Moms Make It Work: Kate from Texas

Our second guest blogger is Kate from Elefantitas Alegres and I was especially excited to read her post---she did not disappoint. Kate has a way with words that inspires me to write with a touch of humor plus intellect and I love her outlook on their current situation. Enjoy!


Hello! My name is Kate, and I am a 30 year old lady-lawyer-turned-temporary-SAHM.  My husband Evan and I married in 2009, welcomed our daughter Leighton in February 2012, and are excitedly awaiting the birth of our son, slated to arrive around April Fools' Day.  We live in Dallas, TX but are currently entrenched in Year 6 of a master plan I like to call Drag Our Butts Back to (my hometown of) Austin.  I (sporadically) blog at Elefantitas Alegres and (somewhat obsessively) Instagram (is that a verb yet?) under the username cheesefiend.

I'll start off by saying I was thrilled when Julia asked me to be a part of this series - thrilled but a bit apprehensive!  As I'll explain, taking a break from my career is something I never planned for myself, and I admit I struggle more than I'd like with this stage of my life. It's something I've always wanted to write about, but never could quite figure out how to go about it without sounding unhappy or ungrateful (neither of which I am!).  ANYHOODLE, many thanks to Julia for providing this platform and the following prompts with which to organize all this word vomit that's been swirling around in my head for two years! 

What is your background story?  What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And now where are you?

(My apologies in advance for apparently having ALL THE WORDS in response to this question!) 

As I touched on briefly above, I never ever thought I'd end up a stay-at-home mom!  I'll go even further and say I didn't even know if I really wanted children until I was in my mid-20s (apparently I told Evan about this uncertainty on our first date, and he almost didn't ask me for a second one... good thing those margaritas made him throw caution to the wind at the end of the evening!).  Although I was definitely "girly" growing up, baby dolls, playing "house," and babysitting were never big interests of mine.  I liked kids fine, but when I daydreamed about my adult life, the role of "mother" was never featured heavily.  Falling in love with Evan made me want children - little chunks of both of us mixed up into a tiny human being all of a sudden seemed like a really good idea!  

Backing up a bit, I attended college at Wake Forest University in North Carolina where I double majored in Spanish Literature and Sociology.  During my Junior year, my parents asked me what I would do after graduation, and I replied that I thought perhaps I'd apply to the Peace Corps (for no reason other than I'd just spent Fall semester living in Sevilla, Spain and naively figured digging ditches in Bolivia might provide another opportunity for carefree travel).  In more words, they wisely said "nice try, guess again"... So I applied to law school.  Because, why the hell not?  Baylor University in Waco, TX was no South America, but it did provide three of the most intellectually stimulating and challenging years of my life (I loved, loved law school).  Bonus Points: Evan and I met (in the law library) at the end of my first quarter. He was a year ahead of me, he was really cute, and he had great outlines.  We were engaged after a year and a half of dating, and, since he was already practicing in Dallas, I took a job at a boutique construction litigation firm there upon graduation. This first "real" job more than paid the bills and also nicely funded a fancy shoe habit.  Those are the absolute best things I can say about it; the rest of the experience was pretty abysmal.  When the firm downsized due to cash flow during my second year of practice, I was happy to go.

Law School Graduation - July 2008
March 28, 2009

After 3 months of adventures in unemployment, I landed somewhat of a dream job at a wonderful nonprofit - a position that fit me so much better than law firm life.  For two years, I was the sole immigration attorney for an large organization that helped victims of domestic violence.  I filed victim-based petitions to the federal government on behalf of our clients and (as cheesy as it sounds) was able to make a real difference in their lives (I also got to speak Spanish every day! 3 cheers for actually using that fine arts degrees!).  Handing over green cards and employment authorization cards and citizenship papers to women who only ever wanted to legitimately belong in this country apart from their abusive spouses and partners is an honor I will always cherish.  

