Are you shocked? I certainly was. As the hours quietly turned into days, and the days into weeks, a strange and unexpected wonder occurred. Everyone continued to go about their merry business in their own merry ways… I stared at myself in the mirror and asked that one very big, very obvious question… Why hadn’t I done this sooner?

My Own Guilty Conscience


I thought back to the many sleepless nights where I had laid in bed wondering how I would possibly get everything done, feeling guilty that I was even allowing myself the grace to try and catch a few hours of rest. The combination of overwhelm and unhappiness felt suffocating. As I teetered on the brink of exhaustion and utter burnout, sleep evaded me, even there. My brain wouldn’t allow me a moment’s peace, instead choosing to play out endless worst case scenarios that later became terrifying nightmares when my body finally succumbed to sleep. Panic attacks began to creep back into my days, small mistakes became big mistakes, and still… I couldn’t stop.

I was convinced that any change would spark a firestorm of judgement and criticism from my peers and my clients. I was certain that my friends and family would smile on the outside, but harbour resentment and disappointment on the inside. Words like failure, slacker, let down and rejection rang in my ears. If I stop, they’ll talk. If I stop, they’ll be angry. Even as I encouraged others to build the life of their dreams, I denied myself permission to do the same. I was stuck and here I must stay. I deserved this, somehow and any other experience – joy, peace, happiness, fun – felt reserved for everyone else. Stress, isolation and anxiety were to be my only friends. Otherwise… they would know…

Know what exactly? I’m not even sure. I somehow convinced myself that there were no other options. I found myself in a constant cycle of slapping bandaids on bullet holes. Anything to hide the truth. I wanted to stop.

Mother’s Day Gut Punch


He handed me a beautifully made Mother’s Day card. Inside, he had worked with his teacher to describe his mom. My favourite foods, my talents, what he loved most about me… the usual perfectly imperfect musings of a kindergartner dreaming about his mummy. My eyes fell on one sentence… ”My mommy is really good at {fill in the blank.}” He had chosen one word. “My mommy is really good at working.” My heart dropped.

Yes. I love that I set a great example for my children when it comes to working hard, building something out of nothing, providing for those that you love and always trying your very best. In part, my son’s statement reflects a valuable lesson that will hopefully cultivate a hardy work ethic and sense of pride in his future work.

But in that particular moment, when I read that particular phrase, I felt something completely different. I heard myself ask another question. “Is this what you want your children to think of first when it comes to filling in that blank?”

I didn’t feel pride when I read his words. I felt sorrow and a deep sense of loss. I knew that my kids were getting the very last of me instead of the very best. And I realised that I was suddenly no longer interested in pleasing everyone else if it meant that my children could not think of any other words to fill in that blank.

I wanted to replace “working” with words like “loving me” or “hugging me” or “praying for me.” I was proud that my children knew that mommy worked hard, but I wanted them to know more of me.. .so many more parts of me that meant so much more.

So I stopped. And set out to introduce my kids to some new words to fill in that blank.

Permission to Live


You’re right. I didn’t stop working completely. Yes, I have bills to pay and a family to feed, and I still feel very strongly about teaching my children the value of hard work.

What I did stop doing was entertaining the unnecessary guilt and pressure that tied me to old ideas and old routines. I was building a business and just because I started building one way, it didn’t mean that I was stuck there because that is what people knew and recognised. I didn’t owe anyone anything and I didn’t have to continue building something that was no longer serving me or more importantly, my family. I could stop, change, evolve, recalibrate, hit pause… whatever I needed to do to make sure that I had full permission from myself to thrive and live a beautiful life that made my family a priority instead of an afterthought.

When I stopped allowing my inner critic to chain my decisions to what others would think, say or do, I was able to stop stressing over the ever-present to-do list and focus on what I wanted and needed in my life. And that’s where the miracle happened. I discovered that most of the fears and stresses that plagued my nightmares were lies. When I slowed down, stopped, shifted and adjusted my priorities, my business and my availability, the world kept on moving. People adjusted right along with me and in most cases, with very little notice, and even less commentary, gossip or judgement.

I had been trapped in a prison of my own design, holding the key in my hand, but denying myself the right to unlock the door because I was certain that everyone else would hate me if I stepped outside of the cage. I feared embarrassment, failure and change. I lied to myself for a very, very long time, but no more.

Today, I am a work in progress. Some days work gets the better of me, but most days, I’m working harder on filling in that blank with better words and making sure my kids know more of mom. Business is good… and life is better. The people that matter champion my commitment to my self-care and my family, and the people that don’t… well, they were few and far between and they took a very welcome exit. The planet is still very much in orbit and I have discovered that I deserve the same happiness that I so willingly gave to others.

What do you want to stop? What is holding you back from pushing the pause button in your business?


Katy Blevins Calabrese

Founder and Chief Mum at Chaos and Kiddos
After a lifetime of faking perfection and clawing her way up the corporate ladder, Katy decided to drop the curtain and get real.
Katy Blevins Calabrese
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