How do you deal with it when you need a full night of sleep because you are going to be on-camera the next day, but your kiddo keeps waking you up because she’s potty training and wants to have a lengthy conversation about her poop at 3 a.m.?
And then there are the issues that go deeper than time management. My identity changed when I became a mom. And that was terrifying! You see, I was not someone who grew up wanting kids. In fact, I was pretty sure I was not going to have them. Then the Universe decided it was going to get all tricky with me. I married someone who I could easily see being an equal partner in parenting. My biological clock started sounding a 3-alarm fire. BOOM! Gut-level need to procreate! Let’s make a baby! And in August 2010, Curly Girl arrived. I was immediately smitten.
But just like with a new beau, after that initial period of infatuation where the whole world becomes about him/her and you’re happy to have your identities meld, eventually you have to find your way back to yourself. To the individual your partner fell for in the first place. Deep down, I know that part of being a really good Mom means being true to the person I was before my daughter came along. Ideally, by setting this kind of example for Curly Girl, she will be encouraged to find her own authentic passions. Or in other words, to be a strong, independent chick who can kick ass!
(It sure sounds good)
(It’s a constant challenge)
In this monthly column, I’ll look to explore these questions and many more – both the practical and the philosophical – as I continue to experiment with work/life balance as a “Ms. In the Biz.” If you have your own experiences to share, please chime in. We can all use all the help we can get!
Disclaimer: No Mommy Wars here. I respect your choices. Please respect mine. If you don’t agree, please do so with tact and generosity.