Another wonderful thing about this position was the hours... The pay was laughable, but I basically wasn't allowed to work more than 40 hours a week.  Totally optimal for having kids, yes?  Definitely... except for the fact that the organization was located one county over.  Depending on traffic and which office I was visiting (I had one main office, but also routinely visited two separate shelters plus another counseling office), my commute was anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours each day.  8 hours at the office would have been totally doable for me as a working mom... but 11?  When my husband works an average of 60-80 hours per week?  Hmmmmmm.

Leighton's Birthday - Febraury 21, 2012

When I became pregnant with Leighton, I made the hard decision to leave my nonprofit position.  Had the organization been located in Dallas, I wouldn't have given a second thought about returning to work after her birth... but logistically, it just wasn't going to be a good fit for our family given the heinous commute and the time demands of Evan's practice.  I dove into unexpected SAHM-dom with the expectation that I'd likely find something local, maybe part-time, when I felt ready to do so. I told myself - and everyone else who would listen - that I felt really lucky we had the resources for me to take a break.  That was (is!) definitely a true statement, but a huge part of me also wished I'd had a job to which I could have easily returned after a few months of maternity leave.  The thought of job-hunting and interviewing with an infant was completely overwhelming, and, after some casual conversations with my nonprofit boss about returning part-time 4 months postpartum led to a dead end (the grant that funded the immigration program ended up not being renewed... ie: there was no job to return to - super sad for me, but even more so for my clients), I basically tabled the idea indefinitely.

If I'm honest with myself, I spent Leighton's first year of life feeling generally overwhelmed.... overwhelmed with this new, earth-shattering love for my daughter; overwhelmed with conflicting feelings of never wanting to leave her vs. wanting very much a role apart from motherhood; overwhelmed with the fact that, despite considering myself a pretty non-traditional person, I'd been thrust into a very traditional role; overwhelmed with guilt that I wasn't appreciating the time home with my little goober enough when I knew plenty of moms would love to stay-at-home but couldn't for whatever reason.

(Okay, I promise not to say "overwhelmed" again.)

I finally hit my stride right around Leighton's first birthday.  I'd managed to make some great new mama friends - almost all who were in a similar situation to my own (well-educated, career-oriented, but for various reasons, at home temporarily).  We had somewhat of a dependable weekly schedule.  I started to participate in a few career development type activities (fewer than I'd like, and, admittedly, most were Continuing Legal Education seminars, but I wore spit-up free suit jackets to them so they count).  And, perhaps most tellingly, after 12 months of shitty, shitty naps and night-time feedings, Leighton started sleeping through the night and taking one great nap a day (in fact, let's just blame all my first year neuroses on sleep deprivation -- that makes me sound a lot more sane!).  I started to get some big ideas about putting my "lawyer hat" back on.  And then...

... Surprise!  I got pregnant!

14 weeks pregnant with #2!

Conceiving Leighton was not the easiest task for us (I always hesitate to use the word "infertility," because, compared to many of my friends, our journey to pregnancy was easy... but there were definitely hiccups and roadblocks in our journey), and we assumed #2 would present the same challenges... NOPE.  I always thought my kids would be about 3 years apart, but the universe had different plans, and we will welcome our son 25 months after Leighton's entry into the world. 

While I am thrilled to be pregnant (and without being poked with needles or drinking disgusting Chinese tea or refilling prescriptions!), the timing really threw me in the beginning.  Initially, I was (sorry, I'm going to say it one more time) overwhelmed at the thought of starting all over with another newborn, right as I was starting to feel like myself again.  The SAHM "label" started to feel permanent -- and weighty.  Let's just say I had some self-indulgent, ungrateful moments, and leave it at that.  I'm not proud of those moments, but I think they ended up being productive and necessary for my current head-space.   Which is... what, exactly?

