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Redefining, or Reclaiming, Family Lives in Theatre

I’m 21 years-old, an only child, and a single woman. I am the first woman in my family not to become a schoolteacher, not that I think there is anything wrong with teaching K-12, I just know I would be doing myself and my would-be students a disservice by teaching. I am the first member of my family to not be in a significant relationship by my age that eventually leads to marriage. I am the only, only-child in my family. I’m the outlier in my family, in every sense of the word. And I’ve never felt anything but gratitude for the support given in an otherwise unknown lifestyle.

As we edge closer and closer to graduation, I start to fantasize about where my life might be in one year, five years, ten years…

And something that never seems clear, or at times even possible, is the possibility of having a family. Which is not an element of my outlier-dom that my family is anticipating.

I’ve been acting professionally since I was thirteen, and I would often see my castmates more than I would see my own family. Throughout college we’re told that the only thing you cannot reverse in life is children. We’re also told that, especially as writers, our “salaries” for lack of a better term are going to yo-yo from year to year.

I have absolutely no idea if I would ever want a family in my life, that being some combination of a long-term partner and/or children, At this moment in my life I have no emotional holds dictating my personal decisions in life. My parents are thankfully in good health, I am not committed romantically, and I have don’t have any sentimental feelings towards any one place or position. I can literally pack my bags and take off at a moment’s notice with little else to worry about. But sometimes I wonder that if all I’m living for is my work five, ten years down the road, then am I really living a nourishing lifestyle?

I’m 21 years-old. I enjoy my life decisions to the fullest at the moment, and believe I am exactly where I want to be. But I think if theatre artists are going to tell the next generation of young adults that children are irreversible, I think we need to have some honest conversations, then, about what it really means to raise a family while balancing a theatre artist’s lifestyle.

What does a day in the life look like as a parent and theatre maker? How does this differ from your life before children? What were your expectations/concerns when planning to have children? Were these confirmed/denied once you had them? What advice do you wish you knew before making this decision?

Ultimately, my decision to ever have a family is mine and mine alone. If I’ve made it this far being an outlier in my family, I can comfortably continue to do so. But I think we are doing us all a disservice if we aren’t completely transparent about what it means to plan for a family when working in the arts.

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