Meet Later in Life Mom: Jayne Atkinson

jayneheadshotJayne Atkinson was born on February 18, 1959 in Bournemouth, UK, though her family relocated to the US in her early life. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1981 with a BA in Communications before attending Yale Drama School.

Broadway credits include Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, The Rainmaker (Tony nomination), Our Town, Enchanted April (Tony nomination, Drama Desk nomination; Outer Critics Circle Award) and Blithe Spirit. She has also appeared off-Broadway in a number of productions, including The Art of Success (Drama Desk nomination) and The Skriker (Drama Desk nomination). Her feature film credits include Free Willy, Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, The Village and Syriana. On television she has made  guest appearances on the hit series The X-Files, Law and Order, Gossip Girl and White Collar. As a recurring character, she has played Karen Hayes on the award-winning 24, Erin Strauss on Criminal Minds and, most recently, Secretary of State Catherine Durant on the Netfilix original series House of Cards.

In addition to acting, Jayne runs Jadana Productions, which specializes in entertainment development. Her other areas of expertise include coaching for professionals in the area of public speaking, directing and teaching.

She is married to actor Michel Gill, whom she met during a 1989 production of The Heiress at Long Wharf Theatre. Together they have one son.

What was your road to parenthood like? A long one— I didn’t have our son until I was 40— I followed my dreams of being an actress— vowed I wouldn’t get married until I was a least 27!

You have had success in many entertainment arenas. Is there one project in your career thus far that you are most proud of, and why?  I loved doing Vagina Monologues— so freeing in every way—we read our monologues from cue cards so there was no need to worry about memorization even tho the pieces seemed to flow as if memorized— and the stories were so bold, so personal -so heartbreakingly important.

How does being a mom influence your work? What does your son think of all that you do? It influences absolutely every decision I make— one of the reasons I moved to the Berkshires was to give him the childhood I had had—walking, running, riding everywhere easily— a lake, a village. Our son is very proud of both of us— he did say that he was glad we weren’t more famous because we wouldn’t have had the time we have with him.

You directed MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD in the Berkshires. What was it about that play that spoke to you, and how do you feel it impacted other moms?  The passages of motherhood aren’t given their due — how important that title is in fact. There are many of women in our community who have decided to make motherhood their full time job, and I felt it would resonate here..It also resonated with me and gave me some insight into other women’s journeys and journeys I have yet to take.

Candida by George Bernard Shaw Directed by Anders Cato with Jayne Atkinson, Michel Gill, David Schramm, Samantha Soule, Jeremiah Wiggins, and Finn Wittrock 2008 berkshire Theatre Festival. Photos by Kevin Sprague ©2008

by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Anders Cato
with Jayne Atkinson, Michel Gill, David Schramm, Samantha Soule, Jeremiah Wiggins, and Finn Wittrock
2008 berkshire Theatre Festival.
Photos by Kevin Sprague ©2008

Do you think it’s tough for women to balance parenting, a personal life and professional pursuits? And, if so, how do you achieve balance?  I do— you can’t help feel guilty when you’ve been away from hearth and home – even when you are doing what you love— I don’t know if you can achieve balance— I think it is a balancing act and sometimes you don’t know how to course correct til something really tilts sideways and then— as women do — we pick that ball up and figure out how to find our true north— the true north that works for the whole ship.

What do you see as the positives and challenges of having a child at age 35 or over?  The positives are that I‘ve had more me time— I have more patience, and I really can and did spend alot of quality time with our son because that’s ALL I wanted to do. I have an amazing partner in my husband, is also an actor, who loved being home as well.  The challenges to me are the same for any age parent—they don’t come with manuals, and it’s not for sissies!

Has anything about being a mother surprised you? If so, what? What do you love the most about it, and what is the most challenging?  It’s amazing how smart our little pumpkins are— how aware and authentic they are— keeping that alive and not squashing it with a lot of “no’s” and rules is my particular challenge— you really get yourself reflected back to you in a daringly glaringly real way— that is humbling but all soul expanding, and I love it!  Our son is now in boarding school at Interlochen Arts Academy — he chose to go — and it’s huge new learning curve for my husband and I, as the nest is empty two years sooner than we thought.

jaynehusbandsonWhat do you most want to teach your son? What have you learned from him thus far?  What I most want to show our son, reflect to our son, is that everything he needs to know is right inside of steward him in the direction of his own self value, own self knowledge— that making mistakes is part of learning who you are—that it is honorable to tell the truth and be in that truth even though others may disagree with seek adventure, good friends, follow his passion— and to be kind—to himself and others.

I have learned so so much – mostly that my actions and words need to match– that his point of view and agenda as a human being is as important as mine, and often he sees things more authentically than I because he is unfettered with “stuff”.   I also understand that innate knowing that a child has and how how stewarding them takes such a center in yourself as an adult. Guiding them with your own wisdom as they learn to trust their own inner guidance is the key and the challenge as well as keeping your own sense of self-value.

jaynehusbandWhere do you turn for support as a mom? How important is to connect with mom peers?  I get it from other mothers, friends, my husband most of all–my own mother, who had me at 20! Motherhood Later can help moms who are having children later in life feel supported by their peer’s experiences.

What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a parent, particularly if they’re 35 or older?  Your motherhood begins as soon as you are pregnant– be responsible for what YOU want to do for your birth experience and how you advocate for your baby starting in utero! Your wisdom, your self knowledge is powerful— you’ve earned it–use it!

  1. One Response to “Meet Later in Life Mom: Jayne Atkinson”

  2. I was fortunate enough to work with Jayne on both of the “Free Willy” pictures. She is a wonderful, strong and giving actress and person. I have no doubt that Jeremy will grow up to be a good man.

    By Mark Marshall on Dec 1, 2015