Happy, most importantly.  Satisfied, for the most part - as much as I can be.  As unconcerned as I've ever been (in my adult life) with the labels we're forced to give ourselves at cocktail parties.  Confident that, when the time is right for our family, I'll be able to jump back into the workforce (I'd be lying if I said I didn't still worry about my "relevance" to the marketplace after such an extended break, but it is what it is, and, with hard work, people do it successfully all the time).  Scared a little bit shitless about tackling the "terrible twos" in conjunction with the newborn stage, but oh-so-delighted to meet our new addition and feel the love grow exponentially.

Thanksgiving 2013

I think it's a pretty good place to be. 

What are the best parts of your situation?  What are the biggest challenges?

The obvious "best" is getting to hang out with the coolest little person I've ever known all day. I admit, this aspect of SAHMothering has gotten infinitely better since Leighton started walking and talking.  Yep, I loved those newborn snuggles and chubby crawler belly laughs, but I am a much better Toddler Mom than Baby Mom.  I love waking up to the sound of her voice talking to all her buddies in her crib, and she delights me daily with what she knows and the funny things she says.  I love that she can tell me, for the most part, what she wants and that she now actually appreciates all our activities and outings.  Even the tantrums are rather hysterical (although I'm sure they'll become less so in the coming months and years).  And while I realize probably 90% of the milestones she's reached and concepts she's learned are attributed to her simply being her, it is really cool to take the of the credit for at least some of the remaining 10% just by virtue of being her #1 caregiver. 

This pales in comparison to numero uno above, but I know there is absolutely no way I would have been able to breastfeed for 19 months (something I'm super proud of) had I gone back to work.  I am a terrible pumper, and moms who work and pump - for any amount of time - are seriously my heroes.  Champagne cocktails for all of y'all out there!

The biggest challenge for me being at home all day (which should be readily apparent from my verbosity above) has been just not feeling quite like myself without an employer to report to or a real purpose outside taking care of my family. I had so much insecurity for such a long time about staying-at-home.  Which I basically just had to get the hell over with the help of time, perspective, and big girl underpants. 

I'd say my other big challenge was/is making good use of my time.  I am most productive when I have a set schedule and am busy; I've always worked really well under a time crunch.  And now I have...a whole lotta unscheduled time if I don't make a conscious effort to fill my days.  Don't get me wrong -- there is plenty that needs to be done, and I'm often wishing for more hours in the day, but time management while "being my own boss" was not something I had a lot of practice with before February 2012.

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

If you've waded through all 2,000+ of my words up to this point, you can probably answer this one for me... Nope.  (Also, please take a cookie break.  You deserve one for sticking with me.)

Is this your ideal situation?  If not, what is?

In a perfect world, my old job or something exactly like it would be located in Dallas, I would have negotiated a part-time contract while pregnant with Leighton, and I would be enjoying a wholly satisfying work-family balance.  Since we're dreaming here, Evan would be working at least 20 hours less than he does now, and we'd be eating family dinners together 7 days a week.  Yippee!

Jackson Hole - July 2013

Since we live in the real world, I'm going to go ahead and surprise myself by saying this is probably as ideal as we can get right now.  Even if I'd been able to swing a local, part-time gig after Leighton was born, I'd still have a partner who works more (sometimes a lot more) than the average bear... which means, I'd still be doing the vast majority of the housework and child care just by virtue of being at home more.  Knowing myself, I can only imagine the resentfulness that situation could breed.  Yes, in theory, my career goals are just as important as my husband's, but, practically-speaking, his job pays the mortgage and saves for college and affords us wonderful vacations (he also happens to be damn good at it and, for the most part, really enjoys it).  We are both currently "taking one for the team"... me by being at home for the time being and him by logging billable hours away from us. I think we're both happy to do that (even if sometimes it doesn't seem so) in order to get where we hope to be.  In the near future (hopefully about 2 years from now), I can actually envision the "perfect world" situation I described above as reality. At that point, we will hopefully be in a place where we both can find more of a work-family balance!

Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years, or is this current set-up staying put for the long haul?

