On March 1, the popular career networking series, “Life on Tap,” joined forces with the popular women’s formation series, “At the Well,” to discuss the subject of mothers working both in and outside the home. Alumni Kate Leonard, Colleen Fier, Maria O’Brien, Jennifer Flippen, and Alex Klassen were the featured guests who shared their experiences juggling the demands of motherhood with work obligations. Over 100 students, faculty, staff, and alumni filled St. Kilian’s Café to enjoy good food and drink and to listen to these multi-tasking mothers.
Kate (McMahon) Leonard, a 2002 Christendom graduate with a BA in philosophy, shared her experience as a current owner and partner of Molla Business Solutions and mother of two small children.
Originally working in accounting since graduating in 2002, she decided to quit her job to work from home so that she could enjoy better flexibility to meet the demands of her growing family. She encouraged the audience to focus on paying down their college debt as soon as possible after graduation because having a lot of debt can be a real burden on a marriage.
“College debt is a reality. You need to think about the long-term plan of how to pay for that and how your family is going to function with loans and children,” she said.
When she and her sister, Colleen Fier, decided to start their own accounting business, their goal as business owners was to provide a work environment that allows the flexibility that they need as moms, while delivering quality work for their clients.
“I’ve scheduled meetings around naptimes or when my husband is home to care for the kids. A lot of it is being flexible and making adjustments every year as more children are added to the family. It’s harder to work from home than in the office. You have to go above and beyond,” she claimed.
Colleen (McMahon) Fier, a 2003 English major, agreed with her sister about the advantageousness of working from home in their shared company.
Having married a year and a half out of college, Fier worked for several years in accounting and bookkeeping to pay off her college debt before adopting a daughter. After her second daughter was born, she decided to take on accounting and bookkeeping from home as co-owner of an accounting business. She pointed out the efficiency of community and family-life in situations like hers, explaining that she was able to rely heavily on her family for child-care needs..
As Fier took on the challenges of self-business, she realized more thoroughly the assurance that came from a supportive husband.
“My husband was extremely encouraging and supportive of my ambitions. Most men don’t want their wives to have to work, but sometimes life necessitates it. It’s been really nice for me. Everybody’s different and every circumstance is different, and that’s fine,” she explained.
Maria O’Brien got married a year after she earned her BA in English from Christendom in 2001, and just recently had her sixth child.
Like Leonard and Fier, her main keys to success as both a mother and a small business owner were flexibility and a supportive husband.
Having worked as a copy editor for the Arlington Catholic Herald for two years after graduation, she was capable of doing her own freelance writing from home after quitting her job. She found that adjustments were needed when she no longer worked in a traditional job setting.
She encouraged the students to gain important skills so that they are prepared to bring a second income to the table, if it is necessitated for a variety of reasons. She mentioned that her husband went through a number of job transitions over the years, and thanks to her supplemental income, they were able to keep up with the bills.
Jennifer (O’Gorman) Flippen graduated with a BA in history in 1998 and when her husband went back to school, she began looking for a creative outlet so that she could earn extra money for her family.
When her friend told her about Etsy, an online store, she experimented with a number of different items—some secular and some more complicated to produce. Over time, she traded the items she sold to the ones offered today due to demand and ease of creation. She found over time that there was a real market for handmade Catholic items and began hand-crafting little saint dolls.
“Etsy is a great place to sell,” she voiced, “Just make sure you’re not overextending yourself, so you don’t get burnt out. I came to the point where demand exceeded the amount of time I wanted to spend on my business. I started my prices low and moved up.”
Alex (Doylend) Klassen, a 2004 graduate, was a popular Irish dance instructor while at Christendom. When she got married right after graduation, she continued to teach classes outside the home during the evenings to help with the family income.
For fourteen years, Klassen worked in the busy world of dance instruction with several hundred students, taking occasional breaks when she found it necessary for the welfare of her children. Just this past June, after the birth of her fifth child, Klassen decided to hang up the dancing shoes.
“It got to be too much,” she remarked. “I rushed out the door after dinner and felt like I was missing time with the kids. I homeschool them and take that duty very seriously. I don’t miss being out of the home three nights a week, even though it meant having extra money.”
Klassen told her listeners of a time when her husband was seriously ill. She thought about what she could do if he didn’t make it through.
“I could have made enough teaching dance and teaching Latin on the side. It would have been tough, but it’s good to have something to fall back on if necessary.”
The “Life on Tap” series is a bi-monthly event organized by the college’s career and leadership development office, featuring noted alumni and friends speaking on topics such as journalism, web development, and non-profit business. To find out more, or see videos from past “Life on Tap” events, please visit here.