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Motherhood in the Industry – Part II: Pregnant and Working

This is the second in a three-part series, written by a guest TAPA who has some actual life experience that I don’t.

If you plan to work through your pregnancy, my “let’s get real” advice is this: do not announce your intention to start a family and if you become pregnant, hide it as long as you possibly can; just keep working. This is the one thing I would have done differently – I wish I had kept my pregnancy under wraps.

It’s a harsh reality that as soon as people know you are pregnant, work will dry up. There are some exceptions here, depending on what you do and for whom you do it. Unfortunately, even though people may have the best of intentions and wish you the best, they will likely still discriminate against you for being pregnant because they are worried about the impact on their business operations.

Depending on the nature of your job, you might be working in conditions that range from not ideal to totally unsafe to downright discriminatory for a pregnant woman. I once asked for a chair to sit down and was told no (I just wanted it for a few minutes while doing a task that was easily done sitting down). I was publicly shamed as “fat” in front of an entire company. I was climbing up 10 foot ladders in my third trimester. (I only did that a few times when things were really slammed, but when push came to shove the work needed to get done.)

In other industries, there are at least basic worker safety laws that are followed. These are routinely flouted in the entertainment industry. Even in other industries, laws protecting pregnant women are not always great. I never received a single accommodation for my pregnancy – nor did I ever seek them for fear of reprisal. Plus, this industry exists in a weird space where you might be an employee on one project and a volunteer the next for the same company or production team. Use your best judgment and decide where your personal line is that you are not going to cross in terms of compromising your own health and safety and that of your unborn child.

Some people may try to say that pregnant women are inept due to hormones or emotions (surprisingly, I heard this most from other women). Don’t buy into this. I personally never felt that I was in any way “out of whack” while pregnant. Very fatigued and constantly vomiting – but in no way mentally incapacitated. If anything, I was more on point than ever with my work because I was driven to prove that pregnancy would not impact my value to a production team. As things progressed, I definitely felt like I needed to be increasingly more selective about where and how I spent my energy.

I will say that my tolerance level for time wasting and general bullshit went right down to zero. I will never forget the big 6 foot tall guy who thought it would be a good idea to come up to me a couple weeks before my due date when I was trying to eat a snack – he literally grabbed my food right out of my hands and started pushing it into my face as “a joke.” I swear to God I nearly punched him right in the goddamn face. (But seriously, who fucks with someone else’s food like that, especially a REALLY PREGNANT lady? Asshole.)

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2 Responses

  1. Hide your pregnancy as long as possible – it’s viewed as a liability. I was fired because I was pregnant. I was an assistant to the writer/creator of a TV show. When I discovered I was pregnant early in the pregnancy and confided in him, he told me I was a liability. He said if I tripped on a cord on the set and lost the baby, he said I could sue the production. I lost my production job that day and went back to the studio to work as an assistant for executives – who seemed to have zero problem with my pregnancy. Of course, because I was with child, I never got promoted like my male counterparts who were also assistants at the time. The TV show I was fired from went onto hit cult status. After many years working in the studio system as an assistant, I left the business to raise my kids because I was married to someone who also worked on film productions. Somebody had to raise the kids because he was always out of town for six months on a movie. Now, my kids are grown and I’ve been trying to get back into the business or back into the studio work but it’s hard. If you are a woman who leaves the industry due to pregnancy or having children, it’s not easy to get back into the industry even if you have an excellent reputation and you network. One woman executive I recently interviewed with chastised me for leaving the industry to raise my children saying, “Look at my window office. I did not earn this window office by leaving and raising my kids. I have nannies, you could have done the same. Instead, you have a gap on your resume.” I didn’t get the job. I was judged. And women execs are the toughest on other women, especially moms. My advice: If you can keep working while pregnant, stay on the job as long as possible. If you can keep a foot in the door of the entertainment industry even part-time while raising your kids, do it. Don’t leave the industry completely if you want to keep working in the future. The rules are different for women. Most of the entertainment industry is unforgiving of families. Although I’ve seen many high-level male execs stroll into the job at 11 am in the morning and then leave early at 3 pm to watch their kids’ baseball games, female execs are not allowed to match that behavior or they’ll be judged or worse, fired. I still believe you can have it all. I will get back into the industry – it just may take some time. I still think I did the right thing by taking time off to raise my children. It wasn’t the best decision for my career, but it was the best decision for my children as we have no extended family in Los Angeles. If you have family in LA, it may be easier to have it all. Motherhood is not easy to navigate in the entertainment industry. Patricia Arquette is right – it’s not only about equal wages, but moms have limited earning power. And women who have earned power will be the first to reject other women, especially mothers. When it comes to working in the entertainment industry there are rules for women to follow. Keep your private life to yourself. Keep your kid stories to yourself. And don’t create a gap on your resume because you raised your kids. For mothers, this is the real world of 2015.

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