Kate Thorp is just 40 years old but her resume lists a dizzying number of titles, awards and companies for whom she has been an evangelist of the Web. In fact, the daughter of actors Chad Everett (“Medical Center”) and Shelby Grant (“Fantastic Voyage”) likes to joke that her quick climb to the top of corporate ladder made her parents "nauseous.” She began her career as a television reporter and as a U.S. congressional aide before joining CNET (where her title was “VP-Crusader”), which launched her into the world of online media and marketing. She co-founded the Internet Advertising Bureau, did a stint at a venture capital firm and founded her own digital communications company, Lot21, at age 28. In 2007, she started Real Girls Media network, whose popular Web site, DivineCaroline , offers women a voice on the Internet.
As a mom to three — a daughter who’ll be 10 this summer, and twin 7-year-old boys — there are two things that help her manage her career and family life — she’s a self-proclaimed Type-A person and her husband, a former software engineer, is a full-time stay-at-home dad. She lives with her family in San Rafael, just north of San Francisco.
You have said that DivineCaroline is a way to “elevate the voice of women and girls.” Why are web sites like yours and others so important to women in general and moms in particular?
Women in general are fantastic and I think we have this innate ability to share experiences to the benefit of people we know and don’t know. When you can foster a community of two or 20 million, I think you find that dynamic is true. The digital world has given us a very unique platform to share and engage that attribute of women. Moms utilize that power more than any other group. Children don’t come with a manual and neither does the lifestyle change of becoming a parent. Those foster a need for information, then sharing and then becoming an expert in all of parenting, in each of the elements you’ve just gone through.”
How did it come to be that your husband stayed home with the kids, and you were the breadwinner?
I got lucky! I was running Lot21 when we decided to start having kids. As our belief systems go, there’s no perfect time for anything so … we felt like this was the right time in our lives. He was in more of a position to leave his job if not temporarily than permanently and, of course, it’s been the hardest job of his life! And he’s amazing at it.
Some women say they could never work full time, others say they could never stay home. You’ve said that your husband’s job is much harder. Could you stay at home and why or why not?
I think it would be harder for me to stay at home than it is for me to work. When I had the boys and I was home, I was running back and forth and running businesses and ideas. My attention span is quite short and I continue to want to innovate on different levels. In the beginning, it was a pace I couldn’t sustain. As my husband says, I’m the Disneyland parent and he’s the park parent. I want to be participating. The park to me is the deadliest place I’ve ever been to. Most of the parents are sitting on the sidelines. I’d rather take them to the beach or go running.
Many working moms complain about the double shift; they come home from their job and they still have the bulk of the housework. How do you and your husband manage household chores?
He really does run the house. That was a big transition for us when we started to have kids. You really can’t step in and take parts away, so we share in many of the duties, but ultimately I look to him. He’s also the nutritionist and cook. I only have an hour or an hour and a half for the nighttime routine of reading and trying to catch up on the day, so I have to take a moment and change pace. It is stressful because I worry I’m not going to find out everything the kids want to tell me before they go to sleep.
Often women want their husbands to help out more, but want him to do it their way. Any of that in your household?
It comes down to a comfort level. When you’re with the kids all day, you find you’re growing with them. You’re more in line with them. Where I’m always behind the curve is, ‘What? You drop them off at the curb? I thought we still walk them into school,” even though I take them to the first day; we don’t miss any of those key events. When you’re the parent who is working full time, you’re playing catch-up.
I imagine most of your kids’ friends have a household that looks quite different than theirs. What do your kids say about having dad be Mr. Mom?
It’s definitely not the norm, but it’s not as unique as when Lauren was born 10 years ago. He was literally the only guy at the park. Now there are more fathers who have a different schedule where they’re participating in the classrooms so he’s not the oddball. The big difference is they’re starting to see some of their friends’ parents separating. That has become far more of what they’ve noticed than whether its Mom or Dad. The kids have been asking a lot of questions about that.
You’ve said that your mom is the woman you most admire — why?
Besides adoring her? She’s been a fantastic role model for really showing as much balance there can be in this world. When there’s not balance, she’s been transparent to that. My mother was an actress and my father was an actor, so it was hard to have someone at home. Cars picked her up at 4 in the morning to take her to a set and brought her back at 10 o’clock at night. She eventually made the change to become a writer-director and founded a production company at our home. At that point she started being more present in the home although she was always working. I never saw my mom doing "nothing." She was always creating a script or writing dialog.
What do you think you’ve sacrificed as a working mom, and what have you gained?
It’s easy to make lists of, ‘I wish I could do this, this and this,’ but that’s so in life. I think the things you sacrifice are being there for absolutely everything, but what you gain is providing the same type of role model that my mom was able to provide for me. I also think there’s a little bit of a guarantee in the mom-child relationship that may not be there in such strength with the father. What we’ve been able to give them with this deep relationship with their dad is amazing. Now they have two really strong relationships because I do think the mom gets a little leverage.
In what ways has motherhood surprised you?
The vulnerability. Everybody on the onset worries if they’re going to be a good mother and if they’ll have great bonds. What you don’t worry about and what you’re most impacted by is the sheer vulnerability of the love for your children. When they’re with you, when they’re not with you, they’re absolutely a part of you.
What’s the best advice you got about mothering?
Be a kid! The hardest thing in my world is that the majority of your time is spent not with children but adults. And when you’re with your kids, they’re kids! They’re expressing to you all the things that are important to them and you might not have the same appreciation for and that’s hard. Because as an adult, you may not want to be a kid but it’s always perspective, and that’s hard for adults. We don’t just switch on and off like that. That’s my advice to myself — that I everyday want to be present.
What are the things you refuse to compromise when it comes to your family?
Love and safety. If your kid calls you, you’re there. There’s nothing in the work world that won’t wait. Truly. And I think your family needs to know that.
When your kids are grown, what do you hope they’ll think of their childhood and you as a mom?
I hope they think of their childhood as fun and loving and nurturing and diverse. I hope that they think of me as loving them and keeping them safe and nurturing them, always being there when they needed me.
Online media expert and marketer Kate Thorp was interviewed by Vicki Larson, Around the Watercooler  contributor. She is a journalist and single mom.