Entries in Motherhood (6)


Sorry, Tina

I guess Tina Fey would find me incredibly rude.  Just as I began asking women how they manage the many aspects of their life (creative, personal, trivial), she proclaims in the New Yorker, "What is the rudest question you can ask a woman? 'How old are you?’ 'What do you weigh?' No, the worst question is: 'How do you juggle it all?'" 

So, I'm sorry.  I thought it was a compliment-- to consider all the women I know professional jugglers, as I work on my 5-prop throw while treading a unicycle. At least Deborah Siegel (writer, thinker and new mama of twins) does.  In fact, her blog is what drew my attention to Fey's objections to my query.  

I do think that if we're not asking each other how we manage, then we're silently wondering it.  Or we're whispering it over a quick bite.  "So you're home with your toddler two days out of the week.  Do you get any work done on those days?" I asked a friend.  See, so rude.  And guess how she responded.  "I was going to ask you the same thing!"  

I'm waist deep in rewrites and new writes and also teaching two classes, so I try to get as much done as possible in the span of a questionable nap.  (If I work too late at night, I get creatively wired and can't sleep at all.)  I've also set up a mini table and chairs in my office (thanks, Grandma!) where Francesca can do her "work." Luckily, her feet don't quite reach the floor, so she can climb up there, but has to ask for help to get down.  

I told my friend that I also have this dream that a few of us could be in one room, working, while our mini-mes play together. She loved the idea so much that we tried it out within the week, and... Success.  My child tried to feed hers like she was a doll, but we both agreed that we actually got a lot of work done. It was a huge feat in some ways, especially with my border collie mut trying to steal letter cookies instead of helping to corral the girls.  We have yet to do it again, but that's only because of all of the other wrenches that get thrown into the juggling act. And I know we will.

I'll try to keep taking a moment away from it all to reflect.  Excuse me if I ask you to divulge as well.



The Family Museum

Julie M. Gale:  Last fall I was one busy momma/wife/professor/all-around human being. I made my directorial debut at the college with The Collected Shorter Works of Samuel Beckett AND dragged through my first trimester of my second pregnancy. The exhaustion mixed with elation was an excellent reminder of what it feels to have a newborn. The production was like a pregnancy--lots of work, lots of effort, some tears, some unexpected surprises and a great experience for all by the opening night curtain. I wouldn't trade any day of it, even the days I literally directed the show lying across the stage with the stomach flu.

How on earth did I do it? Two recent events gave me pause to reflect. First, I was contacted by my uber talented friend Cristina Pippa to guest blog on the lovely collective How She Does It blog. I am deeply honored to join these amazing creative ladies and share my experience as a "Mamaturg."

Here's a little math:

Mama + Dramaturg=Mamaturg

Motherhood + Dramaturgy=Mamaturgy

I hope these words will one day join the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Until then, a girl can dream. You might also need a dictionary to know what a "dramaturg" is and what "dramaturgy" does. It happens often. I like how it makes me feel like a spy, doing secret work in the theatre.

Okay! Back to the original arc of the post. The second event that answers "how I do it" is this:

During a cold day last fall, my five-year-old daughter Iris arranged a collection of items on the floor. I immediately went into tired Mommy mode and exclaimed, "Iris, pick your stuff up off the floor."

Iris replied, "But Mommy, this is our museum. I can't put it away until you stop to look at it."

The child asked her frazzled, morning sick, how-am-I-going-to-finish-the-fall-semester Mommy to stop and observe. These simple objects, arranged by tiny hands, communicated our family to my daughter. The Converse sneakers and tissues belong to Daddy. The American Theatre and film books belong to Mommy. The toys, puzzles and Lite Brite patterns belong to Iris.

At the moment my daughter stopped me, I wasn't in the mood. I had a mountain of papers to grade, I'd spent half the morning lying on the bathroom floor with morning sickness, and I had rehearsal for the show in the evening. But her persuasive insistence won me over. I had to stop and look.

