Working With Your Partner

13087619_1063396213706695_5576537408288555417_n

Working the red carpet at Hodgee Film‘s Pistol Shrimps premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival – Photo by Marcus Jolly

I’ve always been oddly obsessed with couples that work together and wondered how they do it. Jay-Z and Beyonce, The Obamas, my massive film-maker-duo crush The Mercandantes, I’m a sucker for their LOVE and their WORK. I’ve admired from afar their mutual respect, and always wondered how they handle giving each other feedback (without it being personal and crushing the other persons soul).

See my husband and I both work in media production, but for years, he said he would never work with me. But when we decided to have a family, I transitioned into becoming an independent producer, and the opportunity arose organically for us to work together on a few projects.

We shot a crazy web series down in LA about a home renovation. We filmed a short film about our family in 8 days over Christmas. And most recently I was my husband’s production coordinator – handling contracts, finding locations, sending out call sheets, etc – for the hilarious This is That videos. And after a year of working together, oh how the tables have turned. Now he says he never wants to do a project without me!

Now I have by no means figured out any secret to making it work (recently I broke the cardinal rule of bringing up a work thing in bed and I had the most guilt-ridden sleep of my life), but I have realized at least one thing worth sharing: Being able to support one another FULLY, has been worth the risks that people often associate with working with your spouse.

Yes we have terrible moments where letting each other down in work is the absolute worst feeling, negative feedback is tough, and days were it feels like it’s just a bit too much. But in an age where it feels like the work/life lines are already so blurred (thanks SMARTPHONES) and where we are both trying our best to balance parenthood and work, being able to fully know/acknowledge/understand/support each others struggles of our jobs has made it work for us, and beyond that, thrive to the point where we wouldn’t want it any other way. (And this study shows that it might not just be me that loves it!). Basically we don’t give each other grief over a time-consuming deadlines that make one of us miss dinner or force us to work on weekends, and we do our best to take advantage of the slower times.

So, anyone else have thoughts on working with your partner? Please share your secrets! (And here are some tips from The New York Times for “co-preneurs”.)

And in case you missed them, be sure to watch all 6 episodes of the latest CBC This is That web series, that I was lucky enough to work with my husband and a bunch of other insanely talented people on (and bonus, episode 6 features that other thing him and I collaborated on: our BABY!):

Episode 6: COMMUTER

Episode 5: RIDERLESS BIKES

Episode 4: WATER SMUGGLER

Episode 3: THOUGHT LEADER

Episode 2: MASTER ACTOR CLASS

Episode 1: COOKS

 

Post-Kid Puberty

IMG_4815

My dear blog that I love with all my heart (and ANYONE IN THE WORLD that reads it), my apologies for not writing for the past 2 months, my excuse is that I now have a toddler. And that doesn’t mean life is any harder, in fact I find it more wonderful and hilarious than ever, it’s just that my toddler thinks my phone and computer are strictly for videos of puppies and cats, so it’s hard to sneak in a blog post.

But to be honest, the easy excuse for my lack of writing is to blame it on the baby, but truthfully, I just haven’t really felt like it. And that is far more complicated reasoning, but I’ll do my best to explain: I’m currently in the process of finding out WHO I AM again.

My brilliant friend Grace captured it best after we had a serious venting session over wine a few weeks ago: “Now that the baby haze has settled we’re able to address priorities that were put on pause, and that is a marker of growth, even if it feels like treading water at times.”

Obviously it is different for everyone, but I think new-parenthood causes you to put SOMETHING on hold for a period of time. For many people (especially nursing moms) it is career, but it could also be soccer, or band practice, or a blog, or whatever it is you do with all that free time you had. Some of those things that make you YOU get put on hold. But the thing is, at SOME POINT your little human becomes more independent (and/or you have amazing childcare), and YOU ALSO gain a little more independence! And as Grace said, we get a moment to address those things that we put on pause.

