Stage Moms 101

How to keep your kids healthy and happy in the Entertainment Industry

Source: Donough O'Malley,

Source: Donough O'Malley,

     “Do you see a lot of stage moms?”  This question comes up quite a bit in conversations with clients when shooting headshots in Los Angeles.  There is this strange fascination with the bigger than life, socially irresponsible train wreck of a caricature that makes us all feel a little better about ourselves.  Whatever the reason for the inquiry, the boring truth of the matter is that I very rarely meet really horrible parents.  Most of our clients are referred to us by agencies, so a lot of the crazy has already been sifted away.  While every now and then we’ll come across a parent with skewed priorities, the vast majority of the parents I meet are very conscientious in trying to find an appropriate balance to raising a child in show biz.  Here are some observations that might help those parents become even better ones.

     Don’t be a “Momager”—Just be a mom.  In fact, don’t use the term “momager.”  It’s not funny.  We’ve all heard the pun before.  It’s just kind of gross.  Unless you’re taking a percentage of your child’s paycheck (which is another blog rant for another time), you are not your child’s manager.  Your relationship with your child should be 100% mom.  You are there to guide them, create morality, educate and nurture them, protect them and champion them.  Your job is to help them grow into a better person.  You can’t be distracted from your primary tasks by the scruples involving fame and money.  This is why you have agents and managers—so you don’t have to view your child as a commodity.  

     Be invested in your child’s happiness—don’t be invested in your child’s career.  Most people would agree that happiness is more important than career, but from time to time, we see people doubling down on career at the expense of what’s ultimately best for themselves and their family.  You’ve chosen to enter an incredibly competitive industry with your child who is still figuring out how the world works.  As you navigate through the industry, you’re teaching your children huge lessons about how to deal with rejection, the value of money, and the pursuit of art versus the pursuit of fame.  You’re investment in your child’s career should merely be an extension of your child’s investment.  Wherein, you shouldn’t be disappointed when your child doesn’t book something.  You should be the comforter to their disappointment.

     Encourage other interests.  Children shouldn’t have to choose their life long career at the age of 10.  As a parent, it’s important to encourage all of the interests of your child.  When your child has more interests, they become more interesting, which in turn might actually make them better candidates for acting jobs.  But more importantly, other interests and activities give your kids perspective.  It literally removes them from the spotlight and the vices of an industry built on fame and money. 

     Don’t move to Los Angeles before it’s necessary.  If you already live in Los Angeles, then working in the industry can truly be an extracurricular activity that you do somewhere between home and school.  But if you live out of town (or worse — out of state), participation in Hollywood’s industry must be willful and determined.  Don’t jump the gun and move your family to Los Angeles unless there is a very real job you’re moving for.  With technology on your side and an agent in place, you can submit self tapes to casting directors in Los Angeles while living quite comfortably in your hometown.  In addition, you can choose to be in town just for some of the more busy work periods. Pilot season is January through March and Episodic season is August through October.  There is typically more work during these months and staying in town during these periods would allow you to audition more regularly.  The most grounded and socially interesting children have balance in their lives,  and pushing an “all eggs in one basket” agenda will put an incredible amount of pressure on your child to succeed, along with robbing them of the chance to succeed in any other aspect of their lives. 

     Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world.  Being an industry parent makes other parenting look easy.  I applaud those who have figured out this very difficult balancing act.