I asked my little curator to explain the museum. Her answer was simple, "This stuff is from everyone in our family. I wanted to see how it all looked together. It also shows we have a lot of fun."

I stared at the objects for a few minutes, gave Iris a big hug and snapped the picture. I wanted the picture to remind me "how to do it." By "it" I mean being a mother, wife and creative person. The only way I know is to put it all together, not isolate one role from the other, and let the parts inform the whole that is me. I also cannot let one of these roles diminish into the background. If I stop working on being a wife, my mothering and art suffers. If I stop working on being a professor, director and writer, I have nothing to say and I will show nothing of my life's passion to my children. If I stop mothering, how can I communicate the nurturing process that is educational theatre or the beauty of a self-donative act of love? It simply doesn't happen.

Sure, there are days where the last thing I want to do is teach a class, make a peanut butter Nutella sandwich or listen to my husband vent about a difficult day. We all have those moments. The key to helping me stay upbeat, stay sane and live my version of the good life is to remember how all of my many roles in life are a reflection of the other. There is inevitable day where I teach to a bored class on Medieval Drama, barely say "hi" and "goodnight" to my husband and make supper using the microwave. But in the end, I "did it," even if it was imperfect. And as my daughter says, "We have a lot of fun." Yup, through it all, we really do.

Julie M. Gale is a Professor of Theatre and freelance dramaturg in North Texas. She is married to PhD English student Nathan Gale. They have one daughter, Iris and one on the way this summer. Julie M. Gale can be easily persuaded with conversation about theatre, the musical stylings of Andrew Bird and Dunkin' Donuts Toasted Coconut donuts. Please visit her wee blog nobasementatthealamo.blogspot.com


Juggling 3 Kids and 13 Dialects

How do I do it, and what is it I do when I do do it?       Erika Bailey

Here are the creative endeavors I’m undertaking at this point in my life: teaching voice and speech to actors in an MFA program, coaching dialects for professional theatre productions, attaining tenure, flirting with the idea of acting again, being married, and parenting three kids under the age of three years.  Each of these projects seems to conflict with the others at times.  But in the end, though I often am not quite sure what I did during the day, I go to bed feeling pretty alive and challenged and lucky. 

Here’s a typical day for me.  Or not a totally typical day; there is no typical.

6:30 Nicolas (16 months old) wakes up and starts a crying.  

6:50 I admit that he’s not going to go back to sleep and get up.  We head downstairs and have breakfast and say hi to husband/dad on his way to work.

(yes, that is a Christmas tree in the background in February. Still haven’t managed to clear that out yet)

7:45 Fausto/husband leaves and Caroline and Theo (2.75 years old each) get up.  French toast for Breakfast. 


9:15 shovel driveway (it snowed the day before).

9:45 take a shower

10:00 realize washing machine is leaking water all over the pantry floor.  Stop laundry, call husband.  Decide to investigate further later.  Mop water up with clean towels, which I leave in a wet heap on the pantry floor. 




10:15 pile all kids and Emily into car and drive to work in our ‘kid car’.  Kids and Emily head to play group after dropping me off.

10:30 in my office assessing my to do list.  Primarily working on redoing the footnotes for an article on Rhetoric that I’m submitting to the Voice and Speech Review. 

12:00 lunch with Fausto who works 5 minutes from my office.  Excellent, quiet, non-exhausted, non-kid time.  I drop Fausto off at his office in the ‘grown up’ car. 


2:00  teach 3rd year voice.  We’re doing a project on southern dialects that’s involved lots of phonetic transcriptions which I’ve been loving.

4:00 back to office for a bit

5:00 pick Fausto up and head home. 

5:20 Emily leaves and it’s playtime with the kids. 

6:00 dinner for kids

6:45 head up stairs for toothbrushing, pajamas, potty time, stories.

7:30 I leave bedtime which Fausto will finish, get a quick snack, and drive to the World War I museum where our department in a joint production with the Kansas City Actors Theatre is rehearsing Oh What a Lovely War.

