“It’s at 2:30 on Friday. But it’s fine. Just have your house and food completely ready, and come in your Shabbos clothing”
Neil Starr was a guy worth pleasing. He was a well-connected businessman, and he had a spacious home he was thinking of selling. I wanted to be his realtor.
But Neil Starr was also impossible to pin down. Every time I managed to get him on the phone — and even that was a challenge — he reiterated how much he wanted to meet. And then he’d promptly nix every possible meeting time I offered.
Finally, on our fourth call, he said, “You know what? I should have an opening at 2:30 on Friday afternoon. Swing by then, and we can talk.”
It was the dead of winter; candle lighting was at 4:38. But I’d make it work. I called Malky, a new employee I was training. “We finally have a time for our listing appointment with Neil!” I crowed.
“Well, that’s the thing — it’s at 2:30 on Friday. But it’s fine. Just have your house and food completely ready, and come in your Shabbos clothing.”
“Seriously? You come to a meeting in your Shabbos clothing?”
Malky was dubious; she lived 20 minutes from Neil’s house, so the meeting would be tight. Since I lived only five minutes away, I told her she could leave when she had to, and I’d take care of the rest.
That Friday, I raced around, peeling, cooking, cleaning. At 2:20 my food was warming in the oven, I was in Shabbos clothing, and the house sparkled. I headed out.
Neil had a lot of questions about the process, and our meeting dragged on. At five minutes to four, Malky took a look at her watch, gasped, and excused herself. I stayed on a little longer, trying to hammer out every detail of our potential contract.
“This is sounding good,” Neil said as I wound the meeting down, “but I’m not quite ready to sign. I need to think it over.”
I swallowed a sigh, told him I’d be in touch early the next week, and bolted. By the time I left his house, the street was full of men heading to shul for Minchah. I got home just a few minutes before candle lighting.
“Where were you, Mommy?” my kids asked.
“I had a work meeting,” I told them.
“Work? Now?” There was shock in their voices. And I felt a sudden flush of shame.
I called Neil on Sunday morning — only to discover that someone else had approached him an hour earlier. The story spilled out.
Apparently, one of the men heading to shul had noticed a frum woman hurrying out of the house. And when he got to shul, he had news for his friend.
“Hey, isn’t your sister-in-law looking to buy in our area? I think my neighbor’s house is about to go on the market. Why don’t you make him an offer?”
Early Sunday morning, they made an offer, Neil accepted, and I lost the job. It hurt, but it was worth it. It helped me realize I’d gone too far, worked too hard, and crossed a boundary I didn’t want to ever cross again.
Many working women feel like they need to give their job their all and then some. That if they’re not available around the clock, people will feel like they aren’t invested or won’t be fully devoted to the job.
A short while after I opened my business, I discovered I was expecting. But I kept putting in long hours, striving to juggle it all. I was in active labor when a client called, and, with enormous difficulty, I had a full conversation with her. When my husband realized what was happening, he gave me a reality check: “This is not okay. It’s fine to be dedicated, but this is going too far.”
When I was expecting my next baby, I again had a potential client call when I was in labor. “I can’t talk now,” I told her. “Let’s be in touch later.”
The next day, she heard I’d had a baby and called to wish me mazel tov. “I can’t believe you answered the phone when you were in labor,” she told me later. I admitted that this was an improvement; at least I’d told her we’d have to talk some other time….
She wanted to sell her house. I told her that I had a talented agent covering for me during my maternity leave, but the woman said that she only wanted to use me and decided to wait until I got back.
Not everyone had that patience.
The Lanarkys were selling their house and were potentially interested in using me as their agent. We spoke at length over the phone and really clicked. Then we met. I was in my eighth month, and I saw Heather Lanarky look uneasily at my maternity top.
“When are you due?” she asked.
I told them that I have a team — my husband works with me, and I also have another agent on board — so they’d be well taken care of while I was away. But they still decided not to use me; they were afraid I’d have a baby in the middle of the process, and didn’t want to be left in the lurch.
When you’re an entrepreneur in your childbearing years, it can be hard. Still, whenever I’m expecting, I always get comments, particularly from older people, that remind me of what I know, of what’s really important.
Nearly everyone over 60 tells me that if they could do one thing different, they’d have more kids. “I wish I hadn’t let my career get in the way of my family,” these middle-aged clients say wistfully.
“You’re so lucky,” others say when they see me in a maternity outfit. “Keep having them.”
“When you get older, all you want is to have children around you,” they say. Or, “It’s hard now but it’s so worth it!”
We’re told that every baby brings his own brachah, and I’ve seen that play out. I take a full maternity leave for eight weeks, hiring people to take over for me at work and to help run my home, and even though that’s an additional expense, I see that after every baby, we baruch Hashem always have a boom in business.
Whenever it was sunny outside, I used to be so torn. On the one hand, sunny weather is the perfect time to cultivate new clients — everyone is outside with their kids, and it’s a great time to knock on doors and meet new people. On the other hand, I wanted to be outside with my kids, and be there mindfully, not looking over my shoulder.
One summer, I finally put down boundaries. I decided that I’d canvas one afternoon a week, and the other afternoons I’d be a fully present mother. My business didn’t suffer, my kids were much happier — and so was I.
to be continued…
Nechama “Nicky” Norman is a licensed real estate agent servicing greater Lakewood, New Jersey. She focuses on residential property and loves to educate people about buying and selling by hosting seller events.
Double up quality time with errands — take one child grocery shopping with you, another when you pick up a prescription from the pharmacy. This allows you to tackle your to do-list while also focusing on your kids.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 820)
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