Suburban MommyTales

A collection of my zany rookie suburbanite antics. Enjoy!

JULY 5, 2012: DON’T RING MY DOORBELL: I’M AFRAID OF YOU.

So, I have a confession to make: I am utterly terrified of people coming to my front door. I literally just hid, crouching on the floor in my kitchen for 10 minutes, to avoid whoever rang my doorbell at noon on a weekday. It’s just the latest quirk on my growing list of rookie suburbanite neuroses.

Maybe it’s that I used to produce crime shows for a living and I’m a little spooked about home invasions, angry former interviewees, murderers posing as book salesmen or jealous exes (hello… remember Amy Fisher?!). Or, it might be that I just got a little too used to city living in an apartment building with video entry and I’m lazy.

But maybe it’s something deeper. Would I rather they email or text me first? Does this speak to larger deep-seated issues I might have about face-to-face contact in today’s text-email-Facebook-Twitter dominated landscape?

Nah. I love me some face-to-face action.

My fear of uninvited doorbell ringers stems mostly from the fact that Bruce Willis (our dog, not the actor, but maybe he’d go nuts too) goes ape whenever anyone rings the bell. This usually ignites a chain reaction that involves The Bear either waking up early from a nap and/or freaking out and chasing the dog, resulting in me chasing both of them, tripping, bruising something, and finally, once I’ve corralled both of them, angrily answering the door with an irate “WHAT,” only to discover that the person has left. So, I’ve just stopped answering altogether.

I’m shocked (and, clearly, dismayed) by the amount of unexpected people that ring our doorbell on a daily basis. At least once a day, and it’s never anyone I know. Sometimes it’s a neighborhood kid asking for a donation for his sports team (we usually oblige), but more often than not it’s the paid employee of a company asking—nay, telling—me to buy something.  So far no murderers, but then again, I only open the door one out of five times (usually when they’ve seen me in the window and I have no choice). I’m pretty positive those four unanswered doorbells saved all our lives.

My doorbell fear goes both ways, too. Two winters ago, when my brother-in-law was running for Alderman in Chicago, my husband recruited me to go door-to-door with him on a cold day to get signatures on a petition to get my BIL on the ballot… I suspect it was because I was 7 months pregnant, and the sight of a chubby, huffing, puffing, Preggo with a clipboard, pen and a smile would be disarming. I was terrified then, too. What if we caught someone on a bad day, and they came to the door with a baseball bat or a shotgun? Or, god forbid, what if they (gasp) yelled at us for bothering them?

In the end, it worked out pretty well… most of the people either happily signed or politely declined. There were a few Grumpies, but no baseball bats. [Also, I made sure to look extra pregnant and winded when they looked through their windows before opening. I think that was the trick. My BIL is a pretty stand up guy, too :) ]

My husband had a hearty chortle last week when I told him I wanted to post a “No Soliciters” sign on our front gate. “Only you would be afraid of little kids coming to the door asking for money,” he laughed. Have I transformed into one of those hypothetical angry people I was afraid of encountering back on that blustery door-to-door day in Chicago? Sounds like it, huh?

Because I’m not really the unfriendly weirdo I seem like from my story above, I’ve decided to create my own sign for our front gate, to help clarify my neuroses:

Murderers: Keep out (obviously).

Salesmen: Leave me alone; our spare cash goes to The Bear.

Kids asking for money: Only when it’s not nap time.

Girl Scouts selling cookies: What the hell took you so long? Get in here, kid!

I’ll keep working on my front door phobia, but until then, Friends, if you’re planning to drop by for a visit, call me first. Otherwise you’ll know where to find me when you have to crawl in through the window because I don’t answer: under my dining room table.

JUNE 25, 2012 — WHERE’S THE PARTY… AND MY WALLET?

So, here’s one of many things I’ve learned from six months of living in the suburbs: ‘Burb ladies love throwing parties where their guests can buy something. Chances are, if you creep through a gated community on a weeknight in my town, you’ll find a chatty group of thirtysomethings drinking Shiraz and trying on dangly earrings or smearing on lip gloss with a Q-tip while an attentive hostess fills their glasses and touts the wonders of this incredible, not-available-in-stores product. Be it makeup, baby clothes, adult clothes, wine, candles, purses, sunglasses, jewelry, even essential oils, the options are numerous and sundry.

