passions

Living The Dream Means You have to Actually Let Yourself Live It

Yes, if cauliflower can be pizza, then even the dreams of a 40 year old suburban mom can come true! One day I’m out marketing at Whole Foods, the next day I am one of their voices! But when I started going after my voice over career with gusto it did not mean I was in any way less passionate about my life as a mother to Emma and Jack. Being a working mom often means spending a lot of time at the intersection of our personal and professional aspirations. For most, motherhood is not something we just fell into. Rather, like my voiceover career, I spent years dreaming of the children I am now proud to have. For some of us, myself included, conceiving these children was not easy, and not a day goes by that I don’t look at them as a miracle. I was also told countless times that if I was very lucky I might have one baby, and could never have twins. So I find myself looking at my twins, and cannot imagine a world without an Emma or a Jack in it.

That said, when I built my career as a voice over actor around my twins, I still intended then and intend just as much now to be present for my family while pursuing my work full-time. Is it a juggling act some days? Yes! I find inspiration in places I never knew I would look. I knew a girl growing up, now Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, and we went to school together through high school. I find myself always looking forward to Jaime’s instagram posts. In a time when people carefully craft these perfect scenario’s on social media, I find Jaime is keeping it real and I am so thankful for her content! She leaves me feeling inspired and I enjoy seeing what this working mom of three has to reveal. When I find working moms like this on line I see that I am not alone and we are all in this together!

The point is that if you build a career like voiceover so that you can be available to your family, it is then okay to choose to prioritize your family and schedule your bookings around what your kids need. It is possible to do both, but that will only happen if you actually schedule it that way. Here are some tips that I have found make this ride a little less bumpy:

Plan Ahead

This goes for both voice over and family. I maintain a huge calendar and as I do not exist separately neither does my calendar. At first I did have two calendars and suddenly we were missing things like the dentist! They were nice about it but I was horrified. So, I find one calendar helps. I do as much as I can in advance. Before writing this blog I planned all my dinners for the next week and did my grocery shopping for the week. After I post this blog I will prepare lunches through Wednesday.  I have set laundry days and set days to do social media posts. Planning ahead is not only provides comfort, it gives a sense of rhythm in what can otherwise be a chaotic daily schedule. Some clients will send work with a far off deadline, particularly in eLearning, but as I do mostly commercial work it is a rare luxury that I can schedule my work beyond a 12 hour window.

Delegate

I delegate as much as possible, both in my home life and in the studio. Here are areas I suggested delegating:

  • Chores-  Everyone in my house has responsibilities with the exception of Violet, the dog. She is just a mush who looks happy. From doing the dishes, to making the beds, cleaning bedrooms, holiday prep… the list goes on and on… but everyone helps. I feel very strongly that it is not my home, it is our home and my kids are quite capable. I appreciate very much all that they do, and I am happy to wait for them to help, but we all chip in.
  • Marketing- Since the twins were born, my husband has helped with grocery shopping. Now the kids love to do it too, so it often is a family affair, but it does not fall to me to do alone. We often market at off-peak hours like Saturday nights and can get in and out quickly.
  • Homework Help- My kids have learning differences. Both twins are dyslexic and need help with different aspects of their work. My husband and I do what we can, as we have different strengths, but we also welcome help from family members! My sister is amazing with Math. My mother-in-law handles Latin and Spanish. We have a tutor for Chemistry. This is a huge help as VO work from the West coast often comes in after dinner and I need to be able to go down to my booth a lot in the evening.
  • Editing-  Outsourcing voiceover work is important. As the voice, you can’t outsource that. Sometimes some clients have clauses in the contract that limit subcontractors. Often, though, you can higher an editor and it is a huge help.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

It is not easy to work and to take care of your family. Ask yourself, did your expectations of how you parent or run your home change when you started your business? At first mine did not. I will confess that there are days I go down to the kitchen at 5:20 in the morning to get my kids ready, and I don’t go back upstairs until after 8:30 at night. The bed was never made. What can I do? I worked hard.  I did my best. I got a lot done. If I weren’t so busy, the bed might look like a display in a department store, but that is not my reality, and that is okay. As my role has changed, my expectations have changed. I think back to my old school friend Jaime and I just keep plugging.