And although that can be wonderful to be able to address those priorities again (and it is a privilege I know!), it can also be daunting. That question of “what am I doing with my career/life/hobby?” obviously does NOT get any easier when becoming a parent. And maybe the hobbies you did before don’t seem to interest you anymore either. Thinking about yourself again can even feel strange, and if you are like me, it can lead you down a black hole of existential questions like “WHO AM I NOW?”.

So as my baby now officially becomes a toddler, part of me feels like we are kind of going through something oddly similar. We are figuring out the world. And how we fit in it. It’s a bit of a weird and unexpected phase I didn’t anticipate, but I’m here to say to other parents who may be going through it that I am here for you! I’m awkwardly going through that same post-kid puberty to re-anchor who I am. What is the work I want to do? Am I still a soccer player even if I haven’t played in a game in 2 years? Am I still a blogger if I haven’t written in 2 months? Has my chat become insanely boring to everyone? And does this mom hair cut suit me?

And like all puberty phases – it’s scary, yet exciting. So to celebrate the joy and even the hardships of independence, here are some adorable photos of our miss independent from hands down the best week of her life while we were home at the cottage on Prince Edward Island. (And for the record, last weekend she was the flower girl at her aunt’s wedding, and she totally fucking nailed it! Made it down the aisle all by her big girl self.) So I’m going to take some inspiration from my little 15 month old – if she can figure out the world, so can I!

IMG_4728

 

IMG_4732

 

IMG_4748

 

IMG_4751

 

IMG_4778

 

IMG_4768 IMG_4826 IMG_4783

 

IMG_4864

ps. For anyone out there gaining a little independence due to weaning, this is a very important read! I think what I am feeling is distinctly different than the hormonal changes of weaning, but I think it’s crucial to be aware of depression caused by weaning.

ANOTHER Phrase that Needs to be Abolished from Parenthood

Another phrase (in addition to this one!) that I personally believe needs to be abolished from the journey of parenthood (and that I find I say far too much) is: “My baby never does this!“, in response to my baby’s freak out or fussiness when visiting with friends.

I would say it when my baby girl was a newborn, and I even caught myself saying it at her first birthday party! I really don’t like when I hear myself saying it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason I say this is two-fold:

#1. I want friends to love my baby. Especially friends that don’t get to see her often, I want them to feel a bond with her. I want them to get joy from her. I want them to think she is amazing.

#2. And the much harder one to admit – I want people to think we’re doing a good job as parents. Obviously I know it’s totally not fair, but deep down I think that is a big part of trying to get my babe to perform or being embarrassed when she isn’t the perfect child when visiting with friends.

So to fellow parents (and mainly myself), this is a reminder to not put pressure on your babe to “perform”. They are just a baby, and not a show dog.

And to friends, if you want to make a new-parent feel good and relaxed when visiting with you, right off the bat just say: “I love you and your baby so much, and I think he or she is amazing, and on top of that, I think you are doing a kick-ass job at this whole parenting thing.”

So here is just another Friday reminder to not be too hard on ourselves, or our little ones, because we are all just doing our best…and everyone is allowed to cry at their own party if they want to.

The 5 most important baby products

I have a lot dear friends that are preggo right now, and I want to share any sliver of wisdom I have gained from parenthood, and that includes consumer reports. I remember being really overwhelmed when pregnant when it came to GEAR, and desperately wanting to feel prepared, but also feeling insanely lost with the millions of options (and cost).

Besides a crib, stroller, and car seat which are the big 3 must-haves (you do need a car seat to leave the hospital here in Canada, but crib and stroller I’d say don’t stress on having them for day 1! We didn’t start using both till like month 3), here are the 5 products that we seriously can not live without:

  1. Sound Machine – I have no idea if my baby cares about the sound machine and the fact that it sounds like she is at the beach every night, but it has been a life saver for MY sanity! We live in a pretty small 2 bedroom apartment, and to make sure I don’t freak out if anyone wants to make the slightest noise, or to be able to enjoy watching TV, I need to know that the soothing “beach sounds” is louder than the violence of Game of Thrones.

