On Leaving The Kids To Do Comedy (or, “One of my son’s first sentences was ‘Mummy Go Gig.”)
So next week I’m heading off on my second set of cruise ship gigs.
I actually really hate being away from my kids. I love them of course, but I also really like them. I enjoy their company. I love being together. Don’t get me wrong, I also have periods where a little break away is the stuff my dreams are made of, but for the most part, I actually really dislike being apart.
Yet sometimes the reality of my career means that we are. I’d love to bring them with me on each and every tour or festival I do (and I do whenever it’s financially possible) but the fact is, it just isn’t always viable. Or allowed. Take for instance, these cruises. I am DYING to be allowed to bring the whole family with me, but right now, as a comedian starting out in that circuit, it’s just not gonna happen. And the money is too good to say no to right now.
Whenever I’m about to head off on a jaunt such as this, I feel myself getting anxious. Fretful. If I were a dog I would be whining. I comfort myself by topping up the grocery supply and writing out chore charts with promises of big rewards for acts of outstanding family help in my absence.
And then I leave… and fret… and eventually settle into the time away by reminding myself that if I spend it being all misery guts, then it really IS a total travesty that we are apart. I need to make it count. I work. I write. I gig. I catch up on sleep. I try to relax and enjoy and savour and focus on all the things I COULDN’T be doing if the kids were with me. Last cruise after my final gig was done I bought myself a piña colada and sat on a hammock.
In other words, I try to make the most of it.
Do I feel guilty leaving them? Absolutely.
But… and it is a big but… I take huge comfort in my own experiences of having a mother who was consistently leaving to go follow her own passions.
I have distinct memories of my mum – a singer – leaving me to go off to gigs. I remember hating it. Missing her. Wanting her to come back. One night at the babysitters’ house I vowed to stay secretly awake in my bed until she returned. Which I did. When she got back the next morning, it was like I’d done a monkey-bar marathon.
But despite all this, I remember her as a wonderful mum. Namely because over-riding the memories of her leaving us to go strut her stuff onstage, are much happier memories of doing awesome stuff together. Baking cookies. Singing. Doing ballet in the front yard. Riding bikes. Going to the beach. Having picnics. She made a massive effort to engage with us. To cuddle us. She loved us and made huge efforts to show it by giving us her time. She left regularly to go sing, sure (and I should also point out that despite my sadness at her leaving, I also had the incredible pride of occasionally going to see her onstage and being able to point and say “that’s my Mummy!”) but when she was with us, she was really WITH us. You know?
I want so desperately to follow her example.
My aunt – a fabulous woman in her own right and a psychologist – introduced to me the concept of “the good enough” parent. The idea being that so long as your parent is “good enough” as far as you perceive it, you will emerge from childhood able to look past the negatives, and still see them as “a good parent.” Bottom line? We don’t need perfect parents. We can’t get perfect parents. Nor do we need to BE perfect parents. Which is lucky, because there is no such thing. We’re all stuffing it up somehow. But coming to terms with the thought that being imperfect is actually okay, so long as you’re being “good enough” in the right places, well, I find that hugely comforting. And liberating. Instead of beating myself up about the crap parts of me as a mother (and there are plenty), I can just get on with being awesome at the bits I think are the most important.
And so it is with the way I’m trying to handle this comedy/parenting combo.
I leave. I come back. And when I do, we bake. We sing. We dance. We go to the beach. We have picnics. We cuddle.
And I cling to the hope that this will be good enough.