I definitely plan on heading back to work in the next 5 years (hopefully 2!).  Practicing law for a nonprofit or a government agency is a great fit for me and should give me optimal hours as far as "Mama Time" goes.  My mother taught all throughout my childhood, and, looking back, I love that she worked but was also there for most of the hours I was home from school.  She is probably my work-family balance role model!  I am also giving a lot of thought to going back to school for a Masters in Counseling.  There is definitely a reason attorneys are dubbed counselors, and that role appeals to me as much as or more so than the actual practice of law.  We shall see! 

How do you handle the Mommy Guilt that comes with your role?

Most of my guilt centered around the fact that I felt I was out of line or ungrateful for wanting "something more" than staying at home when so many women would love to be in my shoes.  I just had to come to terms with the fact that it's completely okay to want time away from your kid(s); it doesn't mean you love them any less (this seems like such a "duh" statement, but the postpartum mind will make you think crazy things!).  I worked hard for my law degree, and it makes sense I'd want to use it... but it's also okay that I'm taking a break.  It doesn't make me boring; my opinions on topics outside of mothering still matter; whatever "role" I'm currently sporting doesn't strip me of my previous accomplishments. Etc, etc, etc.

Tips for how you make this work for you?  And advice for new moms staying-at-home?

Surrounding myself other like-minded, similar-situationed mamas has been immensely helpful!  I only had one local friend with young kiddos when Leighton was born.  She was kind enough to invite me a monthly playground where I was able to meet a few more mamas and at least drink coffee with people born before the new millennium. I also joined several moms' groups on  I didn't end up loving the huge group dynamic, but the events got us out of the house, and I met about 10 women through MeetUp who I really, really liked.  We ended up leaving the big group and forming our own, smaller group.  I see these ladies at least once a week and they are a big part of my "life line."  If you are a new mom or mom-to-be planning on staying at home for a period of time, get yourself out there a meet other moms!  Joining a playgroup or a MeetUp groups is likely the easiest way to go about that, but you can also try to make some "love connections" by frequenting the same park, library story hour, or baby/mama yoga class and seeking out the other regulars.  I am not above stalking fun-looking fellow moms on jogging paths or in the nursing lounge at Nordstrom.  No shame in my game.

I love what Erin said last week about "keeping score"... I am so guilty of this, and it's probably my biggest co-parenting challenge.  In order to be happiest about my current position and my parenting relationship with my husband, I have to banish all of the "well I've been at this all day while you've been enjoying fancy client lunches and peeing in private, so it's only fair that you change every single diaper while you're at home" thoughts.  We both work hard all day, and when we're both at home, no one gets an automatic "break" - but also everyone deserves a break... Hopefully, that makes at least an ounce of sense.  I suppose what I'm saying is it's important for both partners to appreciate the hard work the other puts in no matter who is at home and who is working outside of the home.  There should be some sort of fair division of labor, but, at the same time, keeping a mental tally chart of how many times each parent gets up with the baby in the middle of the night isn't healthy for anyone.

Here's a biggie... and one I'll end on (jeesh, finally, right?).  I could have saved myself so much angst if I'd just given myself a little grace, especially during that newborn period.  And not just about normal insecurities regarding new parenthood in general, but also about my decision to stay at home.  I was way too concerned about what that choice said about me as a "modern woman" and what my peers might think.  If you're like me and wary about staying at home, it's okay that you feel conflicted.  One aspect of your life (staying at home) does not have to reflect poorly on another (your passion for your education or your career).  Getting rid of the self-labels in your head will make you so much happier with and more confident about this particular season of your life!

Many, many thanks to Julia for heading up this series... and for allowing me to use her space as my own personal therapy session!  And thank you those who made it all the way through this shockingly long spiel -- coffee and/or adult beverages on me!  


  1. Great post Kate! Julia this series is so fascinating to read, I am so excited for the next guest(s)!

  2. Eeek! I sat here reading and nodding... Yes yes! I can so relate to all of this - the commute, part time dreams, husband with insane hours!

