Your Voice Career and Your Family – The Balancing Act
By Deb Munro
Recently I was coaching a voice session with a student who seems to be an amazing dad. Very devoted and spends all his attention and time on his family. I don’t even know if he’s a stay at home dad or not but what I do know is that he loves them very much. What his family may not realize however is how much he loves voicing as well. He’s new to the industry and just beginning his journey, but from our recent sessions I can already tell he’s going to have a long journey ahead because of his family challenges.
When we work together he is watching his kids at the same time. He likes to have our sessions when his wife is at work because she’s not a big fan about a grown man trying to become a voice talent – it’s not exactly the breadwinner job – and if it is, it takes a long time to get there. Who could blame her? More than likely he was working before and now finding himself at a career change (which I see all too often these days) very late in the game and that can be discouraging.
This is a dilemma most talent can be faced with on a regular basis. Many people don’t understand our industry, but have you ever stopped to consider what they see? I thought today would be a great time for you to see the other side of the big picture. This is all just my opinion of what I’ve observed, but I think it holds some merit and I’m hoping this will help you to understand your families as much as they need to understand you.
I know this first hand because, truth be told, my family split up in big part to my career or perhaps even my success. I was married for 17 years and had always made it clear I was going to work in the entertainment industry (as Canada’s Oprah and that goal hasn’t changed one bit) but when I met my now ex-husband I was not in the industry and in fact I became an OCD house mom. I sew, bake, cook, clean, scrapbook, babysit, craft, you name it. So in fairness that is what my husband thought he was getting into. He didn’t really pay attention to all my theatre and the commercials I was voicing, or taking over the announcements at my local Wal-Mart where I was a Customer Service Manager.
A long story short when I got my studio he said, "Well are you going to make a bit of money with this THING (my studio)" and really thought it was just going to be a side income. What he didn’t bargain for was a full time job that consumes my mind nearly every moment of every day. Or that I was going to love what I do and get excited to do it each and every morning.
I went from having tons of time for everyone in my family, to having to fit them into my schedule. I know that sounds awful but please remember my kids are now grown and I worked hard at being a good mom. I already have grandkids, so I’ve taken time for me later in life (and I started young so that helps too). We went from family camping holidays to camping with my studio and from holidays in Mexico, to holidays with a studio in the room.
Now I can justify it, but what doesn’t change is the fact that this industry affects my entire family. I know it is my choice to work for a couple of hours on my holidays and not all talent will make this choice, but I truly believe I am replaceable and I need to make myself accessible to my clients or I could lose 7 years worth of work. This pays my bills and I don’t get paid holidays.
My ex had a really hard time grasping the fact that I couldn’t just ignore emails for a week or two. When you get 200 a day that is just not a pleasant thing to come home to, or that I couldn’t just say no to the clients – easy for him to say, he’s paid for his holidays.
Again I can justify but that’s not solution oriented. It is important that we understand what our family sees and feels so that we don’t lose sight of the big picture or worse, lose our families. I can still maintain my work the way I want to, but I need to make sure I’m not neglecting anyone in the process.
I’ve had to learn to shut work down when my daughters came home from school or work and then I pick it right back up again when they go to bed. I have had to learn to not work on the computer or emails when I’m talking to them about anything that is important to them.
I have had to learn that it’s really hard for our families to watch us get excited for auditions that can consistently fall through. Or to see us get excited about a job that doesn’t pan out. If they care anything about you, this is painful to watch; you go from excited to a total let down of depression (as you pretend it doesn’t bother you).
Let’s face it, our family consistently watches our let downs and our successes but because we will get more no’s than we will yes’s, they see our let downs more than our celebrations and it’s really hard for them to watch us get let down, so the times when we do hit success don’t stand out as much.
It’s not easy for our families (especially when we are the bread winners) to not know our income from one month to the next, or to deal with our stresses if we’re not able to find enough work that month (this happens to many).
There is also another factor to consider and my ex was a great example – I truly believe he was jealous that I was doing something that I absolutely loved and that he was working what he called "a real job", this made him very insecure. Either jealous of my time or jealous that he wasn’t doing what he loved (it was his choice, but hard on him none the less).
Perhaps this is the time for us to thank our families for allowing us to be who we are. For supporting us (or trying to) when it must be very hard to do, for allowing us to follow our passion and our dreams, for being there when we need them most, for trusting in our talents. If your family supports you in your craft consider yourself blessed and spend some time with them to tell them so.
If you are struggling to get emotional and financial support from your family you need to know you are not alone. You need to communicate with your family and let them know what it is that makes you want this so much.
Stay committed and show them why you are worth it, but that will take serious dedication. They may not understand but hopefully if you take the initiative to understand why they are so concerned about you following your dreams, maybe then they can be more open to follow them with you.
This isn’t an easy career as it can take a long time to make a substantial wage, but if you stay consistent, persistent and love what you do, the money will follow and success and support will find their way to you.
Do what is right for you but keep those around you in mind and find the balance to keep everyone happy. There is always a way.