The hardest question for me to answer is, “What do you do?”
Some days I am a full-time stay at home Ima, caring for my 2- and 5-year-old sons: cooking vegan food, cleaning the toilets, giving the little guy a nap while trying to keep the older one from screaming that he is bored.
Some days, I teach piano, biology, neuroscience or chemistry to a group of homeschooled students.
And some days, I am an actress on America’s #1 rated sitcom, recurring as Amy Farrah Fowler, Jim Parson’s love interest on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, now in its fourth season. On those days, I wake up with the boys around 6am, as I always do. I feed them breakfast, try to let my husband sleep in a little bit, make some muffins or a casserole to leave in my wake, and I fly out the door, breast pump in hand, for a day as an actress where my best acting comes from pretending I am not worrying about my kids.
Don’t get me wrong: my husband is incredible. He is loving, competent, fair, gentle, super skilled at handling both boys and truly in control of everything. But when I am filming, I still find it hard to shake the identity I have on the days when I have only my kids to think about. I miss them. I miss them all day, every time I am away from them; even when I am enjoying myself. I miss my boys.
I earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA just before I got pregnant with our second son. But my husband and I decided that a lifestyle of me being a research professor would not allow us to parent the way we wanted to. So I decided to give acting another whirl after our son was born and had adjusted to nursing and being part of our family. Auditions only took me away for an hour or so at a time, and the few episodes I did of Bones and Saving Grace did not disrupt our family life and patterns.
Now that I am on Big Bang almost every other episode so far this season, I go to work armed with several empty bottles which come home full 2 days out of the 5 days that I work (the other 3 days only keep me away from home for 3 or 4 hours).
I keep a sign on my door when I am pumping to “Knock first PLEASE!” and I try and avoid lengthy explanations about why I still produce so much milk for a 2 year old (we’ll leave the subject of extended nursing for another time!). I also try not to blush as I visit the craft service table twice as much as any petite actress around (I need a lot of calories for all the milk that I produce, I promise!).
Tape nights are the hardest, since I work from noon to 10 pm, I am the only one who has ever put our nurslings to bed; my husband gives Fred a bottle of my milk and then paces around with his 30-pound weight on him until he falls asleep; after which time, he will awaken if placed on the bed, so my husband will simply sit down until the older one falls asleep, and then he will sit and watch TV with the little guy asleep on his lap until I relieve him, Dada’s arm asleep and Fred all sweaty from being lovingly balled up in his father’ s arms.
Because we feel that my husband is a better caregiver for our children than a babysitter, I do a lot of stuff alone. My husband doesn’t come to my tapings, meet me for lunch, or accompany me to fancy parties or publicity events. I go alone and consider those things also part of my job. But as I leave these events, often earlier than most, I am unfastening my bra as I walk out the door so that I can get ready to pump, I am flinging off my heels, and I am wiping off my make-up, since my main job starts when my car hits our driveway, and it requires no more than my open arms, my patience, and my love.
Our life looks like no other life I know of. But I love it more than any I could dream of.