When Charissa Menefee (Our ONSTAGE Partner Producer in Ames) invited me to speak on a panel at this year’s ATHE conference, I was like “Hell yeah!” Not only do I fervently believe in our mission at LBDI and love talking about what we do here, but I could not wait to hang with all the other awesome female theatre artists that would be speaking on the same panel, as well as the other awesome theatre artists and educators that would be assembled at ATHE. So what if I was pregnant? I’d be able to pack up that baby like a super mom and make all kinds of magic happen, right?
Then I had the baby, and everything I “thought” I would be able to do kind of changed.
At first it was just, “Oh, haha, how am I supposed to organize this festival and teach my class, much less travel anywhere, now that I have a miniature human needing me every second?”
But it quickly became “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO ORGANIZE THIS FESTIVAL AND TEACH A CLASS, MUCH LESS FIND TIME TO
TRAVEL BREATHE, WITH A MINIATURE HUMAN NEEDING ME EVERY SECOND?!?”
Turns out, being a woman and becoming a parent – at least if you’re breastfeeding (which, heaven help us, everyone under the sun seems to think is the ONLY way to nourish a baby) – means giving up a lot more than a man who becomes a parent. And this, I think, is relevant because I was supposed to be on a panel of female theatre artists, and becoming a mom is a huge transformation for some of us female artists.
ATHE turned out to be one of those things this new mom has had to “give up” this year.
But it didn’t go down without a fight.
I had initially thought “I can still do it! I just need my husband to come with me. We’ll pack up the baby, drive to Chicago, maybe swing by Nashville on the way… It will be a fun family trip with a great theatre stop at the finish line! Nooooo problem!”
I had managed to bring our ONSTAGE Fest to fruition despite feeling like a crazy person, after all! And I taught my class with only two weeks off (no thanks to the lack of paid maternity leave) without going off the rails. And I co-taught a movie workshop with my crazy husband, baby in tow (with the help of an absolutely incredible mother in law).
And I was still breathing… so why not ATHE too?
But we drove home to AZ (from TX) for the summer and for three days I tried not to lose my mind as we endeavored to drive more than 100 miles without having to stop three times to change the baby’s diaper, feed the baby, or just let the baby out of his apparently hellaciously miserable (but totally cush) car seat so he could collect himself…
Still, I kept my eyes trained on ATHE, because surely – at 6 months old – Little Man would be able to travel with us! We’d just change the plan to “We’ll fly up to Chicago, because (as we learned) car trips with an infant are THE worst!”
But flying upped the cost by a considerable amount… Did I mention my husband just finished grad school and that I didn’t get to teach a full adjunct load in the Spring, and that being adjunct means no paid maternity leave?
So then I thought, “Train! We can take the Amtrak! It will be fun!” And Amtrak was a considerably less expensive option, but it would have taken 13 hours to get there.
With an infant.
Which is maybe fine if you’re in a sleeper car and it’s at night… but the trip is only a night ride on the way up there. It’s a day time haul on the way back.
So I though, “I’ll just go by myself. I can fly up in the am, maybe fly back at night… That’s not crazy right? Two and half hour drive to the airport, two and half hour flight, then transport to the hotel, then the conference itself (well, part of it), then the reverse travel/flight/drive back… Ummm, that sounds freaking miserable! What if I fly up in the afternoon, spend the night and then fly back in the am the next day?”
And every way I looked at it, I’d be away from the baby for just long enough to make him and my very patient husband go crazy, because this baby cannot be away from my boobs for longer than a few hours without having a total meltdown, much less an entire 24 -36 hours. Not to mention the fact that I’d be charging a hefty expense on what would amount to only a few short hours mingling and speaking and barely-soaking up the awesomenes of ATHE.
I am a female theatre artist. I am also a new mom. These two things are not mutually exclusive. And sometimes, they will work against one another. This is one of those times.
So, that’s the long story about why I won’t be able to bring Little Black Dress INK to ATHE this year, but I am excited for the panel that Charissa put together, and I’m excited to share LBDI with ATHE in the future!
If you’re here because you saw my name on the panel and wanted to know more about LBDI and our ONSTAGE Project, please look around the site and check out our other programs – the ONSTAGE: ON-AIR podcast as well as our newly announced We’re Not Playing initiative are almost as exciting as our ONSTAGE Festival!
And if you’re here because you’re already a LBDI friend, welcome to just another little peak into the mind of the wacky woman who started it all ;-P