  2. Lovey – We didn’t really see the pay-off of this until we started sleep training, but having this lovey for our little one from the beginning has become HUGE. When we sleep trained it became her “thing” that she nuzzled and helped her fall asleep, and now whenever we travel it is the most important thing we bring (basically equal in importance to our passports!).

  3. Bouncy chair – They are literally ALL hideous, but so worth it to be able to shower every day. “Baby holders” such as the Jolly jumper, bumbo, activity-center-thing all had pretty short shelf lives with our baby (she barely used any of those), but the bouncy chair she used a ton, and even as a 1 year old sits in it for 5 minutes a day, so I can shower!

  4. 360 Ergo – Our baby has spent more time in this carrier than in the car seat or stroller combined (to be fair – we don’t own a car, and we walk everywhere). There are lots of different options for carriers (bjorn, solly wrap, etc), but the thing that is extra cool about this one is that you can wear the babe in a ton of different positions, as they grow. It’s one of the few “baby things” we’ve used almost every day of her life.

  5. Nuk Pacifiers – There seem to be like a billion different kind of pacifier options but these ones are magic. Simple as that. Our babe starting taking one at 3 months when a friend told us about this brand. We were shocked, and thrilled.

Oh and don’t stress about clothes – you will receive a whole slew of used clothes from pals, and a few insanely-priced-but-adorable pieces of new clothes as gifts!

Any other parents have a must-have item? Lemme know! Share your insider info with the new parents of the world!

#BOSSMOM: My current favourite book on work + motherhood (and what it taught me)

New York 2016_Lauren Shots-14[This photo is when I stumbled onto the wonderful and famed Pistol Shrimps Radio podcast, but this week I am the ACTUAL guest on the podcast Who’s Your Mama!]

You may have read an article on the Atlantic in 2012 called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” (it was one of the most-read pieces in the magazine’s history!), and had ALL kinds of feelings (most likely infuriating and/or sad). But what you may not have read, is Anne Marie Slaughter’s FOLLOW-UP novel to her article, called Unfinished Business. The gist of it is that she realized her article hit a serious cultural nerve and caused a bit of a shit storm, but was certainly flawed, so she spent years talking to people from all walks of life to really get to an in depth understanding of the modern struggle of working moms.

Suffice to say, I loved the book. As someone currently obsessed with the topic of motherhood and work, it spoke to me completely. And I encourage everyone to read it, but in the meantime, here are the 3 greatest points I took away from it (that I repeat to myself constantly when I’m having a work/motherhood freak out):

1. Careers are NOT a “sprint” (ie. a graph with an only-upward trajectory), they are “intervals” (ie. a graph with peaks and valleys). No one’s career is a straight shot to the top. There will be times when we can gear up, and times when we need to gear down. And sometimes we gear down not even because of having kids! Sometimes there is personal illness, or need to take care of an elderly parent, or maybe even just a sabbatical to shift perspective (get your eat, pray, love on!). And it is OK to gear down! As a society we need to acknowledge that gearing down is normal and not a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean you can’t gear back up at another time.

2. We don’t hit the peak of our careers till like age 50. So relax. When I read this line I had a big sigh of relief. We have SO MUCH TIME. Taking 3 months, or 8 months, or 12 months, or how ever many months off from work will not kill your career or have the negative impact your brain has convinced itself it will. My incredible mother in law took 10 years off from full-time work to have 4 kids, and returned after a decade to be a radio show host for over 25 years and is now in politics. BOOM!

3. This is an EVERYONE problem, not a woman problem. Sometimes trying to figure out how we make massive paradigm shifts like flexibility in the workplace and valuing care-giving as much as we do bread-winning can be overwhelming (especially while trying to live the day-to-day life), but knowing this is an everyone problem, and not just mine, or women’s problem, makes it a little less heavy on the heart.

