Friday, 28 August 2009

Role Reversal

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. In a rather unexpected series of events, I have suddenly found myself thrust back into the workforce, no longer able to call myself a stay-at-home mom. After three years away from the classroom, I am diving head first back into the world of education, teaching English to 11- to 16-year-olds at one of London's top international schools. Term starts next week, and the nerves are mounting every day.

I hadn't planned on going back to work (outside the home, that is) anytime soon, but things happen for a reason and sometimes you have to grab an opportunity when it presents itself. This job is such a good move for me in so many ways, aside from the obvious financial benefits. I can keep my NC license current, for one. Experience at this school will be a great addition to my CV if and when I decide to move on, as it has a very good reputation, especially within the international school community. I'll also gain experience working in an IB program, which will be a real benefit if we ever decide to try living abroad for a year or two, something we've considered doing when Crumpet is old enough to appreciate the experience but still young enough not to feel completely uprooted from her life here. And, of course, there's the discount on tuition for faculty members' children. But we're getting ahead of ourselves....

My new identity has also given The Other Half a new identity of his own, as he has taken on the role of stay-at-home dad. He hasn't had much luck finding a job himself, so at least this gives him a little more time to look and consider whether or not he wants to stay in the same field or train for something different or even start up his own business. But, right now, our priority is having someone home with Crumpet full-time, whichever one of us that may be. The Other Half and I have never felt like we have to define ourselves by traditional roles. So it makes sense that whoever has the best opportunity should go out to work. We're a partnership. I'm perfectly fine being the breadwinner now because he has had that responsibility in the past and probably will again soon. Still, no matter how secure we are in our new roles, it doesn't stop everyone else from making judgments.

Despite all of these rationalizations, being back at work has taken some getting used to. I spent the first two days calling home every couple of hours to make sure everything was okay, less worried about Crumpet than I was about how Daddy was coping; luckily, he had had those days when I was filming earlier this month as a sort of "rehearsal." I won't lie and say I haven't had my share of doubts and even a few tears. But in the end, I know that I am doing the right thing for all of us. I was so lucky to be home with Crumpet for nearly a year (which is much longer than many of my American mommy friends have had with their little ones). And I have all of the school holidays to look forward to; in fact, Half Term is already marked on my calendar in big bold letters.

So, even though this isn't what I would have foreshadowed a month ago, this is an exciting, albeit challenging, new chapter in our lives. Although, I guess you could say this means my film career is on hold....

Friday, 14 August 2009

My 15 Seconds of Fame

Yesterday, I completed five days of filming as an extra for Gulliver's Travels, a new movie starring Jack Black that will be released next year. It was the first time I had done anything like that before, and it sort of happened by accident. A good friend of ours works fairly regularly as an extra (or background artist, which is the official term used for an extra). He's been in loads of big films and TV shows: Harry Potter, The Dark Knight, "East Enders," and "The Bill," just to name a few. A couple of years ago, he told me about an open call his casting agency was holding for Americans (it turns out that the film they were casting for was The Bourne Ultimatum with Matt Damon!). At the time, I couldn't do anything about it because I was working full time. But about a month or two ago, they were looking for Americans again. This time, I figured, "Why not?" So I filled out the online application and sent in a photo and promptly forgot about it. A few weeks later, I got a call, and things unfolded from there.

It was definitely an exciting experience. I met some interesting people, had some great food (catering was fab, and I took full advantage of the free food!), gained some interesting insight into how the film industry works (some of which still remains a mystery), and stockpiled lots of ideas for future stories. I even stood thisclose to Jack Black and Amanda Peet. But by the end of the week, any feeling of being "starstruck" had faded. We spent long hours (our longest day was about 14 hours) sitting around waiting to be called to the set, and after countless retakes in stifling heat and smelly clothes all we wanted to do was go home and sink under the duvet. At the end of the day, it was a job like any other. But, still, how many people's 9 to 5s involve watching playbacks of themselves with a major Hollywood star?

The hardest part of the whole experience was being away from Crumpet. For the first two days, she didn't even see me because I left before she woke up and got home after she was fast asleep. But, not surprisingly, it was worse for me than it was for her. Although she was excited to see me again when she woke up the third morning, she hadn't really even noticed I was gone because she had been in Daddy's and Nana's very capable hands. Though difficult at the time (I ran down the credit on my phone because I called and texted home so much to make sure everything was running smoothly in my absence), I think our separation was good for all of us. Crumpet got to understand that even though Mommy might sometimes go away, I'll always come back for her. I got a nice little break and was forced to relinquish control (something I'm not very good at but admit I need to do at times). And The Other Half gained confidence in being alone with Crumpet; even though he has looked after her before, he's never had her for a whole day, and he's never had to go through the bedtime routine with her. Once again, I find myself silently thanking Gina Ford for how contented Crumpet was in my absence.

And, in an interesting turn of events, I've already been offered another job on another film. When I called the casting agency today to give them my bank details, they asked me if I was available to work on a new film with Dennis Quaid (to be released in 2011). I'll go for a costume fitting next week and film for one day the following week. The beginning of a new career? I don't think so. But the money is a major motivator. After earning nearly a thousand pounds in just five days, it's hard to say no.

In the meantime, if they don't delete my scenes, you can look for my blurry shape (actually, I'm a little more visible than that...) at a theater near you next year.