This blog is not about me moaning about how hard it is to work and be a Mom and try to run a business. I chose this life – well, I didn’t choose to be an activist, too – that just kind of happened. I’m not a complainer, at least I try not to be one. But it is a balancing act.
When I spoke at the Wyoming Valley Real Estate Investors Association meeting, my child care fell through that night. That’s because my child care is my dear friend Illana, my sister from another mister, who is also my rental company’s Tenant Manager. Exhausted from a busy week, she was sick and just couldn’t do it. Steve and I moved here from New England years ago when I was in radio and following the jobs up and down the dial – our extended family are all back there. Because most of my friends are radio people, they wouldn’t know what to do with a kid – I’d come home to find Savannah playing a game of beer pong with them or watching inappropriate Adult Swim cartoons!
I’ve never had much need for a babysitter. When Savannah was a baby I wouldn’t let her out of my sight! I waited a long time to have a baby – I was almost 40 – so I relished every minute of the experience. And I had no qualms about taking her with me everywhere – to Starbucks, street festivals, pancake houses on Sunday mornings. Granted, this means I haven’t had much of an adult social life for the past 5 years, but I really didn’t miss it. I had to go back to work full-time six weeks after she was born, so I grabbed every moment that I could spend with my baby girl. And I guess it became a habit. The only people Savannah has ever spent the night with sans Mommy are my mother, Steve’s mother, and Aunt Illana. And those nights were few and far between! Maybe things will change now that she’s older and starting to have her own friends. I’m getting to know some of the other Moms. And I’m finding myself needing to leave the cocoon of our home at night to do things like speak at Real Estate Association meetings.
The night I brought my daughter to her first “rally” I was scheduled to speak about property owners’ rights and Wilkes-Barre’s One Strike law to a group of investors and fellow city landlords as the opening act for the District Attorney (my speech is in last week’s blog entry if you want to go back and read it.) I couldn’t really cancel. And Steve needed to be there – this was his group and I didn’t know anyone (since I haven’t left the house in 5 years!) So Steve and I decided she’d come with us.
The Wyoming Valley Real Estate Investors Association meets on the last Tuesday of every month at the Wyoming Valley Church, 1153 Highway 315 in Wilkes-Barre. It’s one of those storefront churches in a strip mall. And it had not one but TWO playrooms set up for kids! Gold mine! I couldn’t believe my luck! I got a few odd looks walking in with a well-dressed and lip-glossed 5-year-old, but all I said was “child care fell through” and shrugged my shoulders. If anyone was offended by her presence, they didn’t let it show. I explained to her that Mommy and Daddy would not be able to play with her. That she could play quietly by herself with the toys. Or she could come into the room and watch Mommy speak, she could color in her My Little Pony coloring book and sit on Daddy’s lap. But she’d have to be quiet. Then when Mommy was done we would leave Daddy here to talk to the people and go home, just the two of us. There’s really no opportunity to be nervous about your speech when you’re negotiating good behavior with a 5-year-old!
I was supposed to speak for 10 minutes, but ended up leading a discussion for over an hour because the D.A. ended up cancelling her appearance. And my little daughter was a trooper! I didn’t hear her make a peep! A couple times I looked out to see her on Daddy’s shoulders. At one point she marched up the aisle to the stage and hugged me around the legs. But everybody thought that was cute. When I finally got done around 9 I took her to Dairy Queen. She’d earned that cherry dip cone!
The Experiment Continues – NEPA Investors Network. She did so well I decided to do another experiment. My husband heads up the NEPA Investors Network meeting at the Grotto in Wilkes-Barre on the second Wednesday of every month. I spoke at that meeting in May (leaving Savannah with Illana) and enjoyed the company of other adults and real estate entrepreneurs. I really need to get out and network with as many of these people as possible!
But how to do that? I work ALL THE TIME at a full-time job and the business, too – so my daughter is in daycare from 9am to almost 6pm five days a week. A few minutes in the morning, a few hours in the evening, and weekends are really all the time we have together (and yes, that breaks my heart.) I am loathe to give up ANY of it to a sitter. So I thought – it’s my husband’s meeting anyway. And she did so well at the last one. This one she can have pizza, and we won’t be there nearly as long since I’m only there to network, not speak. And I can take her out of there at any time, so what’s the problem? Again, she did pretty well. A few strange looks, but once I mentioned I was Steve’s wife and this was his daughter, no one said anything. She was quiet and non-disruptive. I had a few good adult conversations, which was what I came for. And Savannah ended up being a nice ice breaker! I loved telling people we were exposing our daughter to the business of real estate investment at a young age. The kid will probably be managing her first multi-family at 16!
I really like the idea of exposing my child to real estate investing. I grew up learning what most other people learned about money – go to school, work hard, get good grades, get into college, get a good job, work hard, climb the ladder. Only the reality I ended up with was more like – graduate from college with impossible debt, struggle to find a job, end up getting a second or even third job just to pay all your bills, work your ass off, eventually find a better job so you don’t have to work two others, try to climb the ladder, get rebuffed because nobody likes an aggressive female… Yeah, I want my daughter to learn a better way.
Starting a business means you are in charge of your financial destiny. I am used to working my ass off, so I don’t find that daunting. What I love is that my financial gain is directly affected by how hard I work. Unlike my experience working in corporate radio – I worked my tail off and ended up in the General Manager’s office fighting for a measly 3% raise at contract renewal time. That didn’t even cover the increased cost of my healthcare contribution!
I also enjoy the relative lack of sexism in real estate investing. I’m sure it exists, but I’ve yet to run into it. From what I’ve seen, it’s all about the deal. Very egalitarian!
I want my daughter to learn about investing and running a business by watching Mommy and Daddy. I want her to look at work in an entrepreneurial way. Steve & I have made some mistakes in our business that have cost us quite a bit of money. I refer to the lost money as “tuition to the School of Hard Knocks.” We’re both Doctoral candidates at this point. I want our daughter to look at her mistakes and failures and ask herself, “what can I learn from this? How can it make me better?” Because quitting is not an option.
And most importantly, I want her to learn that when someone bullies you, you stand up to them. She is watching me as I mount this fight for property rights against Wilkes-Barre’s One Strike law. Because she is watching, I need to be very careful how I fight this fight. I can’t lose my temper or do anything irrational. I can’t let the fight eat my life – I still have to work, attend to the other aspects of my business, and take care of her. I can’t let frustrating setbacks affect my attitude and make me short with her Daddy (that has happened, and she made us apologize to each other!) And I can’t quit.
So what’s next with the Wilkes-Barre One Strike fight? I’ve been laying pretty low the last few weeks. Since our investment partner decided not to persue a lawsuit I’ve mostly been just writing this blog and speaking to the real estate groups. And taking care of my own business. If one of MY buildings gets shut down under One Strike you’re damn right I’m going to sue the city, and for quite a bit of money. So I’m making sure I’m running a tight ship – they will have nothing to say about my business. I will make sure it is flawless.
I will be addressing City Council again soon, as it seems they’ve not acted on my suggestions to reform One Strike. There is, as of today, no instructions a city landlord can follow that will protect them from getting shut down for six months if a tenant is arrested on property. Has this crackdown on landlords stopped the crime wave in the city? No, it has not. It has been horribly ineffective. There’s a shooting in the news almost every day now, it’s starting to get boring! Would spelling out a plan allowing landlords to work with city officials and police do anything to quell the crime wave? I suspect it might. And it’s worth a try, since the status quo clearly isn’t working.
Sounds like Mommy needs to give City Council a dose of common sense. Or maybe I’ll bring Savannah, and let her explain it to them.