Our family life can get a little crazy at times. As you can imagine, with three kids and two working parents, we’re often moving in several directions at once! It’s all possible simply because we have a lot of help.
I am a full-time attorney. I graduated from the University of Iowa School of Law in 2004 and moved to Kansas City for a job immediately after graduation. I met my husband during my third year of law school and he followed me down to Kansas City. He is not a lawyer (thank goodness!) but instead works in the fitness industry. In fact, he is venturing into a new arena for his business, but I’ll keep mum until it’s all worked out!
We have 3 kids, all under the age of 5. My son J goes to pre-K 4 days a week, and my daughter N is in a parents’ day out program 3 days a week. Baby J was just born on Labor Day 2013, so currently he stays home with me while I’m on maternity leave!
The other member of our family who really keeps everything going is my mother-in-law. She watches the kids when they’re not in school and Albert and I are working and helps keep our household running smoothly. She doesn’t live with us, but has been an integral part of our family’s life ever since our kids were born.
What’s the name of your blog/website? What is the significance of the name , an how long have you been blogging?
I actually have two blogs — one is a personal/family blog and the other is my sewing blog. The names of both blogs have personal significance for me. My family blog (http://kansascitykatie.wordpress.com) is named Katei. “Katei” is a Japanese word meaning “home, family, household.” We are a mixed-race family. I am Caucasian and my husband is Asian. His mother was born and raised in Japan and his father in Taiwan. My mother-in-law (caregiver for our kids when they are not in school) has spoken to them in Japanese since they were born (neither speaks it very often but both understand it). I wanted my blog title to reflect that aspect of our family’s ethnicity. I started that blog when my oldest son was just a few months old, so it’s been up and going for almost 4 years now!
My sewing blog is called the Creative Counselor, which reflects the dual sides of me. Obviously I love to sew and create. I started out sewing garments for my kids and as I got more skillful, I gradually moved to sewing mostly for myself. That’s the “Creative” part of the blog title.
Sewing and crafting is something that is generally relegated to nighttime for me because of my daytime job as a full-time attorney. I am a partner in a large Midwestern law firm, practicing in commercial litigation. I’ve actually been with the same firm for the 9 years that I’ve been practicing law and became a partner on January 1, 2013. That’s where the “Counselor” part of the title comes into play. I started my sewing blog about a year ago, but started blogging with any kind of focus only a few months ago.
For many, sewing/crafting is a big part of who you are as a person. Why is “creative expression” important to you and how has it affected the quality of your life?
I’ve always been a creative person. When I was younger, my creative outlet was theater, particularly in high school and college. I also used to draw quite a bit. However, as I got older and started practicing law, my creative outlets pretty much dried up.
After my daughter was born, I decided to pull out my sewing machine in an attempt to make cute little clothes for her like a friend would make for her daughter. That first garment was far from perfect, but I was hooked and never looked back. Sewing has brought that creative outlet back into my life.
Creative expression allows me to separate from the daily grind of my professional life, which is filled with contracts, research, and briefing. It gives me an outlet for that other part of my personality — the one that loves to make things and watch a 2D piece of fabric transform to fit a 3D body. I don’t make my living doing this, but to me it’s almost equally important to give an outlet to the part of me that thrives on that creativity.
Working inside or outside of the home (or running a blog or website on a part to full time basis) can be especially tough because of the difficult choices we have to make with how to divide our time between work and family. Have you ever felt guilty about the choices you’ve made, and what advice would you give to someone struggling with those same types of feelings?
I gave up “mom guilt” a long time ago. After my first was born, I frequently felt guilty about the choices I had to make (or were made for me out of necessity), the need for me to work full-time, etc. But after a while, and discussions with good friends, I realized that guilt wasn’t helpful to anyone. It wasn’t helpful to my husband, it wasn’t helpful to my infant son, and it certainly wasn’t helpful to me.
We all have to make choices, and sometimes those choices are difficult. Once the decision is made, it doesn’t do any good to dwell on it unnecessarily or feel guilty about the decision. While my decisions may not always be the decisions that others would make, they were right for me and my family at the time they were made. If a time comes when those decisions are no longer the right ones, we will reevaluate. And until then, I won’t feel guilty about it.
For most moms, multitasking is synonymous with motherhood. What’s been your biggest personal challenge with juggling so many things? Have you found a way to stay balanced? If so, what are some of your strategies?
