WME Power Agent Michelle Bohan on Facing Family Phobia (Guest Essay)
Despite fears of "losing control and relinquishing power" in a business that doesn't easily forgive other time commitments, this agent thrives with children, and she advises young women working in Hollywood to do the same.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue.
You're in a meeting and get an urgent text from your 11-year-old daughter to call home. You panic, thinking the worst. When you step outside and call, she asks, "What's the password on the computer?" After you tell her you will not give it to her until you get home, she states without a trace of sarcasm, "You are keeping me from the outside world and hindering my curiosity."
Or you're interviewing a nanny, and her résumé reveals she works for a friend in the industry. When you ask the nanny if her employer knows she's looking and she says "yes," you realize it is a "no." You immediately call your friend, who bursts into tears because her nanny is taking meetings behind her back.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If it does, I feel so much better about myself, and if it doesn't, it will soon enough.
Now I've been through some tough negotiations throughout my career, but nothing could prepare me for these everyday occurrences that come with raising three children. When I leave the office to come home to my other full-time job, I find I can never finesse the art of negotiation the same way with my kids. Last week, my daughter said, sobbing, that she would give up Chipotle if she could see Catching Fire. Where have I gone wrong?
I often ask myself, how is it that you can run your business every day with confidence from the moment you enter your office, walk into a meeting or win a tough negotiation, but when it comes to motherhood you never feel quite so self-assured?
My advice to women who ask me, "How do you do it?" is, jokingly, "Not so well!" The truth is that I do the best that I can. If I've learned anything over the past 11 years, it's that there is no one solution. I try to find humor, patience and humility in the balancing act, though it is not always easy.
I still sense nervousness and anxiety from young working women about starting a family, losing control and relinquishing power over their business, but the reality is that even a stay-at-home parent has no control. I encourage women who want to start a family to have the confidence to do so while maintaining a strong sense of self.
At the end of the day, I remind myself how grateful I am to be a mother and to enjoy a challenging and exciting career. And while I am honored to be included on THR's list of power women, the real power comes from the support that makes that balancing act possible: the spouses, friends, extended family members, nannies and colleagues who help us have it all.
Michelle Bohan, a THR Women in Entertainment Power 100 veteran, is an agent at WME whose clients include Tina Fey, Carey Mulligan and Steve Carell.