Moms Make it Work: Caitlin | Full Time Working Mom to Two, One with Special Needs

Today on the Moms Make it Work series is Caitlin, a mom that works full time in Minnesota. Caitlin has two children and her daughter has special needs, and combined with job loss for both her and her husband in the past year makes for a good amount of challenges! But Caitlin has a wonderful attitude and seems to take everything in stride, making the most out of her situation as it changes over time. Enjoy her post!


Hi!  I'm Caitlin.  I blog sporadically and also post on Instagram as caits310. You can email me at with any questions.

I can't remember how I found Julia's blog, but I'm so glad I did. I think it was through Day in the Life one season, and I've been following along ever since.  She's so down to earth, and I love her decorating and craftiness!  I wish I lived in Milwaukee... but enough gushing about Julia ;-)  Onward about our story.

I've been wanting to share my story for a while now and this seems like the perfect outlet; however, I don't know how to tell it so it's not 10 years long with too much detail or ends up being too short with no detail. Ergh. I'll try to just answer the questions, but we'll see... 

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

My family lives in Minnesota, about 90 miles away from the Twin Cities area.  I have a bachelor's degree and an associates degree. Most people do their associates and then transfer into a bachelor's program but I did it backwards. I got my bachelor's degree and then went back to school to get my associates degree in something I could actually get a job in.  I currently work full time doing word processing/transcription and work with the electronic health record. My husband, JT, is currently working as the tax program advisor for a local nonprofit organization.  Also, he's going to school full time!  So that means four nights a week he's in class while I do the evening with the kiddos.  We've been married since 2008 and have two kids, an almost 3-year-old daughter with special needs and an 8-month-old son - Audrey and Nicholas.  

My daughter has a chromosomal deletion of her CASK gene on her X chromosome.  What does this mean?  We don't have a lot of information about it but so far we know that it causes global developmental delays, microcephaly, decreased muscle tone, and slow growth.  I feel like in a lot of ways it looks like CP but at the same time completely opposite.  Right now, Audrey can't walk and doesn't reciprocal crawl but kind of does a bunny hop with both legs together.  She has trouble with feeding herself but is getting better and can't communicate or express her needs very well.  She doesn't talk but does make sounds and is starting to get out the words mom and dad but not in appropriate context yet.  

When Audrey was born, we didn't know anything.  We were first time parents, just trying to figure out what it meant to be parents.  I tried to breastfeed her but her latch just was never good enough.  Looking back, that should have been our first indication that something was off, but it wasn't.  I didn't know any better.  I didn't know what she was supposed to be doing or not doing so maybe we didn't find out as soon as we could have. Around the time of her 2-month checkup, the doctor noticed her head size wasn't growing as much as it should have been and so began the tests.  We started with x-rays, a CT scan, an MRI, and eventually genetic testing of her blood and mine and my husband's.  Turns out she had the deletion on her X chromosome but also a duplication on the 11th (I think) the same as my husband. It took me awhile to digest all of this and to realize that Audrey would never be like the other kids her age.  

 Eventually we realized we needed extra help and got set up with Early Intervention through the school district where we had occupational therapy, physical therapy, and a special education teacher come into our home to work with Audrey.  After about a year of sporadic visits from the school district people, we decided to really step it up and got involved with Pediatric Therapy Services in town.  The therapists are all super great working with Audrey and specialize in kiddos, so it's really helpful to find out what things to work on with her at home.  At PTS we have an OT, a PT, and a speech therapist who work with Audrey every single week.  Since Audrey is almost 3, this year she got to start preschool (before her birthday!!).  They really pushed us putting her into the classroom because at age 3 the therapists from the school wouldn't be able to come into the home anymore.  I was really worried about preschool but she loves it so far and is doing really great.  I had the chance to observe the first day of class and she gets all the one-on-one attention that she needs as well as the group attention and experience that she needs as well.  

When I was pregnant with my son, I was completely scared that he would have the same kind of genetic abnormality as Audrey.  I was so worried that I even thought about having an amniocentesis done to find out but since there was less than 1% chance that it would happen again, I didn't go through with it.  So far, Nicholas is a "normal" developing baby, even early on some things, like moving, but he's only 8 months old so who knows what the future will bring us? Now if that wasn't stressful enough by itself, when I was something like 11-12 weeks pregnant, JT was let go from his job.  He hated the job itself but it paid well and we were just trying to hold on until he finished school.  I guess there were other plans in the cards for us.  He stayed home most of that summer, eventually landing a seasonal position as tax program advisor, so he'll get experience and get to use what he's learning in school.  The pay isn't as good and there are no benefits but in the long run, it will help.  Shortly before Nicholas was born, two months I think, I found out that my department was being completely eliminated and all of our work was being outsourced.  What a blow! At 8 months pregnant, no one was going to hire me so I just kind of looked at it as being forced to take an extended maternity leave with no pay or benefits.  It's been a rough year or so but things are starting to look up.  I just started my job in July and we're trying to get into a good routine with every day. 

-What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?
The best parts of my situation are my kiddos, seriously.  They are so much fun to hang out with and to watch them interact, when I don't have to intervene with the face scratching, is so cute. We are also awesomely blessed to have my parents live in town and watch our kids pretty much whenever we want.  They've watched Audrey since she was 12 weeks old and have really helped out with taking her to therapy appointments and working with her every day at home.  If she were in a traditional daycare setting I don't think she would have gotten nearly as much attention as she needs.  Also, watching Nicholas grow up is really fun.  He's starting to stand and to climb up things... things that Audrey still isn't doing, so it's really an eye opener for us!!

