Oh yeah….it’s toddler time and it is not pleasant. And I’ve already been warned that “threenagers” are even harder. But I really am not sure if he could get much worse than now..
Here’s an example of my exceptional parenting on the weekend – yes, this is the middle of a quick shop to get some last minute groceries (Nailing Parenting 101).
For the busy working actor who is already juggling auditions, self tapes, call backs, voiceovers, workshops, networking, trying to have a relationship, extortionate childminding fees and some, we really don’t need a toddler losing their mind as well. Right?! And yet they inevitably will, often on a daily or weekly basis.
I am completely and utterly shattered. I spend most days wondering if I can get away with not ironing that outfit that used to ALWAYS need to be ironed; I go at least one to two days extra between hair washes (don’t worry agents – I wash for auditions); I’m also likely to not remember if I had breakfast that morning, or if that tiny brat stole it after he ate all of his own eggs, toast and weetabix.
Tiny humans are relentless. RELENTLESS I tell you.
So I had to think really hard before I posted this particular post. I don’t actually want to deter a single woman (actor or otherwise) from taking the great leap into family land. But I also want to offer at least the tiniest bit of constructive support (drink more wine for personal sanity!!!). Because otherwise, I’m just not being true to B.A.B.E..
And so I pondered, and pondered. What is useful for an acting mum (dad) to know when they’re tiny two monster turns into a crazy demon?
Here’s a few things I’ve found useful:
- Don’t forget to feed them constantly. This seems like the easiest thing in the world to do. And yet, the amount of times I’ve not realised that my baby is turning hangry is ridiculous. They need food CONSTANTLY. Never leave the house without 1-2 extra snacks than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re heading out to a play date that that might go over time, an audition that takes longer than you expected (I waited for an hour and 10 once with my 18 month old), or you just find that they’re going through an unusually hungry phase. They need food to fuel their busy lives ALL DAY LONG.
- Favourite toys will save your life. If you know they love their cars, trains, Peppa Pig doll, puzzles or crayons, pick two and take them with you everywhere you go – auditions included. Anytime he’s getting fractious waiting for ages I whip out some paper and crayons and we draw rainbows together. It immediately calms him again.
- SIDE NOTE – he had an audition himself the other week and I must commend the staff at the Bang Studios audition. They had set up the little coffee table into a dedicated toddler action station complete with pens, and all the casting forms were being scribbled on ferociously by a gaggle of toddlers. It was insane and completely adorable. It kept them busy and distracted until they were called in. Hat’s off, it’s the best baby casting I’ve ever been to.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s okay to resort to the ‘urgent break-in-case-of-emergency-tools if you have to. These include Pom Bears, iPads, their favourite drink, a wind up car. Anything. Use the mummy Yoda force. You will know when you need to do this. But remember – use these get-out-of-a-sticky-tantrum-toys wisely. Once you’ve done it once, you are setting yourself up to find yourself in the same position again. Those rug rats have exceptional memories. They can spot a tiny piece of onion in bolognese sauce quicker than you can say spaghetti, and they will remember that you gave them an ipad last time you were there, long after they don’t believe in Santa.
- Allow your child to run free in advance, or very carefully plan something exciting for after. Recently, my little one had his own audition and he kept saying “shall we play now” while he was there. So clearly he found it all rather dull. As soon as we finished, because it was in Soho, I whisked him off to the London Transport Museum to burn some energy for the next hour. If your little one understands enough for you to be able to get them excited about hitting the park or going to a museum later, you can use this to negotiate the boring bit of sitting about waiting to be seen.
- Allow an extra 20 minutes + a buffer. Buggies are all sorts of annoying. Unless you’ve got a super active toddler who’s already done away with theirs and walks (or scooters) everywhere, you’re going to have to navigate pram friendly exits at tube stops, trains or take buses. Either of the first two can be a mission to find, and often you give up and just have to smile sweetly at strangers until someone offers to help you maneuver your overpriced baby 4WD up the stairs. Whatever time you think you need to get to your castings, add ANOTHER 20.
- Dump and go. My agent gave me some great advice once when my wee one was much smaller. She said, if you’re ever there [at a casting] with a baby – and I’m sure you can do this with a toddler – just pick a mum in the room, or someone who looks like they really want to have kids. There’s usually someone who fits the bill, and will happily look after your precious cargo while you go in. Also, if you’ve just fed them, or you’ve set up the iPad right before you go in, there’s a greater chance they won’t really even miss you while you’re in your casting.
- SIDE NOTE – I’m never inclined to take my little one for film or TV auditions because you can be in the audition room for much longer. In those instances I typically suck up the babysitter fee or part time childminder fee. But commercial auditions are very much get you in and out, and I find with a relatively easy child, you can manage it just fine. Plus so many casting offices, at least here in London, are very baby friendly. They want to make it as easy as possible for parents.
- And finally, reward thyself. It’s all well and good to keep the mischief maker at bay, but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back and to reward yourself for a job well done. Any parent who makes it through a casting (or multiple) with a toddler, deserves a medal in my humble opinion. Make sure you dump said toddler onto daddy (or mummy) every once I a while and go get a pedicure or just sit down and have a coffee ALL BY YOURSELF. You deserve it mummy actor!