  3. Oh my! Love it and all your words on this topic! Currently I am the "bread winner" and have lots of angst/guilt over that. I wish and prayed there was another way around it, I could work less and be home more for my baby girl and the newest addition that will be coming in March or NEXT MONTH! I think these are normal but it still gives me LOTS of anxiety and heartache thinking about it all!

  4. I enjoyed reading this. It can be scary to put your thoughts out there, but I'm sure there are so many of us that can relate to parts of what you are saying. Any role-- working, staying at home, etc as a mother is hard, hard work. I can't wait to hear how things evolve for you and especially can't wait to "meet" your sweet baby boy!

  5. Loved this post - such great perspective. It is so true that we ALL could save ourselves a lot of angst if we'd just give ourselves some grace during the process. And I so agree about finding support from other moms - the new mom group I joined at the hospital after Annie was born was awesome, and just the fact that tons of my friends were having babies at the same time - helped so much to hear others going through similar issues!

  6. Love this post! I'm currently working part time, but I'm thinking about staying home for a big in the future. My husband, like yours, works a lot of hours, so me staying home might be what works best for our family (at least for a few years). I am feeling a little conflicted about it though, and it's nice to hear I'm not alone in that.

    I also used meetup to find some adults to talk to when I had my first. Talking to grown ups make such a big difference!

  7. What a great post! I recently started following you on IG (probably through Julia?) and now I'm glad I know more about you!

    I think being a working mom has to be immensely harder when you've got a husband who has to work insanely long hours. I feel grateful that my husband works normal hours like I do - even though I'm sure the extra money would be nice. ;) But it's great you have the option to stay home, and hopefully you can get back to it sooner rather than later!

    I get your feelings of wanting 'something more.' As a full-time working mom, I often question whether I'm selfish or abnormal that I long to work and that I'm mostly ok with being away from my kids - who I adore - for much of my day. Of course I wish I had more time with them, but at the same time, I don't long to stay home. I don't think that's a bad thing.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so candidly! And congrats on that baby on the way. ;)

  8. I'm going to blame my tears on pregnancy hormones with #2, but thank you both Kate and Julia for being intelligent and excellent mamas and sharing your thoughts with us. As a fellow stay-at-home mom with a hard earned graduate degree, I share a lot of Kate's feelings and insecurities and it is nice to not feel alone. I too was blessed to find a group of likeminded mamas and that has made all the difference to me. Thanks for sharing and I will continue to read both of your blogs which have always stood out to me as showing that you can be smart, and good mom, and stay at home all at once (including in the ideal part-time sense)!

  9. I'm also enjoying this series so much and I love hearing everyone's take on life. Kate - good luck on your pregnancy and I hope the right job lands in your lap (and hopefully in your zip code!) when the time is right!

  10. Kate, I loved this post. While I ultimately ended up back at the office, I wrestled with so many of those same questions and feelings in the weeks and months after B was born. Overwhelmed pretty much hits the nail on the head. The struggle between wanting to be a mom and wanting to hold on to the person you were before you became a mom is HARD. I was so unsure about what I wanted to do after B was born. I spent half my time feeling guilty that I wanted to go back to work and what that said about me as a mother. The other half the time I felt bad for wanting to stay home and what that said about me as a professional/feminist/what-have-you. So that struggle? I get it. The grace you speak of? Sometimes I'm still looking for it. I think Leighton is a lucky little girl with a kick ass mom. Also, consider this my formal request that when you do go back to lady-lawyering, you will bring back I Take Photos in the Bathroom. I miss it. :)

  11. Wonderful Kate! Such a great post.

  12. Great post! I love this series!

    I am almost the opposite. I have a master's in school couseling but just want to stay home. I currently work in an office, not in a school because I never found those jobs. But those hours would be ideal.

