I Brought My Daughter to Work

For real, not just a day

When my daughter was born we’d only been living in North Carolina for two months. I had no nearby friends, no nearby family and didn’t even know my way around. The first time I ever stepped foot in this state was the day I moved here, July 3, 2004.

We had been living in California for a year. Before that, Washington State and before that, I lived in Oregon. But I am from Pennsylvania and as much as I loved the West Coast, I wanted to be closer to family when raising kids. So, at six months pregnant, her father came back from a five month business trip in Mexico and said, “We’re moving east.”

“Where are we going?”

He told me the name of a little town I’d never heard up. I looked up their local newspaper and there was a story in the lifestyle section about Goth kids hanging themselves from trees via body piercings. The kind of things bored kids in the middle of nowhere do.

But it was pretty and cost a fraction of what living in Silicon Valley cost. And it was closer (a day’s drive) from my family. So, I went online found an apartment in a decent complex with a pool and rented it.

When we got to town, no one wanted to take on a woman who was seven months pregnant as a new patient even though I’d had prenatal care in California. I hired a doula and hoped for the best. Five weeks before my due date a female OB with four kids of her own took me as a patient.

I went into labor on a Tuesday and had my daughter 30 hours later, on a Wednesday. The following Monday her father left on business. Our doula checked on me on Tuesday. My mother arrived the following Friday. My husband came back two months later. By then I’d found a house for us to buy. We moved in when she was four months old. Then he left again.

I didn’t know anyone except a woman I met in childbirth class. By the time my family leave money ran out, I needed to make money. I’d had a great job making $60k in California. Pretty good money for an English major in 2004. But in this small town, I couldn’t find any work. Not for $60k not for $50k, not even for $25k. I didn’t have a network, I didn’t have connections, I didn’t have leads and this town didn’t have the same kind of work I’d done in California.

On top of that, I didn’t want to put my daughter in day care. My mom stayed home with me, and I may have had a little dream of staying home to draw pictures and play dress up. But that was a different time. These days both parents need to work. So, I started to get creative.

I found a children’s clothing line that I could sell directly to mothers. I ordered the spring line, practiced my sales pitch over the phone to my old friends from all over the country: California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington, Iowa, Montana, Florida, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. I started to hustle. I was still nursing and didn’t know anyone who could watch my daughter (not that I would let them anyway) so she went with me. EVERYWHERE.

We drove all over my little town with boxes of kids’ clothes in the back of my Ford Focus station wagon. I would look back at her sitting in her bucket seat car seat, sound asleep or playing with the toys or making faces into her mirror and think, this girl is amazing.

I would pull into parking lots of swanky, ritzy boutique clothing stores and see women getting out of their SUVs. Volvos and BMWs. Mercedes and Land Rovers. I would scope them out from a distance. How did they dress? What did they drive? Did they have kids in tow? If they did, they were a target and I would approach them, friendly as can be, with my daughter in her Graco bucket car seat carrier to compliment them on their adorable kids. Soon I was pulling out a catalog of kids clothing or a sample “Very Soft, Washable! All Cotton! Harm Free! Stylish! Never Fades!” shirt or pants or dresses from the spring line that were stuffed in my enormous diaper bag.

I sold clothing like this for months. Driving all over. I would do presentations to groups with her in a playpen in the other room. We called them trunk shows. I had a gigantic yellow bag filled with clothes.

Moms are a forgiving bunch, so if my daughter would cry, we would take a break while I soothed her. I rarely needed to though. She was a quiet, observant baby. Now she is an observant pre-teen.

Tomorrow, I’m going to New York City to try to hobnob with publishers and agents. I’m going to pitch book ideas, hand out business cards, sip wine. I’m going to HUSTLE. And I’m bringing my daughter.

She’s twelve now. She doesn’t really know that I always wanted to be a writer. She doesn’t know that I paid for my expensive divorce from her father by selling dirty stories for $350 a pop. I wrote them in the middle of the night. Then in the morning I took her and her brother to daycare and went to work.

I took them to church on Sundays and youth group on Wednesdays and each time I dropped them off and went back to the parking lot — to sleep. I was surviving. It was the hustle.

And just like twelve years ago when I was busting my ass to bring in money with my little baby girl on my hip, this weekend I will be pitching three books, mingling, networking, learning and hustling. I will be working like a boss to pursue my dreams. And she will be right there with me.

She’s going to have to hustle along with me. She’s going to have to wait in waiting rooms, sit in hallways, walk miles, pitch and socialize until she’s exhausted, but she’s going to have to keep on smiling. I’m going to show her how to do it.

She’s always wanted to go to New York City. What girl doesn’t? I wanted her to come too, but she’s coming as my assistant. I’ve printed out my schedule, my pitches, my business cards and my writing samples and queries and she is in charge of all of it. She has braces, glasses and pimples on the outside but inside she has heart and soul and drive and I can’t believe she’s mine.

As a mother, it’s tough to know what to teach your daughter and when. You want to let your children enjoy the innocence and playfulness of youth. But you also want to prepare them for the cruelty and relentlessness of the world.

I’ve taught her about how tough middle school girls can be. I told her tonight that boys/men are more visual and girls seek security and the way a man makes her feel. She gets it. She’s way ahead of me. I don’t know how but she seems to have it all figured out. She’s an observer of the world. She observed, decides and then reacts. I was not like this. I try to be like this but my natural state is that of a pinball bouncing off the things that make the most noise and make everything light up until I’m flunk into the gutter out of nowhere and spit out to try again.

But this weekend, I get to teach my daughter something intentional that I can’t teach her through long talks on road trips or books or hugs. I’m going to teach my daughter the one thing I want her to learn from watching me.

This is how you chase your dreams. This is how you don’t give up. This is how you love the journey.

My baby, goo goo gah ing in a playpen has become a young lady. Her pacifier is gone. She takes selfies on Instagram and makes music videos. She has dreams of her own. My dreams are becoming a reality. And I want to show her that hers will become a reality too, even if they take twenty years longer than expected. And most importantly, I get to share some really big moments with a really amazing girl.