The Long Game

I keep looking at job ads. I’m tempted for many reasons. I could do with the money. I want to advance my career. I get itchy feet if I’m doing the same thing for too long. But the truth is, I’m tempted because there’s a part of me that feels like the things I do for a living – parenting and theatre-making – are not legitimate pursuits. But then I remind myself that that’s bullshit and I already have a job. In fact, I have three.

Society often tells me that nurturing two individuals who will hopefully one day become decent human beings and contribute society and the economy is not real work. But when you frame it in the same way as any other job description, it turns out being a parent is the most intensive job you can have.

I work 13.5 hours a day and I am on call all night. If I want a day off I have to organise and often, pay for, my own replacement. I work all the public holidays for no extra pay, I get paid below minimum wage and I don’t get any annual leave. And I work when I’m sick. I often care for sick people when I’m also sick. I haven’t had more than 5 days off in the last 4 1/2 years and I’m locked in to a non-negotiable contract for 18 years minimum. Probably more like 30. Or forever. I am in charge of OH&S, training, policies and procedures, maintenance, cleaning, catering, and workplace culture, finance, marketing… I’m in charge of everything. My clients are immature, demanding, and super high maintenance. They have no clue, so you have to explain everything to them a hundred times in super fine detail. And then they document everything so accurately so they can hold you to account from something you said off the record 2 years ago.

But I’m building two humans, so the pressure would want to be high.

There’s nothing “just” about parenting, and although many people define themselves by their job title, I feel a push-back against letting a job that is by necessity all-consuming be the definition of my being.

Interestingly, it is my work as a theatre-maker and the Artistic Director for Tripwire Theatre that I feel is the core of who I am. I often feel like having kids was an opt-in, but the need to make theatre is undeniable.

I once told a high school careers counsellor that I wanted to be a theatre director “when I grew up” and was shot down in flames. But now, I am working my arse off to make that a reality after following alternative paths to what I felt was more legitimate career goals for over 10 years. The time I spend doing writing, directing, editing, producing, management, meetings, planning, proposals, grant applications is all about long-term career building. Most of what I do in this space is unpaid at the moment, but I know that if I spend a couple of years investing in my craft that I will reap the rewards later – professionally, personally, artistically and financially.

And, I do actually have one of those “real” jobs. I’m on a payroll and I get a roster. Yep, I’m a bona-fide contributor to society. I work as a performer for Ballarat Community Health’s Creative Learning Team. Sounds fancy, but I learn a script and perform to school students about healthy relationships, bullying, safe partying and other topics.

So when I’m on Seek and I see some ad that speaks to me I have to remind myself that I’m in it for the long game. Being a parent and my creative work, are both slow and torturous, glorious and rewarding life-long job choices. For the next few years, I have the luxury of being supported by our government to raise two children, and have time to lay the foundations for a sustainable career in the arts.

There will come a day – not so far away – when I do need to seek a paid employment opportunity. But right now, what I’ve already got and what I’m already doing is enough. More than enough.

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