  13. I'm not sure I could have loved this post more! What I really liked is that even though we're on different ends of this (I work full time and she is a stay at home mom), the feelings are so much the same. I had such a hard time in the first year of my daughter's life trying to resolve spending so little time with my daughter since I both worked and had to travel for work and I really should have given myself some grace as well. Great, great advice! I can only hope I remember this as we embark on baby #2 (due in March!).

  14. Oh yes, grace for ourselves is so necessary- yet so hard at the same time. I can also relate to how important having friends in similar situations as yours is- I think it actually helps us give ourselves grace when we have others to relate to!

  15. Thank you for this post! I feel like you have just described my situation almost exactly - I'm an attorney and my daughter is almost 1 and I've been home with her after being laid off at 9 months pregnant (yup). I think I've wrestled with every single emotion you talked about during my time at home also. It's just really nice to hear that I'm not the only going through this!

  16. I love this post so much. Kate, thanks for sharing so much of yourself here, and now I want to be your friend and know all the things and share a bottle of wine with you and swap stories.

    I will actually be a part of this series as well (you'll hear from me in Feb!) so I will save the details for then, but I find myself having so many of the same mixed feelings about mothering and working and being able to use my Master's degree and all that. I'm working part-time right now, but as I grapple with whether or not to have a 3rd baby, and my oldest will be going to kindergarten in a year and a half, and how alll of that could change my whole work/life balance thing, I've been thinking about taking a break from corporate life. But I am TERRIFIED of leaving, and not being able to get back. Absolutely terrified. But then I try to reind myself how ridiculous that is because IF I TRULY WANT TO, of course I could come back. I think what I'm most scared of is that I won't want to come back... and then my kids will grow up... and then what?

    I will tell you something my brother told me that gave me comfort, (I never would have imagined my childless gay brother could say exactly the right thing when I was all stress-ball spewing about this stuff over the holidays)... He told me that his partner's mom quit working when she had kids, for 10 years. She went back when the kids were both in middle school and it just got a little easier to balance all of that. And now she has two grown children and she is the CEO of a company with a home in both Florida and Illinois. Anything is possible. Do what's best for your family and yourself right now. He told me to stop thinking this is IT if I quit my job. I will never regret having a child, bringing another person into our family. We WILL be able to get back. There will be plenty of time for that.

  17. This is so great. As someone who is contemplating doing the SAHM thing for awhile after the baby comes, I can really identify with a lot of your struggles about it and I appreciate your insights! So glad you are in a good place with it!

  18. Kate, this was such a great post. I've been a SAHM for about 6 months now and while this is what I always wanted I still struggle everyday with my identity as a "mom" and I feel like I need more. I too have a husband who works 60-80hrs a week and it just didn't make sense for me to work with his schedule but it's still hard to give up something that has been such a part of you for so long. It realy sounds like you've found a great balance for the time being

  19. Great post - thanks for sharing. I am a well educated (2 masters degrees) mama of 2 that is about to be laid off. I too will join the world of SAHM - at least part time and its a bit of a struggle mentally for me. I appreciate the thoughts that you shared. Gives some good perspective to the road that I am about to wander.

  20. What a fabulous post. I feel like in so many ways I am so different from you and your dreams, but at the sae time, as a mom and a young woman, I totally found myself nodding along to much of what you said. I can absolutely relate to a lot of what you're saying. I think it's neat how each family finds a way to make it work, and although it may not be "ideal" (is it ever?), we learn and grow from that place. Thanks for opening up and sharing this piece of your story. I truly enjoyed it!

  21. Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, once never saw myself as a mom (but here I am) and it's nice to see other people vocalize that. Right now, I see so many people about to have their third kid and I've started to feel like ALL the women out there (but me) want to have kid's, kid's kid's...

    Oh, and I always thought I would prefer the baby stage to the toddler stage, but I am pro-toddler now! Babies are hard (well, mine was) and I was relieved to have a little person who I could communicate better with.


Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. Sorry that commenting through Blogger can be a royal pain. I'm glad you are commenting despite that, and please email me if you are having issues.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...