Updated: May 29, 2019
My mom called that day and told me she couldn’t babysit. My dad’s schedule changed, as it often did, and they were going to take the fortuitous next forty-eight hours off to ride their motorcycle somewhere and get away.
It must not have occurred to me to be angry, because I was used to this. I was flexible. Malleable. Agreeable, and accommodating. I buried deep the frustrations of maintaining my schedule because I didn’t know I was allowed to fight for myself back then.
The seven month old baby in my arms didn’t have to be in daycare because of my mom, so I was grateful. But the sudden change in her plans meant that I would have to reschedule three appointments and try to make phone calls to clients while being a mommy, too.
I had a few hours while my son was in kindergarten that day, so I made use of the early morning while the baby napped peacefully. After rescheduling appointments and replying to a few emails, I checked my voicemail.
Late the previous evening, I received a message from a client. The one that, if you’ve ever been in sales, you’re familiar with. The one where the client says they want to speak with you, and they don’t say much else, but your gut knows right away that something is wrong.
In this case, I was helping a teacher fund her retirement with a strategy that was perfect for her, and lucrative for me. I needed the commission because, after giving birth to my daughter seven months earlier, I hadn’t been afforded a paid maternity leave and had lost the kind of momentum vital to a career agent. The planning and underwriting of such strategies took months, and I’d been working with this client for almost a year.
She was the kind of person who fit perfectly the role of cranky school marm. The kind of person who seemed to hate kids even though she was responsible for their young minds. The kind of person who expected utmost professionalism from someone handling her entire financial future, especially someone as young as I was – only twenty-six. She was the kind of ‘old’ we all kind of hate in others but secretly look forward to being one day- in the club of those who have earned the right to be as rude and abrupt as we want because we’ve spent six decades on this planet, not just two-and-a-half. She was not the kind of woman who would be sympathetic that I was at home with my infant daughter during business hours through no fault of my own.
So my choices were to call her now, while it was quiet, or to wait until my husband got home so I could go to my office across town and be assured no interruption. My gut told me that if I waited, I would regret it.
My gut doesn’t often fail me, so I checked on the baby who was still slumbering- all sweaty, butt up in the air with her knees curled under her, drool dripping from behind her Big Bird pacifier. I tiptoed out of her room and dialed my client on my cell phone; this hurt because back then we paid for minutes and it wasn’t going to be a short conversation.
Almost as soon as my client picked up, I heard the unmistakable rustle through the baby monitor. I prayed. Please, Mackenzie. Just give mama a few minutes more…
As suspected, as often happens when transferring large sums of money, the financial planner who hadn’t spoken to my client in years decided he cared enough to call her and confused her with inaccuracy. She was scared to go through with our plan and moreover, sounded like she was angry at me. Like maybe, she shouldn’t trust me…
My nerves threatened my body with a coup as I was instantly shaking, palms sweaty, and using every ounce of effort available to me to respond calmly, intelligently, and persuasively as a year’s worth of work hung suspended on a delicate thread that might break at any moment… and in the background… Mackenzie begins wailing. The full-on nuclear vibrato of a child who’s hungry and abhors the wetness and poop in her diaper that is no doubt now making it’s way up her backside.
My client is questioning my motives, my product, my company. I lock myself in the closet in my bedroom, the furthest corner in the house away from my daughter’s cries. I am apologizing to the client, profusely, out loud. And I’m apologizing to my daughter profusely, silently. I am defending my company, my products, my knowledge and my plan, and offering to meet the client the next day before school- a drive that would have me on the road at 3am to make it to her by 6:30am.
When people say someone screamed “bloody murder”, I don’t think they really have an idea of what this sounds like. I do.
My voice was calm and confident with my client, but inside I was crumbling. My daughter must have thought that no one was there. That she was alone. That no one cared she was hungry and wet. I tried to tell myself, she’s okay. She’s okay. She’s okay.
Finally, my client calmed down. She declined the meeting, stating that she knew what we were doing was in her best interest and half-apologized for the doubt she had let someone else plant. I thanked her, made a plan to stop by and see her during my next scheduled visit to that area in a few days just to say, “hi”, and hung up as if there wasn’t a volcano in my heart erupting at that very moment.
Face flush and objectives clear, I ran to my baby. She was holding her arms out, tear-streaked beet-red face, her thick natural baby mohawk plastered to her forehead. Mackenzie wasn’t the kind of baby to be consoled by attention alone; Maslow’s hierarchy of needs took solid root in that child. Now that she knew I was there, her nuclear reaction would continue to bellow high pitched reactive explosions until she had on a nice dry diaper and saw a naked boob or a bottle or a spoon full of something coming her way.
I changed her, leaving her naked but for her diaper, and continued to listen to her frustrated cries as I made her bottle, missing the ease of being able to soothe her with breast feeding as I could just one month earlier. But my constant traveling required lots of pumping, and pumping earned me a nasty bout with mastitis that landed me in the ER on intravenous antibiotics. So we were done with boobs.
We sat together that day in a recliner, crying. As she calmed down- her needs finally met- it was my turn. It was my turn for a face scrunched up and red with frustration and wet with tears and snot. She opened her eyes to me as she reached for my face with her teeny tiny baby fingers, and I wondered if she would ever know how much I loved her and how hard it all was.
She looked at me and I looked at her, and I pleaded with God that day. I wished my choices were easier. I prayed that her choices, some day, would be easier. I prayed that she wouldn’t remember moments when I abandoned her in order to try to take care of someone or something else because I had to, because I worked.
I asked God to give her the world, because I didn’t think I could.