I ask my students what they would do if they had to give up acting. The majority of the time I get, “I have no idea. It’s all I want to do.” A couple of years ago I had to ask myself a similar question, what would I do if I had to give up the idea of being a mother. My answer was the same: It’s all I want to do.
This Mother’s Day will mark 17 months to the day that I became a single foster parent to an amazing little boy. The path has not been easy, but it was all I wanted and I was determined to make it happen. In the blink of an eye I was responsible for caring for a teeny five-week-old baby, on my own.
I have come to realize that mothering an infant is similar to nurturing an acting career. Like you, everyday I wake up knowing that caring for my son requires: dedication, patience, and compassion. I have to be on my toes and stay fluid – what was working one day isn’t always what works the next. I establish a routine and have to be okay when that routine is disrupted. I have to make strong choices about his well-being and stick to them with confidence. I have to continue to learn how to communicate with him as his language skills develop and to listen to him as he is learning to communicate with me.
I have also had to deal with the business side of being a foster parent. I am constantly communicating with my Foster Agency and The Department of Children and Family Services, filling out paperwork, assuring everyone that I am showing up to all the appointments on time and ready (even though I don’t always want to go), waiting for answers from the court and… giving up control– sound familiar?
The most crucial lesson being a parent has taught is Presence. My son is changing every day and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, being present is not always easy. When I am with him I have to work so hard at not looking at my phone, not thinking about paying my bills, work emails I need to return, household chores, and just be present. As an actor, when you walk into the audition room, on set, on stage, your biggest challenge is leaving all the day to day stuff- that’s going on outside and in your head- at the door. I often remind my class to wipe their feet at the door. Literally and figuratively. It allows you to walk into a space and respect it by leaving everything else outside. Believe me, I know, some days this will be challenging. It’s impossible to replicate that every day. I go to bed some nights thinking, “Today I was not a stellar mom.” It doesn’t feel great, but that’s just part of being a parent – part of being human. Life is a journey with its ups and downs and successes and failures. We just have to keep going and try to live in the moment.
In two weeks, I will take my son to court to finalize our adoption. It has taken me years to get to this moment. I will be surrounded by friends and family and I will have officially booked my dream role, “Mother.”
Jami Rudofsky is a Casting Director.