Being a Mom and an Indie Filmmaker

Zaki and SonFirst of all it ticks me off when people ask any working women: “how do you balance work and being a mom?” As far as I know this question is directed only at women. Men never get asked this question because it is assumed that the responsibly of raising a child rests mostly, if not solely, in the hands of the mom. At least this was the case in my parents’ generation and in many segments of society it still prevails. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope”, President Obama readily admits that he was allowed to pursue his political career without hindrance when his daughters were very young, while his wife was the one to pick up a sick child from school and attend all PTA and parent/ teacher conferences. The truth is that it is impossible to do anything, let alone make movies, if you do not have a support system of at least one other person. And I have that in spades. Not only do I have an amazing husband who knows that making movies is my life’s purpose, but I also have my mother and mother in law who are ready to jump in and help all the time. When I leave my child, I know that he is well taken care of and loved.<!–more–>

So practically, I can leave and do what I do. The question is do I want to. Well… the answer is yes… to a certain extent. It is hard to leave your child. I miss him from the second I say goodbye and by the time a week has passed without a hug from him it feels sometimes like I physically hurt. Unless you are a parent you will not understand this statement. Nature is a clever wench. She has designed this whole offspring thing in a way that parents (for the most part) have an almost overwhelming desire to protect and nurture their offspring. I try to not let more then a week pass without seeing my kid. And, of course, every decision I make in my professional life is colored by consideration of my family. I will not go off to Antarctica for 6 months, at this point in my life, to shoot a documentary about emperor penguins. Not that I don’t think that would be an amazing adventure, but because I don’t want to be away from my family for that long.

Having said that, at certain times during the pre to post production process the work becomes all consuming. Fifteen hour work days are not uncommon in filmmaking and that comes with the territory. For me, those days pass quickly because I am in my element. When I am making a movie I feel like I am at home. Like if there is a reason I was put on this earth, this is it. I love making movies! To me it is like magic and when everything is gelling in the process there is no greater feeling (with the exception of hugging my kid).

So how does one reconcile these 2 opposing forces? I think maybe you don’t. Not really. For me it is a case of constant shifting of focus. When my movie needs me I am there, 100% of me thanks to that amazing support system I talked about earlier. Filmmaking has a lot of intensity for short bursts but there are long stretches where you are not working as hard and those are the times I focus on my child. He also gets me, 100%. And when he gets me, he has a much happier mommy because I am pursuing my dreams.

Having said all this, there was a certain time that I “dropped out”. I think this is probably true for most women. For me it was from my sixth month of pregnancy until my child was two years old. That was when I stopped nursing him. When you are very pregnant or nursing, your mind and body are not your own. You give them up willingly because that is the way nature intended (clever wench). Even if you are not nursing, for most women it is not until your baby is around one year old that you feel like a human adult again. Up until then, there are a lot of sleeping/eating/teething/getting used to being a parent (or a parent of multiples) issues to deal with.

I think ultimately, it is different for each one of us depending on our resources and support system. For me, the life of shifting focus is in my near and far future if I have it my way. I am not going to stop trying to be a great mom and I am not going to stop pursuing my filmmaking dreams. And to my delight my child, like me, is growing up to be a great lover of films and at 9, he is very proud that his mommy makes movies.

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