Actor Mama - Hannah Young
'Creatively the two parts of my life do enrich and enhance each other, something that I have really loved experiencing after my 5-year break from acting. Motherhood is as creative an act as performing; both require real patience, intuition and love.'
Mother or two. Self-employed Actor (including theatre credits at The Print Room, Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham Rep, and TV) and Educational Practitioner for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in your industry / art form and being a parent for you?
I would have to say that it is access to the work. It felt very much to me that from the moment I fell pregnant with my first child I was no longer seen as someone available/happy/ready to work, even when it came to playing someone who is actually pregnant! Then there is the minefield of how one begins to reorganise your life and childcare once you do have work. This is all doable but you need to be given the opportunity to at least try it.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
As a freelance actor there is no support, maybe if I had fallen pregnant during a job then I would have had a different experience.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
PIPA Campaign wasn’t around in 2013 so it really was a matter of seeking help/support from the Citizen’s advice bureau about matters such as maternity benefits and leave. There wasn’t a forum on which to discuss matters specific to our industry; another subtle way that women feel distanced by the profession during such a transformative and potentially stressful time.
Do you think being an actor made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
I was very concerned about money and made the decision to focus on my Educational work during my pregnancies and children’s early years as it felt like a sensible and more sustaining option for me. I am very fortunate to have a great support network from family and friends so any feelings of fear during my pregnancy and recovery could be talked through and managed. I did feel like I had to make a choice not to be an actor during that time, this was the only way I could make it work for me.
What changed most for you on your return to work?
I feel like my job is a smaller part of my life now than it was, and when I do perform I love it but it is sandwiched between all the million things that need doing in the day when being a mother of small children. Trying to find time to rest before a show is impossible so I have to be more creative about how I use the little time I do have. I have started meditating to gain some head space before a show which I am finding really helpful. I am far more organised and planning ahead is crucial to the success of a job.
Ultimately you are trying to fit a career that is really quite untameable and unpredictable around the very real routines of having a family and these two are often at odds with each other. However creatively the two parts of my life do enrich and enhance each other, something that I have really loved experiencing after my 5-year break from acting. Motherhood is as creative an act as performing; both require real patience, intuition and love.
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
One of the biggest game changers for me would be the legitimising of part time contracts/job sharing in larger repertory companies. Being in one or two plays in a season rather than the expected three, would make such a massive difference to people with families. Large companies should be able to offer this within their remit as a sensible and viable option, it makes such sense to me and I am amazed that this isn’t happening enough. So many women leave the profession after having children as they can not or do not want to commit to typically full time contracts which take them away from their families for such extended periods of time. This is a form of discrimination and should be seen as such.
We all appreciate that the creative work place would benefit hugely from being more diverse and parents who wish to work part time are an essential voice in any community of practice. It’s entirely possible!!
More about Hannah
Theatre: Act and Terminal 3 (Print Room) The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, The Winter’s Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Coriolanus, The Drunks, Little Eagles and American Trade (RSC) Corporate Rock (Nabokov) The Lady From The Sea (Birmingham Rep) Songs of Grace and Redemption (Theatre503) The French Lieutenant’ s Woman (Yvonne Arnaud) A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Desire Me (West End) Time and the Conways (Theatre Royal Bath) First Love (Royal Court) A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (Almeida) Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Liverpool Everyman) The Importance of Being Ernest (Deptford) The Stringless Marionette (Orange Tree)
Screen: Doctors, The Robinsons, Waking the Dead, Offenders, Alan’s Breakfast