Recently, we caught up with Katrina Harrington, mama of four, artist, and creator of Rose Harrington, an online destination for Katrina’s richly illustrated botanical art and hand lettered goods.
This summer, Katrina’s business, which started out as a tiny Etsy shop, became The Family Business. Excuse us while we go throw a party for the Harringtons…
One of the (many) reasons we find Katrina so inspiring is that--she’s us. A mama with a love of art whose husband was in grad school and whose family needed the extra income. She works with her kids in her lap and she stops mid-interview to smell a flower her oldest son offers. She does it with grace and a whole lot of honesty, so when she agreed to sit down and share openly about the hard stuff, the good stuff, and what’s worked for family, we took notes.
Here’s our interview with Katrina:
Stand for Mom: How did you get started as a non-traditional working mom?
Katrina: My first work from home job was actually very random. I worked for a company that did research on semi-truck drivers, so my job was to call semi-truck drivers who had left the company and conduct surveys over the phones.
When I was pregnant with my third, my husband was in grad school full time and we just could not make ends meet, so I started this shop, not thinking that it would grow to become our family’s income! That’s been totally by the grace of God, which is just amazing. It hasn’t just been my work, it’s also been my husband’s hard work. We feel really, really fortunate.
SFM: Girl, we’re doing some major happy dances for you. Talk to us about working at home. What has it been like for you?
Katrina: A lot of times I think that working at home is so glorified and kind of the thing that is sought after, right? That’s what you always hear moms who are pregnant for the first time say, “oh, I hope I can find something so I can work at home!”
But it is HARD! It is so hard! And no one really ever says that. Everyone just says, “oh I can fit it in where I can, and it’s so wonderful that while the kids are napping I can work!” Well, my kids never napped consistently.
I know it varies from personality to personality, but for my personality it was really hard to work from home without any structured childcare. I’m not a naturally unstructured person, so that was hard for me.
SFM: Do you still feel like it’s a daily struggle, or have you seen the light at the end of the tunnel?
Katrina: I definitely feel like I’m on the other side, into a very nice season. It just kind of crept up on me. I felt like I was always drowning and then all of a sudden I was swimming. So you just have to keep going.
I always think motherhood is so seasonal.
Things change from week to week, day to day, and for our family, my business has grown so much that my husband stays at home with the kids. Even before that, we had worked it out so that I had scheduled time throughout the week where I could work. One big thing is that my oldest is almost six, and you think that it gets crazier and crazier with more kids but it gets easier as they play together!
I do think it’s really important for work at home moms to realize that you can’t do everything, even though it seems like working from home gives you so much extra power.
You need to take care of yourself and recognize that help is a good thing! Starting three years ago, I got a mother’s helper. She only came two hours a week, and she was young, so I would still be home while she was playing with the kids, but those two hours a week where I wasn’t the one peeling the Clementine peels while I was trying to get my work done saved my sanity!
Katrina: That was Elise! I was pregnant with Elise when I started the shop, so now she’s two. She’s grown up with me painting, from when she was in my belly. I can’t even count the number of times she’s been in my lap painting! I guess I’m just really used to it now. It’s definitely harder to paint without her but sometimes it’s honestly easier to just paint with her rather than the start stop of trying to get work done around a toddler!
That day, my husband wasn’t home and I really wanted to get that painting finished. I decided to try it and I ended up finishing the painting but my desk definitely suffered and was destroyed. The video didn’t even capture most of it! She dumped hundreds of plastic envelopes everywhere and all of my washi tape was totally undone and pulled apart. It was not a picture perfect thing!
I thought this would be a good memory for Elise, though.
I just love that the kids are going to have these memories of painting with mom, and that’s more important than if I get peace and quiet every single time. I definitely appreciate peace and quiet but I also have to remember that my family is my vineyard; my family is what I want to bear fruit
SFM: We know any working mom has times where she has to tell her kids, “no, mommy can’t read you that book. Mommy has to work.” How do you handle that?
Katrina: It’s the hardest to balance, because I want my kids to be independent and I want them to be able to recognize, “oh mommy’s working right now, I can go do something else.” But then again I chose to stay at home with them, because that was so important to me. That’s where having structure helped out: if I gave them my attention first thing in the morning and found an activity that fulfills them and makes them feel totally loved, then I could work, because they were already feeling happy and loved. Of course, does that always happen? No. But then that’s when they can play with their special coloring books.
Working is more fun and more relaxing than dealing with three children, and so that’s what I naturally want to do. But honestly when it’s those days, when I feel like pushing my kids to the side to do the work first, those are the days that it’s the hardest. I feel like they pick up on it. Those are the days that’s it's the craziest and I end up not getting that much done. I always just try to remember that our family’s priority is to create this loving home-centered family and I need to remember that even though I love creating art so much.