Sunday will be a special day for Katie Witham.
She’ll be patrolling the sideline, as usual, in her regular role for Fox Sports. But it will be her first Mother’s Day since the birth of her son Owen, who arrived in February.
“It’s going well. It is a new experience, though, as you can attest to,” Witham said during an exclusive interview on Thursday with Angels on Parade. “It’s been fun and it’s been rewarding and even more so because I’m still able to work, because that was a concern of mine. So being able to juggle both, while I’m not good at juggling either one of them, separately or together, I’m figuring it out and that’s been fun.”
She’s established herself in MLS, but even with the track record, Witham admitted she wrestled with something many women encounter: Finding the “right time” to start a family.
“You know, it’s interesting, because for me, especially, working as a female in a man’s world, as you do, too, and for me, being in the broadcasting part of it, I always wanted to be a mom, and have a family with my husband. But we put it on the back burner for a long time because I truly just didn’t know if I’d be able to do both, because at the time – and it’s becoming more regular now, especially within the last year, which is so exciting – before, I did not see a lot of female sports broadcasters who were openly pregnant or having a family and still working and having that be accepted,” she explained.
“So truly, we put it on the back burner and held off for a while. And then finally I got to this point where I just decided, you know what? I can do both, and I’m going to work my butt off to make myself as valuable as possible, as indispensable as possible, and I’m going to go for it. And I’m still fortunate that working in this league in particular is so accepting. It embraces change and new things and no one’s batted an eye, having a pregnant sideline reporter, roaming around last year.”
Witham was part of the pioneering group last season that became the first in MLS history to feature an all-woman broadcast crew, alongside Danielle Slaton and Lisa Byington.
She said Fox has been great in working with her, and has supported her throughout her pregnancy and since Owen’s birth, crediting Fox Sports Soccer producer Shaw Brown for coming up with a plan that worked for everyone.
After easing back into the work with her first trip, with FC Cincinnati’s debut home game in MLS a mere two-hour drive from her home in Ohio, Witham is adjusting to the back-and-forth of working, including travel all over the United States, and being a mom.
“It was definitely hard at first, and ‘mom guilt,’ I’ve learned, is a real thing,” she explained, “But it also has made me a better mom, I think because I get to continue being able to go away for a few days and do a job that I love, because even with a lack of sleep I come home more refreshed and I think I’m better at my job because I’ve learned to be more efficient (because I have to be). And I’m a better mom at home because I’ve had a little time away. I mean, I miss the heck out of him and every moment is a little more precious when I come home.”
I asked her if she is able to follow MLS and soccer more or less since her son was born, and you may be surprised to learn that soccer is more common than ever in her household.
“So what’s interesting is, I used to catch up on whatever else has happened in the league other than the game I was just covering during the week, whether it be out running on my treadmill with my computer attached to it with MLS Live or now ESPN+, or mowing the lawn and listening to the eight different podcasts that I subscribe to that cover the league and soccer in different capacities, and I still do that,” Witham said.
“...But the fun thing for me is I think I might actually watch more soccer now, which I didn’t even know that was possible, because Owen actually really enjoys watching the game, whether he’s really a soccer fan at almost three months, I have no idea. It’s probably the fact there’s so much green and movement on the television screen, but I’m telling myself he’s a soccer fan. But it’s what calms him down sometimes. So we have a game on, we have multiple games on every single day. Sometimes I’m watching USL, because that’s what’s live at the moment. So it’s been fun because even having that time away at the beginning of the season when I wasn’t working yet I was more of a soccer fan, because instead of covering two teams and the matchup I had that weekend I was watching all of the games, and now, we are definitely watching all of the games. So I think I’m even more involved and more in the know nowadays.”
With few women working in men’s soccer, and a finite number of jobs — particularly in broadcast journalism — Witham said she was afraid getting pregnant and becoming a mom would hinder her career, something many women also experience. On the bright side, her experience has showed her those fears were ultimately unfounded.
“I would say learn from, and I don’t even know if it was a mistake, I waited so long because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to continue working in soccer or working in general when I chose to become a mom, and I’m almost disappointed in myself for worrying about that as long as I did. So if there’s any piece of advice I would have for somebody that was maybe thinking along those same lines, it’s don’t be worried about it, don’t be scared, don’t hide it, because I kind of did. I wasn’t super open with my pregnancy, definitely not at first, because I still had concerns early on,” she said.
As for advice for fellow working moms? Your best is good enough.
“My biggest piece of advice is don’t worry, don’t be scared, don’t hide it, because there is a way to do both. I think the best piece of advice that I got is: All you can do, every single day, is be your best, and some days your best as a mom and as a woman working in the world of soccer, you’re at 100 percent. Some days, you’re at 75, and that’s the best you can do. As long as you’re putting the best foot forward, then that’s good enough. Just go for it. Don’t doubt yourself, because as women we can do way more than we usually give ourselves credit for.”
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