Passions do Matter

It’s that time of year again when flash cards come out and multiple trips to the library and books stores all over town are a must: it’s term paper season. My twins are fortunate, the History teacher this year and the teacher the had in Middle school are both outstanding, so the kids have learned how to do research. Still, as the mom of two dyslexic kids, they need help. Time management, sorting through the material, and making sure they are on the right track are not skills that come easily to most teenagers, and especially to kids with learning differences.

As a full-time working mom, I spend a lot of time at nights and on the weekends doing work with the kids and I look forward to our time together. My daughter Emma is much more a math and science kid, so when a huge research project came her way in History this year she was less than thrilled. One Sunday in the den with my sister, Emma had a tearful outburst and said “I just want to write about macaroons!” We got it. She spends hours a day doing homework and she wants to work on something she loves, and you know what, Emma LOVES eating macaroons. Smart girl, right?

So, we began searching on line, and learned that Catherine de Medici, the Italian Queen of France, brought Macaroons to France! She also brought the fork, cigarettes, and the side saddle, along with numerous other significant cultural contributions, but this is not about the Medici Queen, it’s about my sweet and smart daughter Emma pursuing her passions. Once we focussed on a subject that Emma loved and cared about, the term paper became a joy and something she was happy and proud to work on.

So, what on earth does this have to do with my professional voiceover career? Everything! Just as pursuing her passions academically makes all the difference for Emma, pursuing my passion for voiceover all day every day is extremely meaningful and fulfilling for me. I had been home with my twins when they were young, and the only way I could go back to work full time was to go after something as wonderful as, well, macaroons!

Creative Outlet

I think one of the reasons I love working in voiceover so much is that it provides such a creative outlet. Between the auditions and my bookings, every day’s work is very different in that regard. I love having fun with the reads and trying to think of an approach that others won’t come up with. I am enthusiastic and passionate and voiceover work is upbeat and happy most of the time. I am really thankful that I spend so much of my time doing something so creative.

Sometimes clients are not sure what they are looking for. I love helping make suggestions and providing alternate reads so that they have options for their project. It is extremely rewarding to bring something to life.

Working From Home is a Gift

Before I had my kids I taught Middle and Upper School History at an all girls school in New York City. The thought of commuting now and being so far from my kids makes my stomach turn. I want to be the one who is here when they are home sick. I want to attend the school science fair and parent teacher conferences. I want to pick them up in the afternoon and hear all about their day. I can still work an 8 hour day and do all of these things. One of the benefits of being a solopreneur is that I create and manage my schedule. I lose no time commuting and my studio life is a delight. My studio dog Violet is by my side every minute and she is a love. Her presence is calming and fuels my joy.

Being a Working Mom Ain’t Easy

My voiceover tasks don’t vary much day to day. On a daily basis, I work on my bookings, try to always do at least 20 auditions, work in marketing outreach and client correspondance, and do bookkeeping. I also have to maintain my social media content. It fills the day and the work day goes by in the blink of an eye.

While I am preoccupied with my voiceover work, all of my tasks as a wife and mom sit. When my sister and I were little we loved the old fable The Elves and the Shoemaker. Oh how I wish there were elves that would sneak into my house to tidy up and do the laundry or the dishes! I find tasks like cooking dinner and preparing lunch for the kids to be the most challenging because I try so hard to make our food healthy and well-balanced and it is hard to do that quickly and last minute. If I were not spending my day doing what I love, it would be quite frustrating to feel so challenged all the time.

Learning from my kids

My kids are young enough still that they do not keep their feelings bottled up. Instead, we know just how they feel in the moment. The blessing of that, though, is that the kids don’t ignore their passions. They pursue them whole-heartedly.  This is a wonderful example to live by. Our lives go by so quickly. As Plato said, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”