I was fortunate to meet Ria about ten years ago through family. I had an immediate girl crush on her. She’s bright, spunky, energetic, has a heart of gold, and seems to really know her way around this whole parenting thing. In a world, and particularly in a county, where we see more and more entitlement, selfishness, and meanness, she and her husband somehow are raising the most incredible, driven, gentle, loving, and respectful children. She’s a working mom with a career in a unique industry and she has a few additional years of parenting experience over me, so I was excited to pick her brain. Here’s what she had to say:
Give us a little background on your career, both pre- and post-kids.
Pre and post-kids, my jobs have been largely in the entertainment industry, including but not limited to: Actor, Casting Director, Staff Writer for Sitcoms, Writer for Internet Sites, Script Punch-Up (making feature films better/funnier), Voice Over Artist etc. My schooling prepped me well for this wide array of professions. I attended Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan for high school: a fine arts boarding high school offering the highest quality artistic training combined with comprehensive, college-preparatory academics, and I was a theatre major at UCLA.
When my first child was an infant, I continued to audition and work as an actress, but our little family moved to Orange County two weeks after she was born and soon enough, the long trek to LA became more and more difficult. I continued to work in voiceovers to maintain our family’s cushy PPO health insurance through the actors’ union, SAG/AFTRA. And to maintain my sanity as I attempted to navigate my new circle of friends I met mostly through mom clubs and play dates. When I became pregnant a second time, with twins, I was sentenced to bedrest at 20 weeks. I was helping an actor friend find an agent, since I had so many connections from over 2 decades in the biz. One day he blurted out, “Wanna be my manager?” My automated response was that I was not a manager, but my husband was listening to the exchange, and he chimed in, “Why not?”
And so another career as birthed: talent manager… something I could do from home and that exercised one of my greatest skills: making OTHER people successful! My twins were born at 32 weeks; their combined weight the same as a smallish newborn. They remained in the hospital for 4 weeks, finally getting released the week before Christmas of ’03, when they weighed a whopping 5 pounds each. The managing took a back seat while we fed them pumped breast milk through tubes in their nostrils for several months. As they grew and thrived, I began to invest a few hours a day into my clients, eventually securing a great gig for one of my newer clients that would last for 8 years. I also added teaching as a gig a few years ago: Acting for the Camera with Miss Ria… this may be my favorite “role” yet!
Your industry is more unique than a traditional 9-5 job. How do you balance family life with what can be a pretty crazy work schedule?
LOTS OF HELP! My husband’s mother has lived with us for the majority of the time since we started having kids. On paper, having an Italian mother-in-law from Brooklyn under your roof is cringe-worthy, but it works! She is the first to encourage me to attend a client’s screening, take that voiceover job, or give private acting coaching sessions. My husband is also very involved in our 3 kids’ lives, serving as the twins’ baseball coach for the last 6 years and taking our daughter to many European vacations or binge-watching The Office. We’ve also had part- and full-time help at various stages of the kids’ lives.
What have you found to be most rewarding about working in the entertainment industry? Most challenging?
The most rewarding part is that it is so removed, literally and figuratively, from where we live. It’s the perfect escape from the sometimes predictable squeaky clean existence behind the Orange Curtain. When I’m on a dark sound stage lending my voice, or coaching young actors on a new TV series (my most recent gig), I forget everything else for hours at a time. These sessions demand my complete attention and talent, so I’m able to just be there. Only there. So all the noise about getting a grade changed for Twin B, or my daughter’s ACT prep, or the Team Mom email I’m late composing… all melts away for a time. Also, when I lived in LA, what I did/do was not considered special. I’m a dime a dozen up there. Whereas, in the OC, folks “get” my worth. I’ve been able to take what I learned, starting in 1986 and formulate a technique to share with so many willing parents of hopeful kids in Orange County.
Truly the most challenging things about my industry are 1) Where I live… the drive takes a toll; and 2) Knowing my worth–even when you are only as good as your last (impressive) job when you’re among industry peeps.
You are simultaneously successful and very involved in your kids’ lives. How do you balance being a working mom with being a present mother?
Luckily, I’ve been able to apply many of the skills I use in my career for my kids’ lives. My daughter is heavily involved in the theatre department at the award-winning Tesoro High School. I am currently the Tesoro Theatre Arts Booster Club president, and often help with casting the shows, assisting with rehearsals, and spending hours aiding in many capacities during tech week before a production. This enables me to be creatively fulfilled, while spending quality time with my High School junior and her friends. If I wasn’t involved in this way, I’m certain I would rarely see her!
For the boys, I teach drama at their Montessori School, and have been doing so for 8 years. I’ve also been directing their school musical for 11 years. Again, this means more time with them, while still applying my skills and passions. Also, since the boys’ main love is baseball, I served as our little league’s Head Team Mom for 3 years, rarely missing any of their literally hundreds of games since they started. For all the kids, I’m the first to volunteer my minivan for any outing. It seats 6 plus me… and it’s typically full of chatty teens. You’d be surprised how quickly they forget someone (me) is driving. I learn so much on these excursions.
If you go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself as a young mother, what would it be?
Stop tabulating and comparing when they achieve milestones. Stay on the floor and play longer… all day if that’s what feels authentic!