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Balancing Your Career And Family:
Define 'Success' And Consider 'Cost'

By David DeAndrea

Voice Actor & Producer

So my wife and I were channel surfing the other night and came across a documentary film about Kevin Clash called Being Elmo.

I had heard about the film when it first came out and was looking forward to seeing it, and I was immediately locked in when we happened across it. 

It's a real rags-to-riches story about a young man who was really into puppets as a kid and who faced ridicule from friends growing up because he wasn't out playing sports like other boys. Instead, he was home "playing with dolls." 


His dream was to be a puppeteer on Sesame Street

While most kids would idolize movie stars or athletes, Kevin was a fan of people no one really knew about. In addition to Jim Henson and Frank Oz, there were people like Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Caroll Spinney - the people who brought the puppets to life. 

Kevin's passion for puppetry, his drive, and some good fortune eventually combined into the worldwide phenomenon that is "Elmo." 

The story was inspiring - the lives that have been touched, the joy brought to countless kids and adults, the dreams fulfilled. 


But toward the end of the film, we see a hint as to what some of the "casualties" of that success may have been. (I am in no way judging Kevin Clash or decisions he has made. I'm just sharing what I took from the film.)

We see a broken marriage, which may or may not have had anything to do with how busy Kevin was pursuing his dreams, and a daughter who didn't seem to get much time with her daddy. 

Kevin reveals that his daughter had written him a note when she was in her early teens that said,

"Listen dad, it's about three more years that I'll be out of the house and doing my thing, and I want to be able to spend time with you, but you're so busy now and I don't want you to miss quality time with us." 

You can almost hear the song "Cat's in the Cradle", can't you? 


Since seeing the film, I came across an interview with Kevin that shed a little more light on his struggle to try and balance success and family.

He was asked, "What's the most important thing your daughter has taught you?"  

His reply was:

"Don't let your career and your work get in the way of this wonderful life that you have with your child. Yes, work is important, but you've got to balance it out and keep a perspective on what you're supposed to be doing at home." 


I guess the first thing we need to do is define what success is for us, and then consider the cost. 

If success is the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like, will you do anything to make that happen? 

How much time, effort, and money are you willing to invest? Where (or who) is that time, effort, and money being taken from? 


Maybe success to you is raising a well-adjusted, responsible, and confident child. 

How much time, effort, and money are you willing to invest in that? 

I know that it's a lot of work to try and keep things in perspective. The lines can get a little blurry sometimes. 


It's easy to rationalize that you're working hard to achieve success "for your family." Add another level of complication to that if you're involved in ministry work. 

I certainly don't have THE answer as to what the perfect balance is, but seeing this show served as a good reminder to me to check myself and see how I'm doing, even to (gulp) ask my family how I'm doing with this balancing act. 

Let me encourage you to take a few minutes to do the same. :)      


Dave DeAndrea is a Voicey Award-winning voice actor and producer whose credits include national ad campaigns (Regus, Evinrude, Westwood College, Nascar), corporate narrations (LPL Financial, Panasonic, Duracell, PetSmart), animation and video games (Axe Cop, Heroes of Newerth), radio and TV imaging (, SBN), and everything in between. Based on the southern Oregon coast, he’s also the Grand Poobah, Big Kahuna and Commander in Chief of, a company designed to create demos for voice actors that are a true showcase of their talent.  

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Comments (5)
Naomi McMillan
5/14/2012 at 12:33 PM
Thank you Dave for this poignant message. It will serve as a reminder whenever I feel like I'm not achieving "enough" in my professional life, that maybe, just maybe, I'm doing okay on the family front :)
roxanne coyne
5/14/2012 at 12:16 PM
This is an ongoing challenge for me, and like Tami, I choose to work part time only. By 2:30 I'm off the clock and fully into mommy mode. It means that I don't progress as quickly as I'd like in my professional goals, but I figure the industry will still be there when my kids are grown up and so, hopefully, will I.

One thing that helps is outsourcing things like the housecleaning. It gives me so much peace of mind knowing someone else can do the vacuuming, dusting and kitchen surfaces....

Thanks for a really great article, Dave.
Bobbin Beam
5/14/2012 at 11:37 AM
Balancing "Life" in all its aspects is a life long goal. The key is in discerning the priorities. You are so right, Dave, they can get a little blurry sometimes!
All The Best,
Paul Payton
5/14/2012 at 12:29 AM
Ah, the elusive balance. 24 years in VO and still trying to figure it out. Yes, it's an individual thing, and I'll be asking my wife how she thinks I'm doing at maintaining an even keel.
Tami Romani
5/13/2012 at 6:45 PM
THIS is exactly why I have done part time VO work for the past 20 years, and am now ready to take on the full-time challenge! My kids were way too important to be leaving them on someone's doorstep while going off to an audition. Moms now have a great friend in the new technology, but 10-20 years ago, VO was a drive to LA at the last minute for an audition venture! My kids are now adults, and so excited for me as I move into this next chapter! Life's too short - it's really important to pursue a balance.
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