the best-laid plans.
My husband and I had a plan for being parents — we would trade off work. Film is a project-based industry, so we thought this was both practical and realistic. Our scheme succeeded for about the first six months, largely because my husband’s job continued after our son was born. Then it was my turn.
My husband would stay home, but the demands of his career meant that he was always on the lookout for work, which in turn meant phone calls (which back then, tied him to the landline) and meetings. We hired an au pair, B, whom our son instantly adored. B adored him back. Finding someone so loving and trustworthy — I now realize — was a matter of luck, pure and simple.
The deck seemed clear for me to return to work. I had the will, the breast pump, and an offer of a short job ten minutes from home. The hours were long, so B would bring my son to me for at least one daily feeding. But, where breastfeeding at home in a rocking chair was something I had conquered, there was no couch or private office in my warehouse-like building. Solitude could only be found in the large industrial Ladies Room where there was no (hygienic) seating. Balancing my baby in my arms “just so” for even twenty minutes, was stressful, to say the least.
Remember, it was 1987. Working mother’s issues were very much under the radar.
Next time, I wanted shorter hours. I contacted my former bosses. I should say here that they pretty much rolled out the red carpet to help me. They supported every request and every change. They were truly exceptional in an industry where traditionally only top-tier execs and highly-sought actresses receive accommodations. When I decided to try being their Sound Librarian (a 9 to 5 position) they welcomed me back. But a librarian’s take-home is about a third of an editor’s, and I barely made enough money to cover B’s salary. Plus, I had a 45 minute commute.
My next idea was to work at home. I converted our study into my editing space and since those were pre-digital days, the company moved in a Moviola™, editing bench, rewinds, bins and supplies — all at their own expense.
By then my son was a toddler. Those of you who have been there can recognize this as a major flaw in my plan. Moving gears, sharp metallic surfaces, bright and shiny objects — it was all there behind closed doors, along with his beloved mother. He was allowed to visit, but the boundaries became fluid all too soon. If my husband or B got distracted for even a second, in marched my son. Sound editors wear headphones so I couldn’t even hear the door open. Eventually his sippy-cup of orange juice tumbled into a bin of sound I had already cut. Sugar does bad things to magnetic tracks. I had to clean, check and recut almost everything.
I tried again, moving my whole set up into our ancient detached garage. Keeping tracks clean was a constant battle. My son still knew where to find me. When I found myself cutting background “gas chamber ambience,” for a disturbing scene in a bad movie I seriously questioned how I was spending my days.
It wasn’t like I’d always envisioned myself as a sound editor. It was a skill, a skill I was proud of and good at. It appealed to my love of craft, my puzzle-solving compulsions, but wasn’t essential to my well-being. My husband had a new job, a bigger film. So I threw in the towel — the splicer, the paycheck — and discovered I was relieved.
Stay-at-Home Mom Saga Continued. Part 3