Life on Your Terms...Interview with Karin Freeland

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

A few years ago, I met a wonderful woman named Karin Freeland (follow @karinfreeland on IG). Karin and I were seated across from each other when we met at a Women’s Top Talent program, when we both worked for a large corporation. We hit it off quickly because we had very similar jobs in different divisions of the company. Ever since then, we’ve stayed connected and our lives have both changed quite drastically, going from full time workings moms, to being at home moms…trying to pave our own way, on our own terms.

I thought it would be interesting to interview Karin about her recent life change of becoming her own boss, while being at home as a mom to her two boys. Karin is truly inspirational and gives lots of great life advice. She’s also working on something I constantly dream about…writing a book, so I’m beyond fascinated about that too.

Here’s my conversation with Karin...

Q. We met a few years ago, when we were both in extremely demanding roles as Chief of Staff to executives in our company. When you think back about that time in your life, how do you feel about it?

A. To be completely honest, I definitely have mixed emotions. I was the first female Chief of Staff for this division President. There was a lot of pressure to pave the way for other women.

On one hand I'm so glad it's over. I don't miss the long grueling hours. Racing from meeting to meeting, working all night because your calendar was booked solid from 7:30 am – 6:00 pm. My kids were little, 5 & 6 years old, so I missed a lot of their school activities. I had to work during spring break and I couldn't chaperone any of the class field trips. Those things eat at a mom, but I was so dedicated and so focused on what I perceived my reward would be for a job well done, that I sacrificed those things for the promise of more money and a better title.

On the other hand, I feel really proud of myself for accomplishing the role of Chief of Staff. I was very hesitant when they approached me. It was totally outside of my comfort zone and marketing expertise. I was really concerned with how I'd handle the role, but I was fortunate enough to have an executive coach, paid for by the company. That extra support gave me all the confidence I needed to quickly grow into the role and really learn the ins and outs of the C-suite. That experience was priceless.

Thinking back, if I had to do it again, I absolutely would, but I'd set some more boundaries for myself. They would have never fired me for taking a vacation, but the big reward that was promised, never came so I put unneeded pressure and overworked myself for no reason.

After you left our company, did your next job amp up your crazy working mom schedule or was it a bit easier to manage?

It was crazy, but in a different way. Working for a European energy company was actually much laxer with working from home. My mornings and afternoons were a little less hectic, because I didn't have that long commute every day. On the days I did go to the office, we hired a babysitter to come in the morning and get the boys ready and off to school, which was a huge help. One of my biggest pieces of advice is as you earn more money, use those resources to offload some of your duties to others. It makes a huge difference in your happiness. It went from me panicked every morning to get the kids ready and out the door, to pleasantly greeting the babysitter in the morning, letting her take over and going on my way.

I love what you said about using your resources to increase your happiness. I think about that a lot and the level of joy we experience as moms. I think this is definitely an important take away, to invest and use your resources to make things easier to increase your happiness. So on that note, let’s talk about what you love about being a working mom?

My work gives me a huge sense of purpose and I really love Marketing. That is my favorite function of all the jobs I've done hands down. The ability to be creative and execute large complex campaigns and see it all come together was just amazing. I thought I was very important - it made me feel good to have people need me.

I also enjoyed the extra financial freedom. Money is a hell of a drug and I never wanted to have to ask for money. Can you imagine me going to my husband, “Can I have $20 to go get my eyebrows waxed or $200 for Botox?” No, it was not something I ever wanted to do. I'm 40 now so I need Botox for my forehead. You start getting addicted to the vacations, the experiences - going to NJ Devils hockey games, eating out all the time. But at what cost? At some point that trade off was out of balance.

Did it take you a while to realize it was out of balance?

Definitely, and this is something I’ve learned from my Life Coaching program…your mind wants to prove you right. Whatever you think, your mind will do what it can to make sure that comes to fruition. I had told myself this lie over and over that I wanted to be Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Yet, I’d have glimpses of dissatisfaction and would hit these walls, where I knew something was wrong. Then my mind wanted to prove me right, so I’d go back to focusing on becoming CMO. Going back to that perceived reward, if I just work a little harder, I’ll get that promotion to get more money to have more financial freedom. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom that I had a moment of clarity that things were totally out of whack.

How have you changed since you no longer have a 9-5? What has changed that you haven’t expected?

Everything has changed…I feel like a new woman! My position was eliminated in August. I can't believe how much I don't miss it. Not even a tiny bit. That's kind of scary actually. That I could do something for 15-years and tell myself the same lie over and over, and then not at all feel sad about leaving corporate. It just goes to show how powerful the mind is.

Our mood in the house has changed, not being rushed all the time. I really enjoy working out first thing in the morning and bringing the kids to school. I never pictured myself as a stay at home mom, because usually when I was home, I was checking emails and answering texts. I was constantly stressed about work and now that I don't have that stress, I can just be present and enjoy my children.

But we've had to change our lifestyle; our financial situation is much different now. We've had to make some concessions, but we’ve figured out what is really important. For me, living my dreams is the most important.

What do you appreciate more now, being an “at home” mom?

I really appreciate how much work it is. Between laundry, dishes, making dinner every day and the other little chores and errands, there is not a lot of time for other things. I drop the kids off around 8 am and before I know it, it’s time to pick them up at school again. I love that I can spend more time with my dog too. He’s getting older and I really appreciate our time together, especially being in the house so much. I can really stop to appreciate those things more now.

So since it goes by so fast and it’s all your own, how do you think differently about your time now?

I've found that I need to be very focused. If I have a call or a webinar, or need to work on my book, which I know you're going to ask me about, I have to carve out that time or I won't get anything done.

