Motherhood in Motion: Kaitlin O'Connor - Anne Arundel Moms

The Motherhood in Motion series is a very special collaboration with ALN Images.

Becoming a new mother comes with so many changes and growth. However, some amazing women made this transition in the midst of a global pandemic – something we’re still wrapping our minds around! Kaitlin let us into a bit of her world juggling her toddler and full time career, what she’s learned about herself within motherhood so far, and advice she’d give to a new mama.

How are you, really?

I had my baby in April of 2020. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher what’s just adjusting to being a mom, and what’s dealing with a pandemic. I have a lot of mom guilt because I’ve had to manage work and taking care of him. Today is a perfect example. Today I had several meetings, and I was opening every drawer in my kitchen to find something to entertain him so that he’ll be quiet through these conference calls. Then, I get off the calls and I’m heartbroken. I know that I’m very privileged, I have a beautiful life, we’re healthy and stable and lucky to have our jobs so I caution that. I just wish I could be more present in each situation. I love being home with him but it’s constantly if I’m with him, I’m thinking about work, and if I’m working I’m just making sure he’s okay. We’re learning a lot about Montessori. We just love the whole Montessori lifestyle and teaching him and giving him chances to be independent. So, when I’m just throwing things at him or turning on the TV, it’s heartbreaking. So, that’s been a challenge.

Did you always know you wanted to be a mother?

Yeah, I think so. I’ve been very career-driven my whole life. My real background is in event management. I’ve been an event planner for many years. A few years ago I went and got my master’s in project management so I knew I kind of wanted to branch off and do something similar but different. The event industry itself is going to be very interesting once this is all over. But I actually pivoted to a communications role and am now currently a communications director for a local university. So, I knew I always wanted to be a mom but there was this pull to get a little further in my career. “Let me get a little further, let me get my master’s so that I feel comfortable.” I will tell you though, the pandemic has changed
everything. Although, maybe that’s a pandemic, maybe it’s new motherhood. I started working remotely in July and had Ronan in April. The plan was always for him to go to daycare in July. He was signed up. We decided to hold him back but I didn’t stop working. So I’ve been working remotely with him here. It’s been difficult but also a blessing. I never expected to spend so much time with my son and that is what’s changed everything. I’m extremely grateful for all of this time.

But sometimes, like today, are just one of those days. He’s transitioning to one nap so he’s up at four and five in the morning, and it’s been super, super busy. I think that’s a struggle that we all, as moms, face. Our families all live in New York so we’ve not seen them as much as we would. Our parents both have come a few times but other than that, we’ve not seen sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces. So we’ve been doing video calls to connect with each other. My son is over a year old now and hasn’t met his cousins, so that’s been a sad part about it, but we have our health and our home so we’re very grateful.

What did you perceive motherhood to be like before you became a mother?

I can’t even tell you why I thought this. Because when I think of the mothers I know, I don’t know if they’d agree with this perception. But I felt like you lose yourself. You’re just mom, and only mom. Maybe it was fear. I was afraid I’d lose myself. And I do feel that a bit, because we don’t have that separation right now. But, I couldn’t tell you why I was so strongly against just being ‘mom’ because that seems so silly now. You just evolve into this new chapter. I’m still me, I just also have this little tiny person running around. It’s just different.

What was your experience delivering during the pandemic?

He was due April 6th and he came a week later. I remember around that time, a few weeks before, is when we transitioned to remote work so it all just happened so quickly. A few weeks before Ronan was due we heard of some hospitals in New York starting to put rules around not letting anyone in the delivery room. I remember that being a huge panic for me. ‘How am I going to go through this all by myself?’ So, when it eventually happened I was ecstatic my husband was able to be there with me. My mom was planning on staying with us for a month to help and that of course, didn’t happen. But even with the challenges of not being able to see people in person, I’ve had so many friends, neighbors, colleagues send food and do all these things that I remember thinking were so amazing.

What do you feel like is the most frustrating part of your day?

Probably not really getting a break. My husband will come home and I’ll get a ‘break’ but that means that I take my computer outside and have back to back meetings. But that goes back to the mom guilt, right? Feeling like I wish I could be more present in both areas. I follow a lot of blogs online and see all these amazing moms doing these Montessori things and I just think ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I had time to plan that.’ It’s really finding time to be better.

What do you feel is the most beautiful part of your day?

In general, being able to be together. We love to eat. My instagram is my hobby; in a perfect world I’d be a food blogger. That’s just a fun hobby for me to do. So we love to eat together. We’re always dancing and laughing together; he’s so funny. We have a beautiful little beach at the end of the block so we’ve been going down there. He’s getting much more bold and wants to actually get in the water. So, just having that time together. All these milestones, watching him walking and talking, has been such a blessing. I look at him all the time and just, you know, the nature part. I’m like ‘I can’t believe that we made you.” I know that’s what everybody says but when it’s your own it just blows your mind.

Do you feel like your relationship with your mother has shaped the way you parent?

I have a very close relationship with my mom. We talk once or twice a day whether it’s phone or text. I have such an appreciation for her and it’s a thousand times more than it’s ever been. Same for my mother-in-law. I think about my great grandmother that I never met; she had ten children before they had swings that you could just put a child in. I fully feel that you cannot understand what it’s like to be a mom until you’re a mom. You cannot plan for the change in your life. The change, the love, the dependence. So, what’s changed most for me is the appreciation for my own family, for my friends that are moms – it’s just incredible. I just think about all the work and the sacrifice and the love these women have given to us.

Has being a new mom introduced you to new passions you weren’t aware of before?

