Moms Make it Work: Kim from Illinois

Today we have Kim from NewlyWoodwards posting about her recent transition from working full time to staying home full time with adorable Henry. I was looking forward to hearing her thoughts on this big change and her post did not disappoint. Love peeking into her new life and how she makes it work. Enjoy!


When Julia asked me if I wanted to be part of this series, I had a moment. You know, the one where I wondered if I could actually fool anyone who reads My Life in Transition into thinking that I have it all together.

I mean, most days, I'm not even sure that I "make it work."

But I think the beauty of this series is that every mom may do things differently and see things differently, but we can also support each other in all the differences and similarities. I've so enjoyed reading through the other contributors. I'm truly inspired by hearing the stories of other families and moms.

Anyhow, I guess this is all just to say that I'm truly flattered to be a part of such a wonderful community of women - and happy to have met Julia through blogging.

As far as introductions go - I'm Kim and I have been blogging at NewlyWoodwards since 2008. I also overshare on Instagram as NewlyWoodwards, if you are so inclined to follow along with photos of ... my kid. (Because let's be honest, there's little else going on around those parts.)

Our blog began as a way to share our first home renovation - a foreclosure purchased in 2007. My husband Ryan is a true do-it-yourselfer. He's tackled just about every type of home project on his own. I mostly just come up with big ideas, get in the way, and paint.

Kim and Ryan

Since that first renovation, we've added three rental properties to our "arsenal" and renovated a second foreclosed home. We moved into the house just weeks before I got pregnant with our son Henry.


With that out of the background out of the way, I'll answer some of Julia's questions from my perspective.

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

For about five years before having Henry, I was "living the dream." I had an enviable job working for a financial services organization in corporate public relations. I really enjoyed the work - mainly focused on events, sponsorships and social media. It was pretty much the job I dreamed of landing when I graduated from college in 2006.

Not to say that it was always perfect. It was a very traditional work environment and sometimes that didn't fit my personality. And, like any job for a larger company, sometimes the politics made me crazy. Does anyone love red tape? But I really liked the work, thrived in my role, and appreciated the benefits and work environment on most days. I was able to go back to school to earn my MBA with support from my employer. I was able to build a great network of other professionals.

When we found out I was pregnant, Ryan and I both assumed that I'd continue working after Henry was born. I had a fairly easy pregnancy and - with the exception of sometimes wanting to pull a "George Costanza" and nap under the desk - I actually enjoyed working through the 9 months I carried Henry. (Not to mention the fact that being pregnant makes people extra nice. I think that working while pregnant is a good way to get extra coddled. No one wants you to go into labor in a budget meeting. AMIRIGHT?)

I decided to take 10 weeks maternity leave. Then when Henry appeared four weeks early, I dove into motherhood. I didn't think of anything but boobs and diapers and carriers and bedtimes for the first few weeks. And then I came out of the fog and truly enjoyed those remaining time with Henry. It was summer in the Midwest, I was a mom, and life was good.
Maternity leave

In short, I truly relished my time at home. And I wasn't ready to go back. I briefly toyed with the idea of staying home permanently. But, it was more fantasy than reality and I couldn't really see myself doing it. I liked having a career for a lot of reasons. So, I put on the pantyhose and heels (for real!) and headed back to work in August.

At first, I was okay with it. Henry was with my mom during the day for the first few months and I enjoyed getting back into projects and meetings and reports. I felt productive at my job. I was proud that I was a working mom. I reveled in it. Henry transitioned into a great in-home daycare and was treated like a king there. He was the youngest and the kids and provider were a dream come true. (They all called him Baby Henry which just melted my heart.)
Mom and Henry

But as Henry started to get older and hit those milestones - eating, sitting up, standing, crawling, walking - I started to feel something. Guilt. And heaviness. It crept in. I always had a bit of it, but by this point I dreaded hearing what Henry did while I was at work. What I was missing.
Phoenix 2

I think it really peaked when I stopped pumping at work. Subconciously, spending time pumping made me feel connected with my baby. When he transitioned away from breast milk, I felt distanced. Almost unnecessary.