And speaking of #BOSSMOMS, this week I was featured on a podcast called Who’s Your Mama that is all about moms striving to maintain a creative identity while raising a family. I highly suggest listening to the show (I reveal who I have a huge mom crush on!), and following/liking/giving rave reviews on itunes to the show. Thanks again for having me on your awesome show Corinne!

 

One!

New York 2016_Lauren Shots-11

Prepare yourself for the parenthood cliche of the century: I can’t believe our baby is one and how fast this year went! I don’t care how many people warned us, it still baffles me how fast our tiny babe went from a ball of adorable mush to a hilarious jokester.

And no blog post could ever capture what this year has meant to us, but if there is ONE thing I knew I wanted to bottle and try to hold on to forever, it is our baby’s laugh. All her sounds have been amazing, but nothing brings me the kind of overflowing joy her laugh brings me. And as any modern parent knows, it becomes almost impossible to capture on camera once they realize what a freaking phone is! (She could be mid-belly laugh and then realize I’m trying to capture her on a damn iPhone and want to stop immediately to watch videos of dogs.)

But my insanely talented husband knew that all I wanted to celebrate this first year of parenthood is this video below. Something I can (and will) watch every single day for the rest of my life.

And I’m so happy to share it (because if a baby’s laugh isn’t contagious – what the hell is!?). So here it is, just a handful out of the millions of giggles/smiles/snorts/best moments of our life from this past year that we were lucky enough to sneak on camera:

The HUSTLA Series: TV writer and funny woman Nadiya Chettiar

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.46.12 AM

{The Hustla Series highlights the amazing people who are taking their careers into their own hands and killing it. It is important to note that the purpose of sharing these stories is not so we can imitate their paths (because we all know that’s impossible), but instead hopes to serve as a source of inspiration to keep hustling.}

I first met Nadiya when my boyfriend (now husband) was at theatre school in Halifax. I was incredibly intimidated by her, as I believed everyone at the Dalhousie theatre program was so in tune with their feelings and much more mature than I. But luckily for me, years later we both found ourselves living in Vancouver, and we hit it off as two creative women in the big city just trying to find their footing (sounds like the premise of a great sitcom to me!).

As Nadiya and I laughed and supported each other through a series of jobs (including mine at an activist rag, hers at a planetarium), we had the classic mid-20s discussion of “what are we doing with our lives!? Like REALLY doing?”

Until one day when Nadiya actually had an answer to that question. After years of acting (you may recognize her from THIS role on a show called The Best Years!), she had decided that she wanted to be a television writer. I was thrilled to hear she had come to this decision, but totally at a loss for how one does that.

But Nadiya was not deterred. And as you can guess – she HUSTLED. She enrolled in writing classes and called on some of the writers she met through her acting career to help guide her through the transition. It was at this point that Nadiya’s motto to always “Use work to network, never network to work” really came in handy. Nadiya recalls reaching out to her Best Years showrunner who helped a lot in giving her great advice and when the time was right, he introduced her to more writers and like that her network began to grow. Through a series of coffee dates with working writers Nadiya was not only making great connections, as she points out, she was coming in close contact with her dream. Nadiya attributes these coffee dates as her inspiration to keep going. Because—hey—if it was possible for them, it was possible for her.

They say luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity, and Nadiya certainly proved this to be true. As she continued to hone her writing, eventually a writer she met on a coffee date was able to connect her to a job. Now there was no stopping Nadiya.

Beginning as a Script Coordinator Nadiya began climbing the ranks. And she also kept writing. She kept pushing herself to grow. This led to her getting an agent. And she worked her way up in a writer’s room, and is now a full-fledged writer for TV comedies. She even won her way to the Banff World Media and Television Festival where she got the meet “The Fonz.” I’m talking THE Fonz.

Not only has Nadiya successfully become a TV writer—she’s also been employed non-stop. Going from one contract to the next. No small feat in our small Canadian television industry. But it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Nadiya knew the only way to continue working was to be damn good at her job. So she through herself into it, or as we like to say, she hustled.

