Confessions of a “Work-a-holic” Mom

Lightningcloud Jen Kids I’ve always worked a lot. Perhaps there was a time, for a long time, that I was a workaholic. Aspects of my life suffered because I put work first. I always struggled with that balance. Then my kids came along and the struggle to balance it all became harder than ever. The crappy thing about it is that I LOVE what I do. As a producer I get to imagine and create and work with talented artists and performers that inspire me. As an actor I get to perform and use it as an outlet to express a part of myself. I also work with youth, teaching and training and THAT is always inspiring and educational.

On the flip side, I love being a mom. I am very domestic and I love cooking and homemaking and having a family. I remember being pregnant with my daughter and feeling so lucky that I would have her a few weeks before a huge awards show I produce called the Indspire Awards. It was my third year of producing it and there was no way I wanted to miss a beat. Willow entered the world as a production baby. She was on her first flight at 2 months old, with me on site and I breastfed every chance I got. Free feeding and attachment parenting become challenging when you’re a working mom with a full-time job. But I felt good doing it all…

It wasn’t until she was 8 months old when I was shooting a film in Toronto that things got hella real. It was Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz and it was an intense schedule that demanded only a few days of my time but they were long days. On one of the days I didn’t bring my pump and I was on set shooting a scene. I got so engorged that I didn’t even feel it when my boobs started spraying milk out of my clothes. The camera man pulled me aside and told me and that’s when I realized that I might be in over my head.

I could go on and on and tell you about the crazy, ridiculous things that have happened over the past five years because I so desperately want to keep my kids close and not be an absent parent. There are just too many stories, we will see what your feedback here and I will decide whether to write a blog about those stories!!

But the real point of me writing this, is to share a wonderful story. An example of what happens when the stars align and the planning is perfect and work and family mix harmoniously.

It was only a few weeks ago when my 9th Indspire Awards went up in Calgary. This is a show I work on for ten months and it all leads up to the week of the show. It takes precision thinking and a confidence that is generated by doing what you’re meant to be doing. When I first considered bringing my kids it seemed like a daunting almost impossible concept. But then it occurred to me, my husband could take the time off and be with them all week PLUS my in laws live in Edmonton so why not see if Grandma would come down and spend a week with her son and the grandchildren?

Kind of perfect.

From the outside, it must have seemed like a crazy, stupid idea. I mean, I was working from 7 am to 10 pm and the kids just want to be with me when they see me, so why not save the money and the hassle and bring Grandma to Toronto for a week instead? But in my mind, all I could think about was that my work and my life are so intertwined and my kids are such a big part of my everyday, why not make it an adventure that we would remember?

So, we hauled ourselves to Calgary and got settled in a very small hotel room. All four of us and Grandma. Thank goodness we are close and that she doesn’t mind seeing me naked! The kids spent most of their time off site but my production crew set-up a room for my family so that they could be close by and hang around.

In the end, I was able to take the kids and give them the attention they wanted while attending meetings and rehearsals and all that fun stuff. There were a couple of moments where I questioned my choice but it’s only because they were dramatic. Like two kids clinging to my legs, bawling loudly. No biggie. It all came down to the day of the show when they stayed in the dress rehearsal with me and were awe inspired by the performances. That was topped only by the moment they walked in on the night of the show, all dressed up, and I just felt so grateful for it all.

The photo at the top of this post explains it all. Two of our awesome performers, Lightning Cloud (made up of Crystle Lightning and Redcloud) posed with my kids backstage. It was all just so exciting and having them there made me feel surprisingly grounded and grateful. There I am below, doing my thing and not comprimising my heart (my family) in the process. I may not be able to do it every-time, but the times I can … go a long way.

Tamoh Penikett, Niiko and Me

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