Happy Friday! I can't speak for where you are, but the New York City weather is awful. Here, I'll show you (I'm sitting in a coffee shop on the Upper West Side). I am also dressed to workout because I thought I might walk/run in Central Park today (rained out) or take a dance class (wimped out). Instead I got a hearty workout by parking my behind in a seat at the movie theater and watching Meryl Streep do her brilliance in Iron Lady. The movie was great and one could make an argument that it is mainly about her rise in politics, or her marriage, or her dementia, or her conservative politics, or her legacy as a world leader, but what I was most interested in was her struggles as a working mother. They really paint her out to be a cold fish--and maybe that is absolutely true--but it reminds me again that it is hard to be a working Mom and society is quick to judge it.
So I thought we'd take a few minutes and talk about how I made the decision to move my family to Las Vegas and what Rob had to say about it, and how I felt about going to work all day.
Here we go.
Currently I am in the running to possibly write a blog for a rather large company. As we were working through the details, the question came up about how to "categorize" me. She said, "Do you consider yourself a full-time working Mom?"
(Just to give you a time lapse, it is now 9:59 pm and I am back in my apartment. I had to do kid stuff. I'm in with Beaz who is pretending to be asleep. I hear Charlotte in the kitchen who should also be in bed. Rob isn't home from work yet although he left at 8am. Now you are all caught up with the current conditions. Oh, and the rain continues.)
I told them--in no uncertain terms--that to call me a working Mom is an insult to working Moms. In fact, I told them, that even when I am working on Broadway or doing a show anywhere, I'm sure I pull less hours than any nurse or doctor working Mom. What is hard about my profession when I work isn't really the number of hours, it's the hours we keep. Meaning. We work evenings and weekends, so we miss all bath and bedtimes, can rarely make a parent teacher conference or a school concert, we can't host Saturday night birthday sleepovers, in fact, even going to church proves to be a scheduling conflict. I rarely make dinner if I am working, but I make a mean breakfast. Truthfully, a theater schedule is great when you have a baby, but awful as soon as they hit school age. I told them if they want to categorize me it should be "Funny Mom" but the one they liked was, "I am an actress, a freelance writer and a public speaker. Mostly though, I pick up toys and hang the coats left strewn around by my children."
The hardest part of being an actress and a Mom is how quickly you can get work. I've had it happen that I've gotten a call and was needed in Tucson the next day for an undetermined period of time, and at the time the call came in, Charlotte AND Rob had strep. I went. Once I was called when Beatrix was 4 weeks old and I was needed in Atlanta the next day, the call came in at 7pm on a Friday night and the flight departed at 6am, with a car scheduled to pick me up at 4am. I was nursing. I didn't go--but ONLY because I'd had my wallet stolen and had to form of ID. Once I was asked to go to St. Louis that day, and perform in a show that night. Charlotte was 3. I went.
I could do ALL of that work because I had Rob there to catch everything that I tossed in the air as I dashed to the airport. I could do ALL of that work because I have kids with Gypsy blood and they know we will make it fun. In every instance it was a limited engagement and Rob and Charlotte came and visited.
This is why--just in case the thought crossed your mind--I knew we could make Las Vegas work.
But I will also tell you there were a LOT of behind the scenes discussions about how to make sure Charlotte would transition well, and how to not just HOPE that was true, but how to really stack the deck in our favor.
Okay. Here's what we did. Let me break it down for you.
1) As soon as I booked the job, which corresponded with Charlotte's last days of first grade, we talked to her school. Charlotte was in a highly sought after gifted and talented program in a school on the Upper West Side, and I wanted to make sure that no matter what happened with us, Charlotte would not lose her place. I was told that Charlotte already had a spot for second grade, and that as long as she attended even ONE day of second grade, she would secure her place for third grade. Remember that, because it is going to come into play later.
2) We immediately started to research schools in Las Vegas--which took some prodding of the Company Manager--because I had to know exactly where we were living to check out the exact schools we were zoned in. You should know that not only was I the only cast member with a child, I was the only person traveling to Vegas with a child--which includes the company management and stage management. All in all probably 25-30 kid-less people. So you can imagine how popular I was when I started asking about schools and stuff--but--they were nice about it and tried to get me as much info as possible. And once I had the info I needed, I used my ace-in-the-hole Traci Lyn Thomas, (TLT) whom you remember from previous posts, because she was in Las Vegas and in a show and had days free to go check out school. Traci Lyn runs like a cheetah, but can also pepper people with questions like the FBI, so I knew she'd give me good information. The report back was, Las Vegas schools are overpopulated because of the housing rush, and the city couldn't keep up. Therefore, most schools were "year round" and the kids had to stagger going to school taking a month off at a time. Basically, if Charlotte went to public school in Vegas, she'd have to start as soon as she got there. And, I was told, the overall test scores were terrible because the teachers were overworked and couldn't give kids individual attention.
So that wasn't going to work.
Instead, TLT tracked down, interviewed and got Charlotte accepted to a private school in Henderson, Nevada. It was $10,000 a year, and lovely, and had great academics, and we decided to go for it. So please subtract $10,000 off my paycheck, thank you, but at least we were set for her. Oh, and it was right around the corner from where we lived, although I sent the deposit check in to hold her place before we even went into rehearsals.
3) I already told you this, but we bought a car.
4) As soon as school was out, we went on vacation. We knew we only had about 10 days of together time as a family, so off we went to Quisisana (you probably remember it from Don't F&*% With the Pancreas fame.) It is a place where we can just chill out and be together. Well.....except that I was still writing like a crazy person, trying to hit that blasted deadline. But we did have fun and drank in the lush pine air knowing we were about to head to a desert.
Through all of this we talked to Charlotte about the move. I think she mostly felt our excitement and got caught up in it, but Charlotte has always been a kid who waxed poetic about living in a suburb. No one knew better than her that we lived a hard life. We didn't have much money because Rob and I had both had a real work drought, and we were stressed out. We lived in a fifth floor walk up. Let me say that again. We lived in a fifth floor walk up. We lived one block from a fire station, so we had shrieking fire engines day and night. It was easy to seduce her with the quiet beauty of the desert, the swimming pools, the malls, the life she saw on TV. Normal life. Sunshine and happiness.
And then there was Rob. He was possibly more excited than anyone else. He and Charlotte poured over TOPO maps of the hikes in the area, plotting which National Park they would hit first. For Rob's birthday--which happened right after I was hired--I bought him and Charlotte Camelback backpacks, a tent and a Playstation because that was my dream of what they would do while I was at work. He'd worked so hard to pay our rent for so long, I wanted this time to be his. I knew Charlotte would be in good hands. I also knew that he would more than likely end up playing Avenue Q because an extra pianist is always needed--so there would be some fulfilling work for him as well.
Rob is a much better and happier mister Mom than I am a stay-at-home Mom. We were going to be fine. Life would be easy. We saw sunshine and happiness in our future.
A week before we finished rehearsal in New York, Rob loaded up the car with the cat and every other thing we hadn't shipped and drove from New York to Las Vegas. If he weren't so busy right now I would make him write about that trip because he has hilarious tales of driving across country with a cat as a travel companion, but alas, you'll have to take my word for it. He did take pictures of his drive, so I will post those instead.
Charlotte and I stayed behind for those final stressful days in New York, and the last night we were in New York, she and I walked across the George Washington Bridge and said goodbye to the Manhattan skyline. We had very little sorrow and absolutely no regrets. We were ready to see what Vegas had in store for us.
The Wheatley Meffe's are in the house, Las Vegas.