Moral of Nadiya’s story? Sometimes HUSTLING means COFFEE DATES!  Well, sorta. Network! Don’t expect to do it all on your own because no one does. And hone your craft as much as you can. And be SO open to failing. And then just don’t quit.

Although I am gutted that her success no doubt means she will eventually be leaving me for the greener pastures of LaLaLand, I am incredibly proud of her perseverance. And may it be a lesson for us all that even the jobs that make you wonder, “How does one even become that?” There IS a way, you just gotta hustle.

 

3 Unexpected Ways Motherhood Has Changed Me

New York 2016_Lauren Shots-13

We just returned from an epic week in New York (celebrating THIS amazing film, and THIS amazing bride to be), and having not been there since pre-baby days, it was an amazing barometer to see how life has changed. (Mainly that we spend most of our times in parks now, and that we can still rock staying out to the wee hours of the night, but our baby doesn’t give a shit about our hangover.)

I always knew motherhood would change me. I expected to start rocking some bad ass mom jeans, get a mom haircut (this hasn’t happened yet but I am scheming it), and even anticipated (although of course could never fully prepare for) the “Parentdigm Shift“. But there are 3 ways I changed that really took my be surprise:

  1. Stillness – As a classic over-worked, hyper-active Millenial, before motherhood I was always on the go. For the entire year before my baby was born, I worked 3 jobs. I worked every moment of my spare time. Starting non-profits, being on boards of things, blogging. There was rarely a moment I wasn’t doing something or looking at my phone. But over the last year I have become very at peace with STILLNESS. Often I would be holding my baby as she sleeps, with no phone near by, no tv on, no podcast playing, and in order to not disturb her, I’d just have to sit there. I’d sit there for 2 hours just so she could sleep! Of course boredom does creep in, all the time, but I really have found I’ve accepted and adjusted to stillness in a way I never imagined.

  2. No more laziness – I know this may seem contradictory to point #1, but although pre-motherhood I worked a ton, on the flip side, I was also notorious for being LAZY (seriously ask any member of my family). I never wanted to clean. Or take out the trash. Or do the laundry. Or clean out my closet. I was even lazy about showering! (All I ever wanted to do was watch TV). But now when I have a spare moment (and far out of the newborn phase and getting more sleep), I get excited to do everything! If I have 15 minutes I can literally put on a stew, shower, do laundry, take out the recycling and clean up toys. It’s like I’ve transitioned from a sloth to sonic the hedgehog. (also sidenote: My husband does do a ton. I am by no means doing this all alone).

  3. No more indecisiveness – I used to be really easy going. Like someone would ask me what I wanted for dinner, and I would genuinely say, “whatever, I don’t care”. NOW, when Chris asks me what I would like, I might say I am cool with anything, but then it comes out that I think something very specific would be best. And this is perhaps the most unexpected and significant change I’ve experienced. The thing is, with motherhood, you end up having to make a MILLION decisions a day. Seriously, at the beginning, it’s almost debilitating how many decisions you have to make. But then somewhere around month 6, it shifted from being overwhelming, to me just becoming a confident, opinionated person who can now articulate what she wants and what she thinks is best in a situation.

Anyone else feel these things? Or feel they changed in any unexpected ways? I’d love to know!

And here are just a whole slew of ridiculously cute photos of our snot-bubbled-mullet-haired-adorable-almost-one-year old taking on the big city:

New York 2016_Lauren Shots-2
New York 2016_Lauren Shots-5

New York 2016_Lauren Shots-6 New York 2016_Lauren Shots-7 New York 2016_Lauren Shots-14 New York 2016_Lauren Shots-15 New York 2016_Lauren Shots-22 New York 2016_Lauren Shots New York 2016_Lauren Shots-20

What’s the difference between a Squad and a Clique?

SquadOrCliqueI feel like I am a little in the dark about a certain cultural happening right now. Maybe it’s because I’ve been seriously off in mamma-land for the past 10 months, or maybe it’s because I’m just lame, but can anyone tell me the difference between a squad/tribe/coven and a good old-fashion clique?