This is going to make me sound awful, but honestly the challenge is Audrey.  It's hard to realize that she's always going to need the extra help and will never be the same developmentally as other kids her age, though she looks like a normal 2 year old kid, she acts more like a delayed 12 month old.  Audrey is great, super sweet, and loves to cuddle but at the same time it's really frustrating (for her and for me) that she can't just tell me what she wants or needs, so the crying and tantrums are extra hard to deal with.  I'm also mourning the thought of not having a "normal" mother-daughter relationship with her as she grows older, where we can be best friends as well.  I really don't know what she'll be like as she gets older and hopefully we can still do the "normal" mom-daughter stuff, but I just don't know. 

-Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?
No. Not at all.  I never once in my life expected that I would have a special needs kiddo. Not once did I think about it.  Audrey is so awesome, I can't stress that enough, but it's seriously rough on my mental state.  I was heading in the direction of depression and anxiety before she was born and man did this push my anxiety over the edge.  The only time I ever really thought about kids before I had them was when I figured we'd have two or three normal, active kids and we'd be running around to work and activities just like every one else.

-Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?
My ideal situation would be to stay home with my kids and to be "a 1950's housewife."  If my extended "maternity leave" taught me anything it's how much I need to have a daily schedule but I think I could make it work if I wanted to.  I would love to stay home and be the one to help Audrey with learning and doing extra things as well as seeing Nicholas explore and learn to walk/talk.

-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?

Pretty much as soon as JT graduates we plan on moving wherever he gets a nice, well-paying job. :-)  I would love to do the stay at home mom thing once we do this or at the very least, work just while my kids are in school so I can be home with them the rest of the time. If we stay in this town, I'll plan on staying with this job because it's a good one and I enjoy it enough ;-)

-Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

Help from grandma and grandpa.  If they didn't run my kids around, we'd be totally out of luck.  Plus, I try not to worry about the housekeeping and that kind of thing that much.  What gets done gets done and what doesn't, doesn't.  I like to spend the time with my kids instead of trying to do too much while they're awake/in the middle of things. My hubby does a lot when he's home too.  He gets Audrey up and ready for school every morning and will even let me sleep in sometimes. :-)

-How do you handle mommy guilt?

I really don't.  I need all the help I can get! 

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

This is such a tough decision.  I didn't have the choice because financially speaking there's no way I could stay home. But as others have said, try it for a while and you'll know, either it will be fine to go to work and be a working mama or it won't be and you'll know that you need to stay home. Trust your gut!  If it doesn't work out either way, you can always try something else. Maybe part time?  

-How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??

I'm in charge of this. My husband doesn't cook, though occasionally he will grill or try something he read in a magazine.  I love to cook and bake and be in the kitchen but I haven't had much energy or motivation to do so since before I was pregnant with Nicholas... needless to say, we eat out more than we should.  I am a huge fan of ordering sandwiches so Jersey Mike's, Erberts and Gerberts, and Jimmy Johns are my friends.  Seriously though, I'm trying to get back to a dinner time routine with the planning of meals and such.  I've been using and that's pretty interesting.  Grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do and I'd much rather do it by myself than drag the husband and kiddos, that way I can browse and try things I wouldn't when the family was along.  Plus, too many impulse purchases happen when JT is along :-) 

-How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

I don't clean much... usually only if it REALLY needs it or someone is coming over to visit.  I live in chaos most of the time because I find it hard to find the time/energy to pick up.  I do notice that it's so much nicer to live in a clean, well organized house, but it just gets pushed aside for the more fun things of actually making the mess! If I am ever able I will definitely hire out cleaning chores! A housekeeper would be the best idea for my family! 

Thanks Julia, for letting me be a part of this awesome series!! 
{Thank you, Caitlin! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story here, and for how honest you are about how hard it is to have a child with special needs! I've followed you on IG for years but never knew most of that, so it was great to get some of the back story!

  2. I agree with Erin, it's so great to get to "know" you better after being IG friends for so long. Your family is beautiful, even if it isn't what you pictured pre-kids! I love seeing pictures of Audrey in my IG feed - her sweet face always makes me smile :) Your strength and positive attitude is pretty awe inspiring.
    I also like you are unapologetic about your ideal situation being a 1950's housewife and staying home with the kids :) That's always been my dream too - to not work outside the home after we had kids so that I could focus on taking care of my home and family. Sooooo many people frown upon that or look at me like I'm crazy if I admit it - but it's 100% the truth and I thank my lucky stars every day that, right now, I'm able to live that dream. Life is a roller coaster and I know everything could change tomorrow and our life could get flipped upside down, so I try to appreciate how blessed we are right now.
    Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story - I'll echo what the others said, it's nice to know the back story after following you on instagram! I admire your positive attitude dealing with everything from your kids, to losing jobs, etc. Wow! What a crazy few years it's been for you! And... the 1950's household comment made me giggle... totally my dream too, not gonna happen for us, but there's nothing wrong with wanting that!

  4. Caitlin - I will also echo the others to say thank you for sharing this post about you and your family. Your attitude - positive but realistic - is so admirable. Sorry about the absolute stress this past year with your jobs (on top of regular life stress which is often quite enough with young children and obviously the additional layer of Audrey's unique care needs) but I'm glad things have smoothed out. Your family is adorable and I'm glad we have been IG friends for a few years now so that I can follow along.

    PS - Keep blogging. You have interesting things to say and an audience who wants to hear them :)


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