Side Hustles and Second Shifts :: When You Want to be More Than a Mom


“I want to do something splendid before I go to my castle, — something heroic or wonderful, that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous: that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.” Jo March in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 

I have adopted something called “shark mode” when tackling household tasks. If I circle the house constantly, without stopping for any length of time (and certainly never sitting down) I have found that my 9-and 12-year-old kids tend to figure things out on their own. 

But if I sit down – even a perch – on the edge of my bed to, say, fold a load of laundry, it’s game over.

“Mo-ooom, can you help me find my striped top?” or “Mom, I’m soooo starving. I’m going to pass out. What do we have to eat?”

Both of these requests involve simple tasks that could easily be accomplished on one’s own. If I’m circling around the house in “shark mode” however, they either can’t find me or they can’t catch me, and I end up getting more done.

It’s no secret that moms today are juggling all the things. But despite (or perhaps because of) the mental load, we are desperately seeking the kind of fulfillment that we are not finding in our daily path – whether that’s circling our house, circling the globe, or both.

Like all moms, I have plenty to keep me busy.

I enjoy my job in marketing, and consider myself incredibly blessed to do something for a living that is both fun and engaging. I also love my family and am completely aware that being a wife and mom is my most important job.

Why, then, would I ever want, or feel the need, to take on yet another thing to pull me away from these things that already take up, like, 110 percent of my time?

It’s because I know I’m capable of more. Have you ever felt like that?

The more women I talk to, the more I hear this. Women want more, so we are seeking it out, or at least being open to the possibilities. And now more than ever those opportunities are happening for us: physicians teaching yoga, engineers doing healthy meal planning for families, stay-at-home moms working on a novel. So many women I know are becoming freelancers, influencers, artists, house-flippers, photographers, chefs, product consultants, fitness coaches, business owners…the list goes on and on. And for some, this is in addition to an already-established mortgage-paying gig and a whole bunch of tiny people to dress and shuttle off to school each morning. Mercy.

And it’s not just the paying gigs that give us the freedom to express ourselves. A purposeful hobby can be just as liberating as a side hustle and maybe a lot less stressful.

But what if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d like? What if there is a pricking feeling that you are leaving something on the table but you are just not quite sure how to go about figuring out what that is? What if you’re scared to pursue anything outside of your mom-o-sphere for fear of failure or even just the guilt over doing something for yourself?

I find myself wrestling in that place of uncertainty quite a bit.

Like Jo March, I have always felt most like myself when I am stringing words together on paper. It’s what I always thought I was meant to do. But so often I believe that what I have should feel like enough. Still, as long as the pricking feeling is there, the dreams are not dead.

And in true “shark mode” form, I will keep circling. Folding socks here. Meeting deadlines there. Knowing full well that what I have is enough, but always being open to the possibilities. You may be a mom, but there’s a person in there, too, with hopes and dreams that you may not have dared to think about since you were nine. Maybe it’s time to dust those off and see what happens. It’s never too late.

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Kelly Barbrey is an early riser, old soul and retail therapy expert. She is a wife to Jonathan and a mom to two strong-willed daughters, born in 2007 and 2010. Kelly grew up in Atlanta, GA and earned a degree in magazine journalism from The University of Georgia. She has worked full time in tourism marketing for Experience Columbia SC since 2004, where she loves to share all the exciting things happening in Columbia, SC with potential travelers. When she’s not working or wrangling kids, she enjoys date nights with her husband at local restaurants, exercise, reading and sharing real and humorous accounts of life, motherhood and nostalgia on her blog, Up Early + Often.


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