A Juggler’s Guide to Parental Responsibility

Me and the Girls
Me and the Girls

Study the picture. That’s me and my two children aged 3 and 5 in a pretty standard domestic scene. Daddy gets home from work and is greeted by two adoring daughters flying at him with cuddles and cries of “Dadeeeeeeeee!”

When the photo was taken, I was getting back from an opera rehearsal. This job afforded me the luxury of working office hours for several weeks so I was able to return to the scene in the photo nearly every day. Normally my working hours are either anti-social or non-existent so this was a novelty for all three of us.

I’ve been a dad for five years and a performer for much longer. Most self-employed people go through a moment of doubt when they become parents. Self-employment can be unreliable and this is especially true in performing arts. Stability and regularity can become very attractive when you start a family but I stuck with the juggling and so far I’m getting away with it.

There are advantages to this. I’m often around during the day to run domestic errands and I’m usually the only dad on the school run, but it’s difficult for me to guarantee this time as a lot of my work comes in at short notice. Booking a holiday is always a gamble for the same reason. At time of writing, my family are on a holiday that I was unavailable for due to work commitments. This is the curse of the leisure industry generally. When most are at play, I’m at work.

Upon finding out what I do for a living people often say “Your children must love you!” This well meaning but absurd statement (Do accountants’ children not love their parents just as much?) reflects the fact that juggling is often associated with children. To be honest, my kids are so young they probably think everyone’s daddy can balance things on his nose and do yo-yo tricks.

My five year old might just be getting the idea that my job is a novelty. Her fifth birthday party was earlier in the summer and I generously agreed to entertain the guests free of charge. Most of her classmates were there and they kept coming up to me saying “Are you really Millie’s daddy?” When I said yes they would cackle and run away. One of these friends came for a play date a few days later. When I arrived home, she looked at me through the garden gate and said “Oh! He really is your daddy then!”

I could hope that my daughters will be proud of their old dad but pride would inevitably give way to crushing embarrassment when they reach ten or so. I think this would be equally true if I was a lawyer or something so I’ll just have to accept the inevitable and keep a low profile.

It is scary relying on such a bizarre thing to feed, clothe and house my offspring but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the grass is greener elsewhere. Everyone I speak to worries about some threat to their livelihood whether they work on a stage or in an office.
Nobody is bullet proof so I’m just grateful for having a job I enjoy and two beautiful children who lavish affection without wanting to borrow the car straight afterwards (yet).

Sam Veale
August 2011

Despite all this, Sam does do children’s parties. For more information, go to…


1 thought on “A Juggler’s Guide to Parental Responsibility”

  1. Beautiful post, Sam! I’m 30-years into that livelihood and the thrill and uncertainty is always worth it. My son is 9 now… Your prediction about your daughters’ reaction at 10 seems right on course. Stay proud my friend… it’s a great ride (the parenting and the performing)!

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