But I love the amount of freedom and flexibility I have. If I need to go to the doctors, I don't have to ask anyone for permission. I just go. If I want to take off Friday and have a long weekend, I can.

Especially in these times, you see job postings and they say for now you can work from home, but when things get back to normal, you need to come into the office. I will NEVER commute to a job in New York City from New Jersey or have a long commute again. You could not pay me enough to do that! And we shouldn’t have to. This is why we need more female leaders. We need companies to understand the juggles of being a mom and advancing your career. You should be able to do both. Companies that set policies that aren’t family friendly will miss out on top talent.

It's really about living a life by design now.

Switching topics…I know you are working on your book – one of my dreams as I’ve mentioned to you many times – can you tell us about the writing process and how that’s been now that you have a lot more time to dedicate towards it?

This is my first book, it's a women's tell-all memoir. Where I'll look back at the mishaps and misadventures of my life and share the juicy bits, the funny bits, and the sadly gross bits in a really relatable and cathartic way. I think every woman can relate to something in the book. I can't wait to share it, should be out next year sometime. I have an editor, which I highly recommend for anyone thinking about writing a book. He’s been so helpful in shaping the story and bringing the characters to life. We're a little over halfway done.

I used to write only at night after the kids went to bed. Sometimes, I just wasn't that creative at 11 pm. So now that I can write during the day or whatever time really suits my mood, I find the quality of my writing is improving.

Another thing I know about you is that you are getting certified to be a Life Coach – walk us through your inspiration and how that is going.

I am so excited about this. I feel like Coaching chose me in a way. I truly believe the Universe, God, whatever you believe in, really guides your path. And for a long time, I was being sent signals that I ignored. But now that I'm open to these signals, it's really shaping my life.

I started to build out my platform for my book and realized I could brand myself as a motivational speaker and share my story about leaving corporate and following my passion of writing my book. I was still in corporate at the time, using the money from my job to pay my editor and for my website, etc.

As I started doing research on speaking, I was introduced to this whole concept of coaching and supporting women that were ready to EDIT™ their life. I knew the power of coaching from when I had my executive coach back when I was Chief of Staff. That experience made a world of difference in my performance and how I showed up every day.

I've been using the phrase EDIT™ Your Life, because that is really what we're talking about. We're not going back and changing the past, your entire life isn't bad, you just need some edits and tweaks in a few areas to make it really be the life you want.

I'm so excited about coaching because it changes lives - not just for the person I'm coaching, but for the friends and family in the person’s life, as well. I'm a better wife, I'm a better mom, I'm a better friend because I'm out of that dark place where I was in my midlife crisis. I want to help other women experience the transformation and live the life they were meant to live.

You’ve inspired me in so many ways by your undeniable positive attitude, and tirelessly working on building your brand using social media; how does being a mom drive you and do you ever get tired?

I definitely do get tired. We cannot underestimate the importance of sleep and the impact that has on your health. I think working out regularly helps me with my energy level. When you are working out and staying fit, then you just naturally have more energy for other things.

Having a good support system is really helpful to keep me going. Communication with my spouse has been key. I know not everyone has that, which is another reason coaching is so important to me. I want to be that cheerleader and support system for other women that are lacking it.

Full disclosure – my last question is completely self-serving…so put your life coaching hat on…

We’ve talked a lot about all of the extras that come with motherhood. Caring for the children, the home, the activities, the social calendar and extended family, it’s more than you ever realize when you fall in love. Add a very demanding job on top of it…I actually think work helped me keep the balance, but right now, one thing I’m struggling with is that during the pandemic, it’s so much more time spent on the family side. What kind of advice do you have for me, and others out there that are doing more of keeping the home going, versus being a working out of the home mom, that are having a difficult time?

First, let me acknowledge that no one has the silver bullet. We are experiencing something completely unprecedented and depending on circumstances we can be living two very different experiences. So the first thing we need to do is operate in facts. Unfortunately, the media these days is sensationalized to heights that I don't recall seeing in my past. The constant barrage of negativity and fear mongering was toxic for our family, so we cut cable. I don't have a streaming service, we literally have no TV, other than the DVDs we own and the ones we rent from the library occasionally. I no longer allow the news to hijack my happiness. Because from our happiness, everything flows. I think Coronavirus has taught us about what's really important and what we can do without.

Once you’re in the right mindset, it comes down to priorities. What truly is important for you? What has to be done and what can wait? When you really want something, nothing will stand in your way. You will carve out the time, you’ll invest the resources and you'll make it happen. But so many of us either don't really want the thing we've told ourselves we want, or we're making excuses because we're scared of success or our imposter syndrome is holding us back. That's where a coach can be a great resource, to help you overcome what's holding you back.

Practically, I'd encourage you to block out time, just like if you were working full time. Manage your calendar the same way by blocking out time for the things you need to get done. Tell your family what's important to you. My whole family knows I'm writing a book. They know when I get my edits back that I'm going to take some time and review them and focus on my project. They ask me about it, how it's going, it's now part of our daily routine.

That’s really great advice. Thank you so much for your time today Karin! I love our chats and your wisdom and optimism is very encouraging. Any last words of inspiration you’d like to share?

You don't have to settle and live a default life. If you're not happy, it doesn't have to be this way, you can make a change. I know because I'm doing it right now - in front of your eyes. And I'm still standing, I'm okay. I don't have all the answers, I don't know how this story plays out, but I can tell you, I'm having a lot more fun writing this chapter of my life, than I've had in a really long time.

Follow Karin on Instagram @karinfreeland and more on her website here.

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