Maybe photography a little bit. I’ve always been interested in photography but now I have this little baby that I love and take so many pictures of. Montessori life has been one thing that I’ve come across that just makes complete sense. So that has been something I’ve been very interested in.

Is there something you do to keep your identity?

I’d say my food blog is where I find that. I also gained 85 pounds when I was pregnant and that has been a real struggle to lose that weight, so I’ve been focusing on that. I have a DIY Peloton – I have a regular bike that I stream the Peloton app on. I like that time that I take because fitness is important to me. Ronan and I do a lot together like that too, we go for walks three or four times a day just to get out of the house. I also struggle with migraines and something that really helps with that is massages. I haven’t been able to do that this past year but I’ve recently had someone come over and do that and it felt normal to me. A little bit of self care for the first time in a long time.

Let’s talk about your Instagram. Where did the passion behind What’s On Kait’s Plate come from?

I started it a little bit before the pandemic. My first early jobs were in restaurants. I always loved the food and beverage industry. It also stemmed from my mom. My mom went to culinary school and was always catering and making beautiful cakes. She used to make us beautiful meals growing up and I’m sure I was a pain and only wanted to eat chicken fingers but I look back on it now and appreciate it. My dad is a great cook, as well. Being in events, I had the opportunity to meet great chefs and great caterers but as I progressed and moved into a communications role, I’ve lost some of that. So this was an opportunity to still be involved with food and talk about it. Something I wanted to make sure of was that my son had exposure to a lot of different foods so he has had over one hundred different foods before his first birthday. So that’s been really fun. It’s just fun. He loves to eat. I’m hoping he can be the kid you can take to the sushi restaurant and he’ll sit and eat sushi. Before the pandemic, when my husband and I would travel, even if I was just traveling on work trips, I’d always plan my food. I always knew the restaurants I needed to go to when I was there. It was such a primary focus and got me thinking about how food is just so important to us so the blog is just fun. I haven’t yet figured out what my niche is. I’m trying to figure out what that is. But, I’m loving it. It’s something I can bring my son and my husband into and just have fun.

Self care is so important but it can be hard to keep on the priority list. Do you feel like you forget to make yourself a priority?

Yes, I absolutely think that’s the case. And being home, too. The selfcare, it’s easy just to not care. The pandemic has added to that, obviously, because I’ve just been anxious about going places. I’ve been anxious about getting my hair cut, getting a massage, it’s a mix of mom guilt and not wanting to put myself at risk by going to these places.

Yes, the concept that our typical selfcare outlets could potentially expose our families has been a really hard dynamic this past year.

I feel like that often. Especially because my husband and I are both vaccinated. We have friends who are vaccinated, family that is vaccinated, but my son’s not vaccinated. So there’s this level of consciousness. Prior to being a mom, if we were both vaccinated, I’d probably say ‘Okay, I feel great. Let’s go out to dinner, let’s travel, let’s go somewhere.’ But having that overhead thought that if I go somewhere, I could get my son sick is hard.

We know your entire motherhood experience is within a pandemic, but was that anxiety something you struggled with prior to motherhood?

Completely new! I was never that person. Sure, everyone has their anxious or stressful moments. But that was not me. I feel like I’ve lost my confidence a bit and I’m trying to get it back. You know, you think about these decisions you want to make and being confident in those decisions. Now there’s this level of there being this little person that you’ve got to make sure is okay. Is that a mothering thing? Is that a pandemic thing? It could just be both.

What’s been the hardest part of the past year for you?

Maybe the isolation. I love what I do, and at this point I’m even more grateful for the connections that I do have. I get to connect with my colleagues, but before this there would be friends I’d go out with or spend time with and that’s not happening. So the isolation, I’m definitely feeling that. I’m sure moms, dads, whomever, are feeling that. I would say that I miss my family. When you have a new baby, you can’t wait for everyone to meet them and not having that has been hard. I’m also a neat freak and so because I’m home all day, all I want to do is clean. I can’t just be like, ‘Okay, the sink is filled. Let me walk away.’ Because that’s where I am all day long. That is my office, that is my kitchen, that is everything.

What do you feel like being a mom has taught you about yourself?

I can do a hundred-thousand things. I laugh because I think when he goes to school or daycare, what am I going to do with all that time, now that I know I can do a hundred things at once?

What would you tell a new mom about motherhood?

You just sort of figure it out. It reminds me of when my husband and I got married, we moved across the country by ourselves in our early twenties, and we just figured it out. We just figured out how to be adults and how to start a marriage. And that, ironically, is what happened when we had Ronan. We did it all by ourselves and we just had to figure it out. Of course we had the love and support from our family and friends however they could send it to us remotely. It’s by no means because they didn’t want to be there. But you just figure out how to get it all done. Marriage is similar to self care in being easy to say ‘it’s not a priority’ but it’s so a priority. My whole life wouldn’t be here without my husband. He’s everything to me so making sure I make time for him is important, too.

You feel like SuperWoman sometimes. You feel stressed and exhausted at the end of the day, but you figure out how to do it. I think about before I had Ronan, I thought I was going to have my own life. I wasn’t going to be the mom who goes to dinner with her friends and talks about her kids the whole time, right? I feel like I said that so negatively, and now being a mom I – it just takes over your whole life, right? And in such a beautiful way. So I find myself laughing at how I didn’t want to do that. And why did I have such a negative feeling about that? Like I needed to be “Individual Kaitlin”, and “Mom Kaitlin”, and they had to be separate. But what I’ve learned is that it’s so beautiful having them together.

Be sure to follow along with Kaitlin’s food adventures over on Instagram!

Thank you, Alli, for the beautiful photography. 

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