In this production the following dialects are employed: Standard British, Cockney, German, French, Irish, Lancaster, Scottish, Russian, Serbo-Croation, Austo-Hungarian, Australian, American, Swiss.  And sometimes several varieties of each.  My job at this point in rehearsals (last days before tech) is to listen to the actors run scenes and take notes on how they could strengthen their rendition of each of these 13 dialects.  An aural juggling act but a fun one. 

11:00 Leave rehearsal and head home.  Fausto’s awake.  Yay!  We have a glass of wine and are in bed by midnight. 

What will tomorrow hold? 

So how do I do it?  How do I balance everything?  A pre-requisite for my life is a very useful husband!  A nanny is also an amazing thing.  I love my job, which makes all of this possible.  I love working with students on creating characters and defining the worlds of the plays they’re in, helping them increase their ability to communicate with nuance and passion.  I have incredibly flexible and supportive colleagues.  And of course, I’m in love with the kids.  So my life is an abundance of riches, exhausting many times but never, never boring. 


Mama Bird

An opportunity to present my latest play just came up in a beautiful location... 14 hours away by plane.  And for the first time maybe ever, I'm going to have to turn down the invitation.  I have always traveled with abandon, taking every chance I get to go somewhere new, to eat different foods, to meet the unknown, and of course, to share my work.  But taking an infant on a plane for more than a full day?   The commitment would be too long to go without her. And if we went by ourselves, worrying about who would watch her while I worked? One of my fears about becoming a mom was that I would lose a sense of freedom for the next few years.  To my surprise, I'm not mourning the loss of anything.  Maybe that means that this opportunity wasn't right to begin with.

I am anxious to see what it will be like to fly with the baby bird.  She was excellent on a road trip across the country at 4 months.  And I would have trotted her across the globe to see family this summer, had they not planned to take their first trip to America and visit us.  For now, we'll start with a 2.5 hour flight this afternoon to a very special wedding.


Honey, I'm Home

When I got home from work around 5:30 today, Francesca squealed at the sound of my voice.  We were reunited at the top of our staircase, and the delight on her face at seeing me was enough to make me want to leave and come back a million times but never for more than five minutes.  This week was our first experiment in sending me out to work full days -- only two out of the five, and one with a long lunch break at home, which I used to make baby food.  But  I did it. 

I can count four amazing artist/writer types who have approached me in the last few months to ask me how I'm doing it, how I'm balancing momness with my work.  I say, "it's so much easier than I imagined."  That's because I imagined it was was going to be next to impossible.  I was terrified I would never write again.  I even forced myself to finish a 100 page draft during my third trimester, because I wasn't sure I'd have another one in me until my baby was in high school.  And then I added 30 pages to that draft before she was three months old to prove myself wrong.  I wrote while she slept on my lap and while she played beside me, and I wrote in the middle of the night after I woke up to feed her.  On some days.  On a lot of days, we've stayed in bed together, giggling and snuggling and napping. And when doing that, I haven't spared a thought for my work.  Of course, that's what I was worried would happen.

I love that this blog is called How She Does It and not How To Do It, because I really don't know how.  I'll just keep doing it and telling you about it.



First Half Birthday

People always say, "Enjoy it; it goes by so fast."  It doesn't matter how many times I hear it.  I nod and accept the challenge, because I know that they're right.  Six months has flown by in what feels like a single breath.  She may still look like a baby to you, but to me this kid's huge.  Imagine doubling in size in just five months.  Growing four inches.  Learning how to use your hands and arms, and to communicate exactly what you want. 

I've begun to see the world in an entirely new way, guided by a newbie to it.  Suddenly, the old silver faucets in the shower are beautiful and shiny.  She's dying to touch them.  Butternut squash is a delicacy, meant to be accompanied by mmmmms.  Well, I already knew that.  And here's what you're supposed to do with a book:  1. Open it.  2. Raise your eyebrows and open your eyes really wide.  3. Turn the page.  4.  Make a lot of noise. 5. Repeat steps 3 and 4.