When I was in high school, “cliques” were considered the devil. I can’t tell you how many assemblies we had where the topic was “why cliques are ruining everyone and everything”. And come on, have you seen the movie Mean Girls?

So in our teens exclusive groups of girls was frowned upon, but now as adults exclusive groups of girls seems to be celebrated? And do NOT get me wrong, I value my female friendships above all else. Truly I do. But I guess I see them more as individual friendships and less as a “group”. Also the term I use for them is “chosen family”, which although is still exclusive (I mean they are the chosen people, similar to Judaism), it does include my male pals and somehow it feels less bitchy.

I recently saw an inspirational quote which states: “Girls compete with each other, Women empower one another”. (Don’t ask where I saw this … OK FINE it was Selena Gomez’s instagram). And that is a wonderful sentiment, but I’m wondering if simply forming a squad makes us supportive of our female friends, instead of competitive? Do further steps need to be taken? Is there a better way to acknowledge/celebrate the amazing females in our lives? (And I know the all-mighty queen of squads, Taylor Swift, is super supportive of her female friends. This is not a knock against TayTay by any means). Just tossing the question out into the world and cyberspace (people still say cyberspace, right?)!

AGAIN, don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-squad, I am just looking for some clarification on what the difference is between a squad and a clique so I don’t cringe from high school flashbacks every time I see #squadgoals.

SO – any thoughts?

Presenting…BIG LEW & The First Personal Computer!

BigLew_YoutubeThumbnail_v1

Remember when I asked everyone I know repeatedly to vote for me to get to make a tiny film about my dad? And then miraculously I WON the grant to do it? Well 10 shoot days with an 8 month old baby, 3 fights with my editor (and husband!), and 1 insane Christmas later, it is now done and ready to be shared with the world! So without any further ado, I present to you a short film from the bottom of my heart:

 

I would love to know what you think! And if you feel the urge to share it, please do! (And if you feel the EXTRA strong urge to continue supporting, feel free to VOTE for me to be one of the top two winners and get sent to the Banff Media Festival!).

And although their names are all briefly included in the credits, I want to take a moment here to profusely thank the people who made this film happen (as we really struggled to keep the film under 10 minutes so the credits are a bit rushed!):

Gary Marcuse – Gary was my documentary film making mentor provided to me by Storyhive and the National Screen Institute, and there is basically NO way the film would have been finished on time without him! From the start he really helped me find the emotional center of the project, and during editing he gave detailed notes that made the world of difference (especially when you only have a few hours of work time after a baby goes to bed). So thank you thank you thank Gary for sharing your expertise and wisdom! And thank you National Screen Institute for giving him to me!

Derek and Esther Pante – The first thing people often say when they see the film, is “Did you do the graphics and design!?” Which I emphatically answer “NO! I WISH!”. Derek and Esther Pante are a creative force and outrageously talented power couple of animator and designer, and I feel insanely lucky that they agreed to work on this project as they elevated it to much greater heights.

Joe Schweers – Joe did the colour edit and for those that don’t know how important that is, I can’t stress enough how MUCH BETTER it made the film look! And I feel pretty outrageously lucky that my friend who recently won 4 Leo Awards was kind enough to work on my tiny film!

John Diemer – This man is a magician of sound and part of my very special work family. I can always rely on him to take care of my sound needs, and thankfully his team made sure you couldn’t hear me popping my “p’s” every two seconds in my narration!

Brent Hodge and Rachel Ricketts – The mom and dad of my work family, they are a never-ending source of inspiration and support.

Chris Kelly – Last, and by far the most important, my co-creator in work and life. Chris really should be the one taking all the credit. He woke up at 4 am to go do the hockey shoot with my dad. He did all the editing. He even made ALL the music. And on top of that, he loved and encouraged me to stick with this project every step of the way. There should be an Oscar for best creative partner, because he would win it hands down.

And to Big Lew and my mom, my siblings and the Kelly family, and the other Kelly family – this simply wouldn’t have happened without you!