At the same time, my work load was increasing and I was feeling more and more stressed. I didn't enjoy the work anymore. I dreaded Mondays. I had a pit in my stomach when I hit those elevators each morning. I had to paste a smile on my face many days. And I knew that my family was getting the worst of me. For the three precious hours that I was with Henry, I was stressed and on-edge. I felt like we were in a never-ending cycle of home-dinner-bath-bed. And it wasn't a happy cycle.

I spent months fretting and stressing about the "right" thing to do. There were a lot of tears. I wasn't sure I was ready to give up my career. What if I quit my job and regretted it? What if I could never get hired again?

But I told myself I'd give it until August - a year after my maternity leave ended. There were a couple of important milestones in August - a work trip to Boston that I was looking forward to and becoming fully-vested in my retirement accounts. And when I hit that point, I felt the weight lift. It was clear that I was no longer happy. And I couldn't live with being unhappy. Ryan and I talked a lot about what leaving my job would mean and agreed it was the best decision for the entire family.

So, a bundle of nerves, I resigned. I gave 7 weeks notice, which I hoped would be enough to wrap up loose ends and possibly train a replacement. I felt so relieved, I could have cried. My boss was overwhelmingly supportive of my decision and my coworkers understood. It was a respectful parting of ways.

Since I left my office job in October 2013, I've realized that staying home was exactly the right decision for us right now.
Baby Ditka Halloween Costume07

Now, I spend my days with Henry and enjoy it more than I ever imagined. I also have the flexibility to get involved in the community in different ways. Right now, I'm leading the marketing team of the local Dress for Success affiliate, teaching a few classes at a local community college and doing some freelance newsletter writing for a local client. I feel really lucky to be able to continue to take on projects in my field while spending more time with my son.

I wrote in my resignation letter that while I was thankful for the opportunities given to me in my "dream job," it just wasn't a dream for me right now. And that was totally true. It wasn't easy for me to give up a job that I "should have" loved, but now I feel like I'm living the dream again.

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

I think the best change in our lives is evident in our mornings. I love mornings now.
This is saying a lot because I used to dread mornings. Ryan goes to work at 5 or 6 a.m., so when I was working at an office I was on my own with Henry in the morning. I tried to get ready before Henry woke up, which was rarely successful because he could hear me. If he did wake up, I'd try to rush to finish my makeup, hair and clothes to get him before he lost it. Or I'd try to hold him while I finished getting ready. Neither were fun. Then, I'd rush to get him fed and rush to get him to daycare and rush to get to work.

By the time I made it to work, I already felt on edge. Even on a "successful" morning, I felt tense.
What I love about being home is that we can ease into our day. I still try to get up before Henry, but neither of us are in a rush. (And Henry is sleeping more soundly, thank goodness.) I can give him a bath in the morning, which feels less rushed than it did in the evenings. We can play and eat breakfast and relax. No rushing. That's my favorite part.

But mostly, I just love the flexibility to do whatever we want to do. We both seem to do better when we leave the house, so we hit the library or museum or store most days. But, there's no pressure and ultimate flexibility to make our days our own. We were able to go to visit my parents in Arizona for almost two weeks in November. This was something that never would have worked when I was limited to XX vacation days.

On the other hand, there are a few challenges to our new situation. Some we anticipated and some were surprises. I'm still getting used to the freedom. I think I may have been more productive when I was working. I "had" to get everything done. Now, I find myself putting things off, because "there's always tomorrow." I have to push myself to complete projects and tasks now. And because my life is no longer dictated by things like deadlines (for the most part), sometimes I feel very unproductive. For someone who's used to nothing more than checking things off the list, that's a hard pill to swallow.

It also probably goes without saying that it's a big adjustment to go from two full-time incomes to one full-time income. I think it adds a bit of pressure to Ryan and a bit of insecurity to me. Nothing insurmountable, but something that requires more budgeting than I'm accustomed to. (I'm not spending much time shopping anymore.)

I also have a difficult time asking for help, which is a challenge. I feel like I "should" do it all since I'm not working outside the home. But I'm slowly learning that everyone needs a little help. A friend and I recently started swapping mornings so we could run errands or do some computer work without a toddler in-tow. It's been great for my sanity.