It’s true that moms usually wear many hats. My biggest personal challenge has been learning my own limitations and picking and choosing what I do myself.
I was raised by a stay-at-home mom, and as a mother, I am drawn to many of the things that SAHMs do. I’d love for my children to have that childhood experience as well. But the reality of my life is that it’s just not possible. As a working mom, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to cook, clean, do play dates, make cute bento box lunches, make homemade school treats, run kids around to a dozen activities, etc.
That means that I necessarily pick and choose where to focus my energy and figure out ways to work around the rest. I don’t make cute bento box lunches. I do make homemade cupcakes for birthdays. We don’t do a lot of play dates with friends. Our kids do go to pre-K and PDO several days per week so they get to play with their friends and interact with other children and adults.
Also, I’m not a great cook, and I don’t particularly like to cook. Luckily, my mother-in-law is an excellent cook and really enjoys it. On the days that she is over with the kids, she generally cooks dinner. As for the other days, I’m learning to love my crock pot. And we eat tacos a lot.
I also pay someone to clean my house for me and have for years. Since my time with my kids is limited during the week, I’d rather not spend my whole weekend cleaning. The woman who comes to clean our house is wonderful — the kids and dogs all love her. She is also our primary babysitter.
We also keep kid activities to a minimum at this stage. J and N each go to a gymnastics class and a swim lesson during the week, but that’s it. We don’t have any sports or activities on weekends, which gives us the time we need to run errands, play, and spend time as a family. That will undoubtedly change as the kids get older, but I’ll keep it simple as long as I can!
Other than trying to take a few things off my plate, my main strategy is to try very hard to be present wherever I am. When I am at work, I try to focus on work. When I’m at home, I focus on home. Some days I’m more successful than others, but having that as my general goal helps make my time quality, even though I may not have it in great quantities.
Finding the time to mother AND craft or sew can be a big challenge. How do you carve out time to create? When your children nap or are at school? Or have you found other ways to “sneak in” some time?
This answer is simple for me. I sew when my kids are sleeping. That generally means that I’m up sewing late at night after the kids are in bed. I often don’t sleep as much as I should!
I can occasionally fit in some sewing time on weekends when N is napping. J is old enough now (4 1/2) that he will generally sit down in my sewing room with me and either watch me sew or play a game. N is still young enough that she is far too fascinated by the sewing machine needle to be around when I sew.
One of the nice things about being on maternity leave is that J and N are both in school three days per week. On those days, if I can get Baby J down for a nap in his crib or bassinet, I can sneak down to my sewing room and get an hour or two of work in. I’ll miss that extra sewing time when I go back to work!
I will also “sneak in” some of the sewing-related tasks that don’t require my machines or iron. When the kids are playing together, I might take 30 minutes to trim and tape together a PDF pattern or trace pattern pieces. If they’re playing downstairs, I might even cut fabric for a project. Getting those tasks out of the way while they’re up and entertained makes my nighttime sewing that much more productive.
What’s the best mom advice you’ve ever received?
For me, this would go back to the earlier question about guilt. Don’t feel guilty about the parenting decisions that you make or how you have to spend your time. We all have to make tough decisions and feeling guilty about them doesn’t do you or anyone else any good.
In terms of family, career and motherhood, how do you define success?
I’m not going to set my bar too high here.
In terms of family, success is being able to weather our good times and our bad and still love each other in the end.
In terms of career, I want to be the best lawyer I can be. Some days that means I’m a rock star, and others I just muddle through.
In terms of motherhood, I want to raise happy and healthy children. I hope that someday my kids, in deciding how to handle something with their own children, think to themselves, “What would my mom have done?”
Being a mom has both expanded and narrowed my perspective. There are so many experiences that I want to give my children. I’d love to expose them to other people, countries, and cultures. I want them to try different activities and be open to new ideas.
However, I also realize that during these early years, our perspective is and will be focused on home. My kids are homebodies and love to be at home in their routine. We’ve learned how to have fun with a paper towel roll and an empty box of Kleenex, and that a trip to the ice cream shop can be the greatest outing ever.
Don’t forget the fantastic Alima Pure cosmetics giveaway. Enter here (Deadline Wednesday, November 6th).
Join us Monday for Day 35 of Moms Know Mom and our interview with Angelina of JoJo and Eloise.
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