Last year, my parents began considering downsizing from my childhood home and they found a Realtor to help them—that’s how Katie Darby and I first connected: touring way too many homes for my indecisive parents to agree on one. (Seriously, Katie and I—and Maverick—saw each other a lot as we tagged along my parent’s buying journey!)
Katie is the real deal—her heart for family, and her understanding of how the perfect home plays into that, is what makes her a Realtor you want on your side, especially in this crazy housing market right now.
Midway through my parents house search, Katie and I began connecting over motherhood—her kids are a little older (teens and college aged) and over donuts and coffee one day at my kitchen table, I deemed her one of my mentor moms, both personally and for the blog, because she’s been through the thick of young motherhood and gets it.
If you’re in need of a Realtor who’s an expert in Eastmark and the surrounding area, and want someone who’s just a good human and supports family, I’d love for you to get to know Katie and her colleague, Vanessa. Plus, Katie shares some great mom advice, support and hacks in her interview below!
Name: Katie Darby, Realtor for Keller Williams
Location: Mesa, AZ
Children: Victoria (21), Spencer (19), Lillian (16), Thomas (14)
Name: Vanessa Thomas, Sales Manager for First Arizona Title Agency
Children: Olivia (7), Cruz (5), Savannah (2)
Tell us about your role and how you got to this point in your career
Vanessa: I taught pre-algebra and algebra for three years. I had a parent that told me I should get into sales and the running joke was if she found me a job, I would give it a try. And sure enough she found me a job in the title and escrow industry.
I absolutely loved it, I was young and naïve and had no idea what I was selling but I had the confidence in myself to put myself out there and I got it! Since then I’ve learned what I’m selling, haha, and I’ve been lucky enough to grow in the industry.
Katie: I have had three very different careers. I was a senior financial analyst for 5 years working full time, then moved to part time and then stayed home with my children when they were little.
I “fell into” making draperies and home accessories for people which latest 14 years running North Atlanta Draperies. That business I did very part time, between naps and preschool.
When our youngest went to kindergarten, I got a call out of the blue, from a high-end custom furniture fabricator, that wanted me to come and run a drapery workroom for them to complement their custom furniture for high-end designers. I worked 21 hours a week, around my children’s school schedule and loved working with designers.
Then five years ago my husband took a job transfer to Phoenix, and I started looking for something part time. I meet a woman who inspired me and helped me become a Realtor.
Tell us a bit more about your current job title and the ins and outs of your day-to-day work.
Katie: As a realtor, I meet with buyers and sellers, listen to what their needs are, then help them achieve their goals (this looks very different for each client I work with). I spend quite a bit of time on the phone (ask my family), it is all about communication (with clients, cross agents, vendors, appraisers, lenders, title companies, compliance folks). I spend a significant amount of time just checking in on people. Real estate is about people, and that is my favorite part.
Vanessa and I work closely in many of the home sales; It’s a win/win for our clients to have a solid team that easily clicks and works together to ensure everything happens seamlessly for our buyers.
How do you balance working full-time and being a mother?
Katie: I feel like real estate affords me the opportunity to work my schedule around my children’s doctor’s appointments, volunteer opportunities, sporting events, but the trade-off is an unpredictable schedule that is seven days a week. I love the season that I’m in, and I know from the past, it changes every year!
Can you walk us through your morning routine?
Katie: I have certain things that I do every day to keep me in the best mental state. I have my quiet time, where I read a devotional book or do a bible study and pray. I drink two cups of coffee during this time then walk or run 4-5 miles before I get dressed and start my day.
Vanessa: My vital must-haves for my day is getting up very early, 5am, get my work out in, get organized, have my quiet time and be ready before everyone wakes up. If this does not happen I feel off.
Can you walk us through your typical workday?
Katie: I am an early riser and aim to get through emails first thing as I prepare for the day ahead. I have to really stick to my calendar, but also leave openings for when homes hit the market and I have to get buyers in right away.
Flexibility is a big part of why I chose real estate at this point in my life, and it’s important to me that it gives me the ability to attend 90 percent of all my kids activities (games, matches, swim meets).
