Biz Moms: Et Tu Hollywood?

Layoffs have become the new Hollywood reality — and a reality show, too, thanks to Fox — and, yes, I was one of those casualties. Last week, I was let go at Variety amid a round of staff cuts, and not only is it a blow to the ego, as a mother it makes you […]

Last Updated: April 30, 2009 @ 3:03 PM

Layoffs have become the new Hollywood reality — and a reality show, too, thanks to Fox — and, yes, I was one of those casualties. Last week, I was let go at Variety amid a round of staff cuts, and not only is it a blow to the ego, as a mother it makes you reflect on what this means for your children.

Certainly, I’m not the only mom in this town, or parent for that matter, to have experienced the falling ax. Some of my former colleagues who were let go are parents themselves. And this week alone has seen the announcement of more layoffs at the Screen Actors Guild, Yahoo and the closure of Fox Atomic.

I’m sure there were moms at those organizations who now have to contemplate a different kind of extreme makeover.

But it’s not just the now-unemployed moms. Still-employed parents are seeing the ground shift beneath their feet and wondering, if not now then when, and how does this change the way I approach my job?

After talking with some competitive biz moms, I wondered if they were now eyeing new careers or thinking about (gasp!) staying home — something many probably never considered (ahem, like me) until now.

"As a new mom, I wonder, will there be work for me?" said L.A. publicist Patty Onagan, who works out of her home while also taking care of her 8-week-old son. "I look at my baby and think, maybe I need to refocus."

But that hasn’t stopped her from making it work, with baby onboard, no less. With many working moms, though, including Onagan and my pre-layoff self, there’s always the guilt factor. Am I sacrificing too much on one side or the other to make both work?

That doesn’t mean that work isn’t still a passion. Like Patty said, “It’s in my blood.” And I feel the same way. For moms who want a career in addition to raising their children, you do just that — sacrifice and make it work.

In a chat with Anna Marie Piersimoni, who was laid off last September as former director of Internet communications and director of media and technology at the AFI Digital Content Lab, she told me, irony intended, "This was a strategic move. With the kids out of the house, it’s the perfect time to be a stay-at-home mom."

Referring to her 16-year-old son, she added, "This age needs more watching.” (She must have blocked out the terrible twos, which still haunt me on a daily basis.)

Anna Marie also has a daughter, who will be graduating from college this spring. That adds a new facet to the family as both mother and future grad look for jobs. It requires some rethinking.

Hollywood moms will have to adjust in different ways, be it the changing dynamics within the jobs they still have — hello, extra-hefty workload! — or learning to expand in different areas outside of their field.

For me, adjusting to life after the office has been a transition. But it also has allowed me to spend more time with my daughter, a common sentiment among the newly laid-off lot. (Somehow, as the mother of a 2-year-old, I wonder if that doesn’t make me a little braver in the end and a little more in awe of the women who decide to chuck it all for life on the home front.)

Who can complain about taking their child to the new Disney movie on a Wednesday afternoon? I don’t feel guilty about that one. For now, anyway.

Or maybe we can just take a cue from Karin Elizabeth in Motor City. After her husband was laid off as an engineer at Ford after 16 years and she left her job as orchestra director of the Winans Academy of Performing Arts, she and her hubs rocked out with their Detroit band full-time. All while taking care of two kids.

What started out as a hobby soon became a new career, as Remedy took off.

"It’s seems so irresponsible," Karin told me about the sudden change in course. "We always wanted to do it, but never thought it was possible."

As much as it stings to get word that you no longer have a place at the conference table, what could burn even more is knowing you had an opportunity and didn’t take it. Like spending more time with the kids. Like branching out into a new field.

Or starting that garage band you always said you would.

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