What do Heidi Klum, Justin Timberlake, and Kardashian sisters have in common? The answer is: they all had their parents work as their managers—at least for a while. The reality TV star Kris Jenner has been managing her kids’ careers long before Kardashian was a household name. She has coined the term “momager”—a mother who works as her child’s talent manager.
The advantage of being your child’s manager is that you know your little one better than anyone else. A hired manager will keep career interests in the first place, but to you, your child’s personal interests and overall well-being will always be the top priority. You can always monitor their emotional state and health, balance work, school and play, and help your child truly enjoy this industry. Your unconditional love will help them deal with the demands of working in the adult world.
For many moms, the reason for becoming momagers is simple—they do not want to give another person so much control over their child’s career. At the same time, moms are unsure they will be able to make the smartest business decisions. Working as a manager is indeed a very demanding role. You will have to be in charge of every aspect of your child’s career, including finances and publicity. This role requires a deep understanding of the industry, organizational skills, excellent communication and networking skills, and the ability to negotiate. Unfortunately, most parents don’t have the industry knowledge or contacts to be competent managers unless they have worked in this field before.
If you are considering managing your child’s acting career, here are 5 questions to help you put things in perspective:
Can you separate your emotions from your child’s and help them cope with rejection in a healthy way? Rejection is inevitable in show business, and one of the biggest mistakes a momager can make is taking rejection too close to heart and then blame the child. If your child is under a lot of pressure and afraid they are not meeting your expectations, they won’t be able to do their best and will not get cast for projects. In case your child doesn’t book a job, deliver the bad news gently, without making them feel rejected.
Will you be able to care for other family members and find space for quality time? If you have a child actor, show business will inevitably become a family business. So, talk it over with your child and other family members, leave nothing out, and consider all the pros and cons of you being the child’s manager.
Balancing the household can be a real challenge, especially if there are other children or a spouse, so you will have to put your scheduling and multi-tasking skills to use. It is possible that your child will have to be on the road or even gone for months if they land a job in a big project. Ideally, the whole family travels together, but that is rarely possible so you will need to be creative and think about ways to hold the family together.
How will this affect your role as a parent? One of the challenges of being a momager is that the line between being a mom and a boss gets blurry. If the child’s career takes off, it is easy for a parent to get caught up in the business, and the rest of the family may feel neglected. If your child feels that the family dynamics is changing because of them (parents fight more often, or a sibling gets jealous), they will feel guilty and won’t be able to perform their best.
Your child’s success should be celebrated, but they should not be at the center of attention all the time. If there are other children in the family make sure they too have a chance to do something exciting and something that makes them proud.
Do you have industry connections and experience? There are many challenges to being a momager. Networking is crucial, and then there are unions, adjusting the school schedule, and work permits. If your child is nonunion, you may be able to get more work for them than a hired manager. If, however, you’re willing to take your child’s acting to the next level and have them work regularly as well as pay the union dues, consider going with an established manager with a good reputation. To learn more about unions, read this.
Are you able to negotiate contracts? Being a manager requires business savvy and attention to detail. It is highly recommended that you don’t sign anything straight away and that you document everything regarding the roles and payments. Ask yourself if you are willing to fully commit to the responsibilities and the nitty-gritty of this job, and if you have doubts, hand it over to an experienced, honest, and diligent talent manager.
We think the golden mean is to be a momager in the beginning stages of your child’s career and, as your child advances in their career, involve an experienced manager who knows the industry inside out and will deal with agents, studios, contracts, etc.
At the end of the day, the most important thing for a child actor is to have fun with it. The moment it starts to feel like a job for a child, casting directors can tell. It is essential to provide support and ensure that your child still has “normal” childhood experiences if they start working at an early age. Always look out for the interests of your child as a whole person, not just a performer. Follow this simple rule: when your child says that it’s not fun anymore, you need to pull back from the career pursuit and take a break. Remember that acting jobs can come and go, but your role as a parent lasts forever.