Big Kids, Parenting

Confessions of an Australian stage mum

Leah Annetta by Leah Annetta
May 4th, 2018

My name is Leah and I am a stage mum. It has been a week since the last audition.

Why do I feel so self-conscious about encouraging my kids in their passion for the performing arts? Maybe it is the ‘stage’ in stage mum that makes it sound as if we are desperately seeking attention, thrusting ourselves forward into the limelight on the shoulders of our hapless offspring. In reality, ‘backstage mum’ would be more appropriate as we encourage, unseen, from the wings (literally).

I wouldn’t feel this way if I were circumnavigating Melbourne for sporting commitments. If I put this much time and effort into their swimming lessons I wouldn’t be seen as a pushy parent. I have been known to claim we are off to a dental appointment when we are headed to an audition. People must think my kids suffer from some sort of oral leprosy.

There’s loads of waiting around as a stage mum.

Many parents encourage their children in pursuits they themselves enjoy or have an aptitude for. What could be more natural than to hope that your children might love the things you do? Where would Tiger Woods be today if his father hadn’t enjoyed a lazy 18 rounds? I have always taken my kids to see live theatre and been thrilled that they share my interest (if only so I don’t have to pretend to be fascinated by cricket). When babies are born nobody looks askance if a footballing father buys his child the world’s smallest footy boots (Awwwwww) but buy them teeny tap shoes and you are ‘that’ parent.

If I put this much time and effort into their swimming lessons I wouldn’t be seen as a pushy parent.

The fact that I once dabbled in amateur theatrics myself makes me even more susceptible to categorisation as a sufferer of a strange sort of Munchausen-by-proxy; seeking reflected glory through the fame of your little munchkins. I often drop into conversation (casually) that my eldest child wouldn’t go on stage if her mobile phone depended on it to (subtly) convey that my children perform by choice.

The Mac Daddy of stage mums

There’s no denying that there are pros and cons about exposing your children to a cut throat industry. It is extremely competitive. An inordinate number of the children are named after monuments, seasons, Greek gods or European cars.

In the audition waiting room we all attempt to look normal (whatever that looks like!) while we surreptitiously smooth eyebrows with our saliva. This will not suit every type of child and parents need to make judgement calls, as we do in so many aspects of our children’s lives. There are many kids who should not be put through the rigmarole of auditions and the ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. Rejection and disappointment need to be dealt with more often than not. The same can be said of competitive sport or fashion design and I never heard anyone suggest that the parents of children dreaming of these careers should do their best to crush them (the dreams, not the children).

Dealing with the downsides of the industry has made my children more resilient and philosophical. My children’s experience has been nothing but positive. Not only have they been lucky enough to obtain work but every audition has been fun and encouraging. They get a thrill when they are on the telly and a lot of self-esteem from the fleeting fame in the schoolyard that it brings. How is this different from being known as the best runner or a gun at maths?

We all think it is charming when a burly youngster thanks their mum at the Brownlow for all the early mornings and cheese toasties. Who of us hasn’t dreamt of their child being school captain and acknowledging they couldn’t have done it without you?

Why then should I hesitate to admit that I fantasise about my child thanking me as they clutch a Tony award…or an Oscar!

If that makes me a stage mum then I gratefully accept the role.

Tammin Sursok spoke to us about getting her start on Home and Away as a teenager, moving to LA and her struggles to make it big over there. Have a listen in the podcast below, then jump on over here to subscribe to our podcast.