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    Posted July 21, 2009

Having It All in New York

Combining Parenting and Career is Not Easy!

By Sharon Wheatley

Sharon Wheatley with her husband Robert Meffe and daughters Charlotte Meffe (Age 11) and Beatrix Meffe (Age 1)

I was late for my audition-again.

Here's my recipe for delinquency, see if it sounds familiar. Start with an 11 a.m. audition time in Chelsea, mix it with a school age daughter who needs to be delivered to school at 8:20 a.m. (100 blocks south of our apartment), sprinkle in a one-year old who is teething (and not sleeping), and the final touch, a late babysitter (due to unexplainable and endless "track work" on the A train). Now stir.

Also read Mother. May I ? by Sharon Wheatley
A look at pregnancy, producers, AEA and career.
Click here...


Bringing up Baby by Sharon Wheatley
Click here...

Thousands of Actors' Equity members who are parents create their own version of this recipe every day. Equity parents manage an obstacle course of issues that do not typically arise with parents who work traditional nine to five schedules. We love our work and cherish that we are living our dream, but what about the other dream? The family. Show business is not always family-friendly. It demands short-term relocations (on a moment's notice), evening and weekend work hours and a life in high rent cities, often when you have no job. On top of that, many Equity parents have moved away from their hometowns and long for a community of parents who understand our crazy, gypsy lifestyle.

Here's the good news on this particular morning. My 5th grader was successfully delivered to school by Daddy, the one-year old was gnawing on a teething ring with a vengeance, and I was showered (thanks, Sesame Street). But the bad news was bad: I had wet hair, no makeup, I wasn't warmed up, and my audition dress was missing. As Beatrix (the saber toothed one-year old) wrapped herself around my damp legs with a whine, I checked the time. 10:05 a.m. I had 55 minutes. Never gonna happen. Should I call and try to move my time? No way. Totally unprofessional. I should have planned better and asked the babysitter to come at 9 a.m. to give myself some breathing room. When I'd scheduled her for 10 a.m., I was trying to save a little money-auditions can be expensive. For each audition I have to figure in an hour to commute each way (I live in Washington Heights), an hour for the audition (more if there is a dance call or the callback is later in the afternoon), so it's a three hour minimum-average cost $50 without allowing "getting ready time."

I'd now pay a million dollars to the nearest babysitter if I could only make it to my audition on time-let alone with dry hair. And with that, my prayers were answered, the doorbell rang and my sitter arrived. A quick blow dry, a skirt in place of the missing dress, it's 10:13 a.m. and I'm out the door. Not bad; I will just about make it.

I jumped into the just arriving A train (yea for good train karma today!), grabbed a seat in the empty back car and took my first deep breath of the day. I started the audition commute multi-task: applying makeup while warming up and going over my sides. I really should list "I can apply mascara perfectly on a speeding A train" as a special skill on my resume. As I polished and powdered myself, I reminisced about the old days when I would spend hours getting ready for an audition. I must've been, what, 24? 25? I remembered what an agent had said to me when I was single and in my 20s. "There's a million of your type in New York. Too bad you aren't 40; that's when everyone leaves the business to have babies." I also remember my silent reaction to that statement: "Not me. I'm not leaving. I'm going to have it all." (Cue music for the song from Baby.)

I miraculously arrived at Chelsea at 10:59 a.m. to a smiling monitor who informed me that I'd be next. "Great," I replied, trying to look as calm and together as I possibly could while hastily changing my shoes and digging for a current resume. I knew better than to complain. No one, let me repeat that, NO ONE wants to hear about what 500 things I had to juggle to arrive on time. I looked around at the other women waiting and noticed how nervous they seemed. Oddly, my nerves were fine now. I'd been a frazzled mess an hour ago, but now it seemed the hard part was over. I was here (on time!) and my little chickens were happy. I smiled to myself at the monitor yelled, "Next!" and I got up to go into the room. I'd just realized that the easiest pat of my morning was the audition itself.

This column is dedicated to the Equity members who are parents and want to "have it all." We-the Parents' Committee-will concentrate on building a community of AEA parents, as well as AEA members who are considering becoming parents. We have heard again and again that parents in our Union feel alone in a society that caters to parenting needs of daytime workers.

We will take on one AEA parenting challenge per issue and we'd love your feedback and questions. Please email me directly at Sharon@Sharon with any questions and build our community by joining the Actors' Equity Association Parents' Group on Facebook.

Sharon Wheatley is a cast member of AVENUE Q on Broadway, and the author of 'til the Fat Girl Sings: From an Overweight Nobody to a Broadway Somebody. She has two children: Charlotte (age 11) and Beatrix (age 1). (Editor's note: For information on National Childcare resources, click here

For more information about Equity's Parents Committees, contact:

Eastern Region: Rebecca Kim Jordan, Eastern Parents Committee Chair, c/o Beverly Sloan, AEA Staff at 212.869.8530

Western Region: Clarinda Ross, Western Parents Committee Chair c/o Richard Ostlund, AEA Staff at 323.978.8080

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