SESSION 1 (2:00pm-3:00pm)

Who called the session: Mary Swan
Who participated in the session: Abby and Mary

This was a session called to reflect the experinces of having older children and working in the arts during a pandemic.
There is often as assumption that working gets easier as your child ages, and that by secondary school or College age, things are pretty much as they were when you were single! Obviously this is not the case and our chat focussed around the suprise we both have felt as parents at how much more one's teenage children need the emotional care and support from their parents than we had anticipated.

We both had one child at secondary school and one child currently taking A Level 'assesments' or 'mini-exams' - or as they should be called 'A Levels with a full two months less revision time and hardly any face to face Teacher support - good luck with the rest of your life.' So although neither of us had to 'do' the teaching, the unknown nature of exxatly how well they were doing, has been supremely stressful.

Even though then we theroetically had 'time' to spend on creative projects, the emotional and mental heft of supporting teenagers through such a transformative and stressful time destroys the space that day to day care leaves. Abby had paused her career for her children and changed her whole lifestyle to give them a stable environment that life on the road cannot offer. She feels they don't appreciate this yet, her older child living with their Father and rejecting the stability she had created. We discussed how the subtle (and not so subtle) prejudices rife when our children were younger have stealthily imapcted our careers. I related being told by the Chair of the board in an interview for a well-known theatre that since I already had a young child, I would probably want another one soon, and then how would they cope with that? I never reported it - to whom? And this is a small industry folks - to be branded 'trouble' as a female Director is career suicide when you are younger....

We discussed how Abby's youngest child had retreated socially and was finding it hard transistioning to back to going to school. We both observed how social media had been a blessing and a curse -keeping the kids connected socially but more than ever re-inforcing the idea of 'perfection' - through this period, and how Netflix had become a useful bonding tool- my eldest daughter and I addicted to documentary series - the ubiquitous 'Tiger King' but also "Wild Wild Country' and 'Crip Camp' amongst others, provoking discussion and theorising between us - filling the space reports back on the social status of her life and now, also homebound friends, would have occupied.

We also discussed the fact that both our younger children had sufferred anxiety, and that although help from the schools and beyond is available, the autonomy of themselves as young people and the desire to respect that, means they will often refuse external help and forcing the issue can only make things worse.....

As older women there is also the dimension of the Menopause (peri and full on) meaning you find yourslef in a household of riotus hormones - the boredom and frustration of lockdown not helping find calm spaces!!
We both felt sad that our eldest children (both 18) had missed such a formulative summer (I like to call it the 'John Hughes' summer after the Director of all those classic 80's movies about teenagers) with both of them and their friends largely respectful of the rules in respect to seeing girfriends.
We also observed that all our teenage children had become less risk averse - going out presenting very different challenges, and that also for myself particualrly as a parrent, the summer in which my daughter's pub visits and clubbing nights as an adult would have prepared me for her going to University in another part of the country; my anxiety levels have risen being 'out of practice'. The recent Sarah Everard case highlighting that all women are at risk and no amount of teaching, training and endless tips and hints on how to identify whether a man is a threat will keep them fully safe.

On a positve note though, just as for parents of younger children, the time we have been bale to spend with our kids over the past year has been a blessing - there is no way a Netflix boxset would have been shared over popcorn and wine as the highlight of a Saturday night at any other time!!