Dina Goldman has collaborated with such well-known directors as Robert Altman, for whom she designed the TV show “Tanner on Tanner“ and the film “Prairie Home Companion,“ Edward Burns in his film “The Groomsmen“ and TV show “Public Morals,“ Lawrence Kasdan and Tim Blake-Nelson, among others.
Having my son Rafael in 2007 was one of the most wonderful things that ever happened in my life, but it caused seismic shifts in my work, and how I choose jobs. As I consider the topic here, I realize that there’s truly no real way to “balance” being a mother and a designer, but having this incredible life experience has enriched how I design and intensified my appreciation for the craft.
Before I get into any more detail, I ought to mention that both my son and I are blessed to have a magnificent partner/father whose own career in the industry (as a production sound mixer) enabled me to take extended time off when Rafa was an infant. Having a support system, is the most crucial factor in the work-life equation. Being in the same industry, and experiencing what it was like to go back to work as a new parent also gave my husband an understanding of how important it was going to be for me get back to designing. Mostly as a result of our son refusing to take a bottle, he was initially the primary working-in-film parent and I was the take-care-of-infant parent (with a disquieting fear that I’d never work again). In the ensuing years we’ve done our best to try and stagger ourselves, so that one person can be home with our son. As free-lancers, that intention is rarely seamless, but we’ve been fairly accurate at maintaining it for a number of years. That’s the closest I can come to addressing “balance.“
Motherhood has certainly altered the way I work, on both a practical and conceptual level. I had all sorts of crazy ideas before Rafa was born that I’d take him into work with me, park him in a playpen in my office, and head off to my meeting/scout/etc. Thankfully, I was able to figure out how absurd this was before actually attempting anything vaguely along these lines. In reality, my son was prohibitively attached to me, so bringing him into the office would have been much more than just a distraction, even if taking him with me had been a possibility. Thankfully, my first job back was a commercial, so there was less time away to arrange. Our shooting day was one of those outrageously long 16-hour extravaganzas. All around me people were grumbling, but all I kept thinking was, “This is the easiest day I’ve had in MONTHS! My hands are my own! I can move around at will! I can look at my computer! Give me more!”.
Eventually, I booked another film. And it was out of town. We’d worked out that my husband would stay home with Rafael while I was there, but they’d visit me for a week in the middle. That arrangement took the pressure off of things, but I was still nagged by feelings that I was a negligent and uncaring mother. I managed to shift my thinking by reminding myself of how proud I always was to tell friends about my mother's job (special education teacher) when I was a kid, and how important it would be for my son to have a role model who exemplified the possibilities available to women. Once I allowed myself to let go of the guilt I’d been feeling, I was energized, so thankful to be back doing the job that I love so much.
Parenting an infant and toddler can be fairly isolating, so it was also a thrill to be back among peers. As a mother, just about my entire day was consumed with taking care of this person (who, for the first year, is really similar to an exotic pet you’re trying not to kill). The amount of focus and endurance needed can cause one to go into autopilot. Being without my son highlighted just how much of my day I must have been squandering as a single person. All of a sudden, I noticed breaks in between scheduled appointments when I could push my creativity further. I especially loved coming home after work, having time to myself, sitting in my hotel room to fine-tune breakdowns, research additional references, or plan the following day.
In the years that have followed, it's only become clearer to me that motherhood has afforded me an appreciation of my job and given me insight into a larger picture of what's important. Having my practically-absolute life of freedom compromised in such a way made me acutely aware of time and how to make the most of it. There are certainly periods, most often when I'm on a project at home in NYC, that shifting from one to the other causes me to feel as though I'm shortchanging my son or the job. The best way I’ve found to combat this is to be committed to the one I'm doing at that moment. It’s a lot easier when I'm on location, although I need to organize a considerable amount before I take off to ensure that my son will be looked after while I’m away.
One other way to interpret the balance is balance itself. I’m sure every one of my peers will agree that we often have to become the champions of a certain idea or design concept, and then occasionally we’re asked to change or abandon that same thing due to budget or schedule. There's an intense dichotomy where you put all your focus into something, and then, have to let it go and move on. Parenting is similar, so, bizarrely, I think having to be pulled in different directions at once has made me more centered and direct. Everything is important and not so important, if that makes any sense.
Our son has been to tons of film shoots in his almost nine-years, and, aside from the craft service table, doesn't seem to care all that much for spending time on set. That said, we've instilled in him a love of art and sculpture, and he's even taken a sketch-up class at his school, so I think he now may have some small understanding of what I do. So, while it’s true that you have to sacrifice so much to be a parent (I certainly experienced a lull in my career once I tried to start working again, and I’m still having to turn good jobs down because they don’t time out well for my family), the emotional rewards are so completely worth it.
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