Tell us a little bit about your family!
Katie: Keith and I have been together for 29 years, I was 16 and he was 18 when we met, and I knew on the first date, he was the one for me! We dated long distance for 5 years and just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. We are from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia and relocated to Arizona 5.5 years ago.
We have four amazing children:
- Victoria is 21 and graduated from Baylor University last year and is headed to Liberty University for Medical School to become a pediatrician.
- Spencer is 19 and attending Embry Riddle in Prescott and studying Aerospace Engineering. He is not only smart, good looking, but has a heart of gold.
- Lillian is 16 and has come out of her shell as an athlete in swimming and tennis and is second in her sophomore class.
- Thomas is 14 and finishing up 8th (halleluiah). He is trying out different sports like volleyball and tennis, but also did cross country last year. We spend quite a bit of time with him, he loves to go fishing and work on building things like models, cars, bikes…you name it. Middle school is such a tough age of uncertainty for preteens and they need a safe space to figure out their feelings, hormones, friends, and what they like and don’t like.
Vanessa: I got married in 2010 to my amazing husband that I met on a mission trip with Campus Crusade in New York City! A few years later my husband and I decided to relocate to Arizona to find a home that was more affordable and have more space for our growing family. We’re in the thick of parenthood with three kids under 10 years old, but with grace, we’re getting through it!
Can you share a few mom hacks you rely on to make things work in your day-to-day life?
- Spend two minutes making your bed and teach your kids that young.
- Do a five minute clean up before dinner time (before dad gets home); Set a timer and everyone pitches in.
- Speaking of five minutes, five-minute warnings for everything make transitioning so much easier for kids.
- Be as kind to yourself as you are your friends (still working on this)
Tell us about transitioning to being a working mom. What surprised you? How do you make it work?
Katie: I am a very scheduled and routine person, so I set my family on a schedule and everyone always knew what to expect. My husband and I agreed that I didn’t want full time work, so I’ve always been available to my kid’s full time and work part time. I still feel this way. Even though they are older, they still need us.
Vanessa: Being a working mom is by far the hardest challenge of my life, but the most rewarding too! I love showing my children what hard work, dedication, and commitment look like on a daily basis. Many times as working moms I think we try to portray that we have it all together and we can do it all! And guess what, we can’t!
As a working mom, how did you decide what childcare situation was best for you and your family?
Katie: My husband and I never had childcare for our children besides preschool and our parents watching our kids. We didn’t have the money to afford childcare, so we would work different days when they were born, and once they started school, I flexed my schedule to make sure I was home when they got home from school.
Vanessa: My mom and my nanny are my lifeline and support me so much so that I can pursue my career and provide for my family in this way. I could not do what I do without this support system.
Were you able to take maternity leave? Tell us about that experience.
Katie: I had a 12 week maternity leave with my first child and was paid for 6 weeks of it, and then my second pregnancy I had to take so much time before I had him, I only had 6 weeks of leave before I returned back to work….but it ended up being blessing because I had postpartum depression with my second child and getting out of the house was the best thing to get me over the hump.
What are the biggest hurdles that you see for working mothers in America?
Katie: I see so many working moms feel like their value is in the money they bring home; this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Your value goes far beyond a paycheck! For us, we sacrificed a lot to fight this feeling when I worked part time, or during the time I stayed home.
In your experience, what do you believe are the key components in balancing your career, your relationships, and parenthood?
Katie: Make sure that you aren’t giving your spouse the leftovers at the end of the day.
Vanessa: Creating breathing room; there are seasons of motherhood where moms never get a break, but navigating how to find ‘you time’ is the biggest blessing you can give yourself and your family. When we feel recharged, we will do better in all aspects of our life and in each relationship.
For some fun chit-chat, now!
- Coffee order: Black coffee with pure protein vanilla, and a teaspoon of sugar
- Favorite restaurant in the East Valley: Nando’s
- Most embarrassing mom moment: My child falling out of a Home Depot shopping cart.
- Best mom advice you’ve been given: You can have it all, just not all at one time!!!
- Favorite family tradition: Hiking for Mother’s Day