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

I definitely expected to be a career woman, so staying home with my son was way out of my realm. I also believed that I would never fill my living room with plastic toys. But, I also don't think I had any idea how much joy this little ham would bring me. So, I call it even.
Henry Christmas 18 months4

Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?
I love being home and don't see myself going back to a traditional office job. I would eventually like to do a bit more freelance work if it works out. I like the flexibility to work at my own pace in my own way and I like the freedom to choose how much work to do. And I really like the idea of working for myself. We'll see what happens.

Tips on how you make this work for you?

I'm still pretty new to being home with my son and I definitely don't have all the answers. But here are a few things that work for us.

Get out.
This winter has been miserable in the Midwest with snow and cold and yuck. But, since Henry and I both thrive when we are "going," I make it a point to get out of the house almost every day. I know that this isn't ideal for everyone, but it's great for us. It helps us beat the monotony and meet new people.

Ask for help.
If other moms are like me, they feel like they should do it all. They should have a tidy house, home-cooked dinner, perfect kid .... the list goes on. I've already had to learn that I can't do it all and I am allowed to ask for help. From friends, from family and, especially, from my husband. I got really lucky in the husband department.

Be honest.
I feel really lucky to be at home with Henry, but some days are hard. I don't want to create a picture of this perfect, unicorn life. So, I try to share some of the challenges, too - in person and on social media.

Be a mom - but be a wife, friend and person, too.
In my experience, it can be easy to get sucked up into your child's every breath as a mom (in any working situation). For me, having a life outside of Henry is really important. Ryan and I try to make time to go on dates. I am involved in a book club and craft night every month. I get coffee and dinner with girl friends. And I try to spend time with the hobbies that I loved before Henry. These things keep me a little more grounded as a mom.

How do you handle mommy guilt that comes with each role?

I've been surprised that the mommy guilt didn't go away when I left my office job. It's just changed to be guilt about different things.

I don't think that I really have an answer for dealing with mommy guilt. I truly believe it's innate. But I try to focus on my family and my kid. I am a firm believer in the idea of parents knowing their kid better than anyone else. So, I let myself make the decisions for Henry and our family without fear of messing up. And I remind myself that I am doing my best and loving like crazy. I believe that counts for a lot.
Halloween Party Family1

Even when your kid accidentally gets a bite of jalapeƱo right before a family photo. Hypothetically. ("What kind of mother lets her kid eat a pepper?" says my mom guilt.)

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying home is the right choice?

I worked outside the home for a year before I decided to stay home, so I guess my main piece of advice would be to trust your gut. I believed it was best for me to go back to work when Henry was 10 weeks old. And he really did well and thrived for a year in daycare. And then I chose to stay home when Henry was about a year and a half. And I think that's the best thing for him and I right now. I really trusted myself to make the right decision.

But that doesn't mean that any decision is forever. I was very dramatic about leaving my job. But the truth is, I could go back to work tomorrow if I wanted to. It wouldn't necessarily be the same job or the same pay or benefits. But I could work again. I recommend not doing what I do and remembering that this doesn't have to be a permanent decision either way.

(read all of the posts in this Moms Make it Work series here!) 


  1. Oh how similar to my story... The slowly change from job loving to Monday's to crying on the commute. Cheat a sweet family! Can wait to explore their DIY.

  2. Really enjoyed reading this! I love how open you are to the possibilities of the future, and you've done a great job finding some things within your community to stay involved in your profession - of course it's not necessary to do, but especially if you enjoyed some elements of your job, it's a great way to keep involved!

  3. I can totally relate to the crazy morning thing. I'm a working mom who used to work from home. I recently went back to an office and OMG my mornings are CRAZY!!!

    Loved reading your story. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Loved this, Kim! Great perspective from being on both sides. Happy for you that you're happy in your new role! I always enjoy following you - you seem to be a very well-rounded and interesting person. :) And your Henry is so cute!!!

  5. Thank you so much for having us! I'm honored to be sharing my story among such great mommas.

  6. Another great post, thanks!! Love hearing about your transition to staying home. I'm also loving how all of these posts have one thing in common - a supportive partner! It seems this day in age so many people are trying to make their partner out to be a dead beat or not ready to partake in the responsibilities of being a dad, so it's refreshing to see so many women who have supportive husbands that love being in the father role!

  7. I adore Kim & her story! I can relate as I made a similar decision myself. She's an amazing gal through & through & always makes me laugh with her perspective. Brava, Kim!



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