A Mother’s Day Post About Stage Management (trust me, there’s a connection)

[Originally posted on Facebook] You know that thing people say, about how you don’t really fully understand what it means to be a parent until you have kids of your own? That’s not in the cards for me, so I can’t entirely confirm – but there’s one aspect of parenthood that I do understand and appreciate on a visceral level as an adult, and it didn’t take having kids to get there. It took becoming a stage manager. This is a job that’s hard to explain in only a few words, especially to people who don’t work in the performing arts…but for the purposes of this post, the important aspects are that the stage manager is typically the central hub of communications for anything related to the show, and the keeper of the schedule. The stage manager is the one who knows where everyone is supposed to be and what is supposed to be happening at any given moment; the one who notes everything, who can answer any question, who Keeps Things On Track.

So at some point over the past many years that I’ve spent learning to be a stage manager, I started thinking back to my childhood, and I realized: while my dad was very involved in general, and also took lead on a lot of stand-alone projects (e.g. travel, ranging in scope from weekend hiking trips to living abroad for a year)…it was my mother who was the production/stage manager of the year-round, long-running show of our family life. Meals, activities, medical appointments, school – Mum was the one who held the knowledge of it all. My dad helped with everything, but Mum carried the mental load of making hundreds of micro-decisions a day to prioritize, rearrange, go with the flow and keep all the balls in the air. And the show never closed; it just changed as it ran.

This work was mostly invisible to me, as a kid. But I get it now. Hoooo boy, do I get it. And I don’t think we talk enough about this aspect of parenthood – the project management side of it all, and how heavy it can feel to be that person, the one who feels responsible for keeping the train on the rails in a thousand small day-to-day ways. It seems often to be the mother who shoulders most of that weight, but I know there are dads out there who take it on. Also lots of parental figures who identify as something other than mom or dad. So on this Mother’s Day, I raise a toast to ALL of you people out there who are doing the scheduling and e-mailing and keeping notes and arranging rides and planning meals and making sure everyone in the family is safe and happy. You are amazing. And your show is beautiful. (I know it probably feels messy and wobbly and chaotic from the inside, especially right now – but trust me: from the audience, it’s beautiful.)

Love especially to my mum, Judy, pictured here on a work trip to the Yukon (because there’s all that too – she had an outside-the-home job on top of her family production management one, like so many of you do. Once again – amazing.)