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  • katybateson

How being a parent changed my relationship with improv

I started learning improvisation when I was 16 years and it soon became something that I built my life around! At my peak I was teaching 2 workshops a week, travelling around the UK to perform in improvisation festivals as well as taking courses by visiting improv teachers from around the world.

I definitely developed a strong love/hate relationship with improv! I loved creating stories using an audience suggestion, I loved meeting all these incredible people, I loved teaching people and watching them bloom.

I hated being hundreds of miles away from the cities where all the improv was happening and I hated constantly having to teach and not being able to go to drop ins.

Then in 2016 I was pregnant with my first child (Hello morning sickness!) and my improv journey slowed down. It isn’t fun trying to teach when you feel constantly sick and as I got bigger teaching became more tiring.

And then I went on maternity leave for a year and I had ideas that maybe I’d be back teaching soon. But I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to be away from my baby and improv just didn’t have the same importance anymore.

I started teaching again but just locally to my regular performance group and then in 2019 I was pregnant with my second child (Hello morning sickness my old friend!) and again had another year off on maternity leave.

So now I’m back! It’s been a very strange time, having a baby in lockdown, not going to baby classes and having family members that still haven’t met my littlest even though he’s one.

I was worried that my improvisation skills would have suffered being out of the game so long but it turns out that improv is like riding a bike. Also I improvise more now than I ever have done. I spend half my day being characters from various kids tv programmes, I create bed time stories about poo and find inventive reasons to try and explain about the workings of the world.

I think having children has made me love improvisation even more, partly because it’s no longer so important. I turn up and teach, I laugh and have fun, I embrace spending 90 minutes getting to not be Mummy and to talk to others adults and then I go back to chasing two energetic little boys around. I don’t get weighed down by my frustrations any more.

I’m only teaching online right now which works really well for me. I don’t have to spend extra time travelling, I don’t have to hassle of booking venues (and being paranoid when I lock them up that I’ve not done it properly!) and I can teach people from anywhere in the world which is incredibly exciting.

My eldest has the most incredible imagination and we’ve embraced that completely. Having two improviser parents means that the games and characters he invents are Yes Anded which is fun for all of us.

I’m also incredibly grateful that improvisation has given me the skills to create a brand new bed time story every night based on any suggestions my little audience member gives me.

There is no doubt that being a parent and trying to do anything outside of parenting is so hard. You’re exhausted, time runs away from you and a lot of the time you’d rather stare at a tv screen than have a conversation. Your self confidence and sense of identity takes a massive hit, I feel incredibly out of touch with myself nowadays. But for me having bigger priorities has given improv some of its magic back because it is no longer all consuming!

Maybe in the future I’ll be back to performing around the UK followed by a little entourage but for now I’m happy just where I am.

I’d love to hear from other improv parents out there how being a parent has changed your relationship with improv!

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