Playwright Ella Carmen Greenhill talks about her experiences of being a writer and a new mum…
As I prepared for the first day of rehearsals for Plastic Figurines, I packed the usual stuff in my satchel (yes I’m old school)… Pen, pencil, notebook and nappies… Because tagging along with me for that first read-through was my little 5-week old boy, Alfie. Now 8 weeks, Alfie is fascinating. He changes every day and with those changes come more worries for an anxious storyteller such as me. The main worry being am I doing it right? Am I giving him enough milk, love, time?
It seems that motherhood is inculcated with guilt. From the massive, ‘am I meeting his needs’ to the relatively minor ‘is this the right pram?’
On top of all this, being a working mum (a term I despise) means there’s an added layer of guilt. The guilt that if you’re doing anything other than feeding, bathing or staring wistfully into your baby’s eyes then you’re a selfish failure. I found myself, for reasons unknown to me, reading a sneering article about women who attempt to ‘have it all’. The premise being that having a baby and an interest in your career are two mutually incompatible ideas that will somehow inevitably result in disaster. As much as I’ve tried not to, I’ve obviously subconsciously absorbed some of these ideas and I’ve cried and felt guilty when snatching time here and there to finish a script.
When I was 6 my mum was doing a fine art degree and some of my best memories were going into her studio. Watching her work, the smell of the paint, everything about it. I felt honoured to be part of her world. It was a world that didn’t need me but that I’d been let into. My mum didn’t give up her life to have me. She incorporated me into her existing life. Yes she made changes, sacrifices, but she said ‘hey baby, this is my life, you are welcome to be part of it’.
As a woman working in the arts it can be a scary time when you decide to have a baby. It’s unlikely you’ll be getting maternity pay and then there’s the worry that people will think you’re not committed to your craft if you’re going off popping out babies every five minutes.
There’s a term that’s often thrown about regarding the ’emerging writer’ and it’s basically used for any writer who isn’t Arthur Miller. I’d love to know when I’ll actually emerge! But for us ‘emerging writers’ it can be difficult to say that you want to take time to start a family. When you’ve spent all your waking moments, writing, applying to endless competitions and having many a ‘cup of tea’ (often in that there London) with somebody who might eventually one day decide to commission you, it can be tough to admit you want more. My writing career has been my life, the thing that in most part defines me and I love it. I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing people, one of those being the fantastic Adam Quayle. Box of Tricks gave me my first proper commission and have been so supportive with my new little human tagging along. We’re having a parent and baby performance which I think every show should offer. I feel nurtured and supported and not at all discriminated against just because I have a tiny person attached to me most of the time.
Since last September I’ve had the absolute honour to write for my favourite show and the best soap on TV (there’s no argument in my opinion). Yes, I write for Corrie. I was nervous of initially telling them I had a bun in the oven, again those worries that I wouldn’t seem committed enough raised their ugly head. When I sent the ‘by the way I’m preggers’ email it was actually somewhat anticlimactic. For a stress-head like me I built it up and up, but when I got the reply it was just a lovely congrats and an offer of support saying that if I needed anything, to just ask. The team at Corrie have been so great, supporting me every step of the way.
I know I’m incredibly lucky. I’m lucky to work with companies who understand that when a woman has a baby she doesn’t stop being the person she was, she doesn’t stop being career focused. She just has another focus as well. Alfie is my world, and absolutely the most important thing to me but I love my job. I love writing and that will never change. I’m incorporating him into my life. I’m proud that Alfie will grow up and see my name on a theatre poster or at the beginning of an episode of Corrie. And like my Mum I’m saying ‘hey baby, come on in.’
~ Ella Carmen Greenhill
Ella Carmen Greenhill’s play Plastic Figurines runs at New Diorama from 27 September – 22 October. There is a special Parent & Baby performance on Friday 30 September at 11am (£12.50 including coffee and a cake). Find out more…