Why I'm Less Stressed This Staffing Season
This time of year is always a stressful time for TV writers. Pilots and returning series without a pickup are anxiously awaiting their fates, which means writers and support staff are also anxiously awaiting their fates. The process can be all-consuming between constantly refreshing Deadline for any news, to chaotically emailing your agent and/or manager to check in about meetings. In my going on thirteen years of working in a writers’ office, I’ve yet to work on a show who knew its’ next season status before going on hiatus, so I’ve always been caught up in the stress of pilot season.
…Except for this year.
Now being a new mom is only one piece of the puzzle (granted, a large piece, but more on that in a moment…) It’s the first time in nearly five years that I haven’t had representation. After another staff-less staffing season last year, I made the difficult decision to have “the talk” with my agent. He wished me well, but agreed he hadn’t been able to help my career as much as we both would’ve liked, so that was that. My goal was to then get a manager, but I got pregnant instead and my focus understandably switched to that. Plus, I had been so dismayed at the fact it seemed impossible to staff on a show that I wasn’t already working for as support staff (aka, staffing from within), so it didn’t seem like it’d make much of a difference whether I had a rep or not. Being without an agent is scary, but it’s also liberating because instead of getting disappointed that my rep wasn’t able to submit me for a show or setup a meeting, I have no expectations. So, I’m not stressed about why my staffing season is non-existent, I know it’s going to be non-existent. While it’s not great ambition-wise, it certainly takes the pressure off and makes for a less-anxious and stress-addled self. And that’s only a good thing.
Of course the other major contributing factor to this Lassiez-Faire approach to my career is my child. Prior to his birth, I was committed to taking on the role of working mom. I’ve had friends who have decided to become stay-at-home-moms once their kids were born, and friends that have only gone back part-time. I scoffed at these moms and foolishly made the assumption: “that’ll never happen to me! I love my career too much.” And while I do love working for television, I love my kid way, way more. (Also, that’s not to say the moms who do work love their careers more than their kids). And I do wonder if I’d still feel that way if I was working as a writer as opposed to a support staff position that I’ve been doing in one way or another for the past twelve years. Because let’s be honest: my salary is only slightly higher than what we’ll be paying our very affordably priced daycare. We couldn’t even consider a nanny as an option because nannies in our area actually make more than what I’m taking home. Facts are facts. But it certainly makes it a lot harder to want to return to work when I’m a) not making that much and b) not doing exactly what I want to be doing.
But where does that leave me? Not returning to work to raise my child would be a decision no one would criticize me for, but in a few years time when my son goes off to preschool, I highly doubt I’d be able to jump right in where I left off. No one is going to want to hire a thirty-six year old assistant who still hasn’t made it as a writer, and I’m not going to want to be that bitter “old” assistant who I used to pity when I was starting out (and also foolishly assumed it’d never be me). I also don’t know if financially my husband and I could afford in the long term for me to stay home. He does well, but his career is purely freelance. A few bad months, and we could wind up not being able to pay bills. Plus, since we’re both freelance we don’t have things like “sick days” “vacation days” or “health insurance.” Going back to work would mean getting health insurance for my family and not paying nearly 1k a month out of pocket (which is our current situation). But, we’d manage. We are now and we have in the past. And both of those issues would be problems for down the line— and we all know so much can happen “down the line.”
I don’t have the answers for what the next year will look like for me. A lot of decisions that are out of my control have to be made. But, since that’s always the case this time of year, I’m not entirely powerless to it. If my show gets picked up and I return to work: wonderful. If I finally get the promotion to writer: even better. But, if I end up staying home to take care of my son, while I’d eventually worry about my identity and money, that’d be okay too. It’s rare to be in a position where any scenario you end up in is a good one. And for the first time in over ten years I’m not stressing about getting a promotion or finding out about a season 2, which is really kind of nice.