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When I was invited to my first product party, it was a couple of weeks after we moved here. I was desperately seeking lady friends and time outside the house sans The Bear, but thrown into a bit of a tizzy by the invitation.

Questions began circling my head: If I went, did it mean I’d be obliged to buy something? If I did buy something, would I then be talked into selling the product too? If I said yes, could I make money doing it, or would I have to invest lots of cash into my new business, then be forced to explain to my husband when I got home that I drained our savings account so that my new friends wouldn’t be mad at me? What about if I didn’t buy something? Would I be shunned by all the partygoers and promptly ousted from my new spot in their social circle? The unanswered questions (though clearly neurotic and ridiculous) were too numerous: I turned down the invitation and stayed home to watch re-runs of True Blood.

Weeks turned into months, and with new friends came more turned-down product party invitations… but there were also conversations that went like this:

Me: “Hey, where did you get those adorable bracelets?”

Friend 1: “Oh, I went to an XYZ party last week. I thought I’d just go to get a night away from the kids, but the jewelry was actually pretty cute, so I bought some.”

Or…

Me: “What’d you do last night?”

Friend 2: “Rosemary threw a party where you could buy skincare products. They smelled weird so I just hung out and drank wine.”

Or even…

Me: “So how did you girls meet?”

Them: “At a purse party. We really hit it off because we both like clutches.”

Hmm….

There was absolutely no talk of being tied down and forced to write checks… or of being tricked into investing your savings into a line of scented candles. Could it be that my city girl sensibility of being suspicious of everyone and everything was preventing me from actually having fun and meeting people in my new suburban environment? I hated to admit it, but it was probably true…

Last week I decided to meet up with a work-at-home mom friend of mine who sells essential oils. She occasionally hosts classes where attendees can buy them, but—you guessed it—I’ve never made it to one. I get migraines and was hoping she could help me treat them without having to rely so heavily on my usual cocktail of Excedrin, Gatorade and a nap (impossible with a toddler), so I gave her a call.

After an hour of chatting about the company she works for, and sampling some of her deliciously scented wares, I cautiously settled on a couple of oil blends (reviews to come) and promised to try more when I was ready. “I’m not ready to invest too much in this…” I started. I flinched, waiting for her to push back and try to convince me that it was smarter to buy the whole kit. Amazingly, she didn’t. She even pointed out a few money saving tips as I picked my way through her catalog. She just wanted me to feel better…and I did, immediately. But it had nothing to do with my migraines; I was so refreshed by the ease of the whole experience that I vowed right then and there to accept my next product party invitation.

The moral of my little suburban tale is this: before you make assumptions about something you’ve never done before, stop acting like a neurotic shut-in like I did and give it a try. No one will force your hand, you might actually find a product you love (or in my case, need) and maybe, just maybe…you might make a new friend (cue rainbows and unicorns). Am I being naïve? Jaded City Erin says maybe… but sassy suburban Mommy Erin says, “Free wine? Where’s the party?”

To get you (and me) started on your new adventure, I’ve put together a little guide for any other suspicious newbies out there looking to navigate their local product party circuit and maybe even hoping to start their own work-from-home business:

Mary Kay: The grandmama of all direct buy companies, MK has been around since 1963. I can remember going to a Mary Kay party when I was in college, and looking a little garish afterward, thanks to the orange-y lipstick I tried on, but I know moms today that absolutely swear by MK’s night cream as a miracle cure for diaper rash! Who knew?!? Consultants for Mary Kay make up to 50% of every sale they make, a percentage of their recruit’s sales, and there’s the famous pink car—consultants can “win” it after they hit certain lofty sales goals. Parties are an opportunity to try on makeup and skin care products after the consultant gives you a spiel on what’s new.

Imagelia sophia A direct-buy jewelry company that has been in business for 30 years. A family-run company, feminist ideals, lifetime replacement guarantee, and huge variety. Consultants keep 30% of their sales and party hostesses get “paid” in product discounts and free jewelry. Their prices seem a little hefty to me, though. Despite the “lifetime replacement guarantee,” $98 seems like a lot to spend on a set of faux gold bracelets I could probably get for $8 at Charming Charlie. But, as a costume jewelry addict, I could be convinced to spend at one of these parties.

CAbi: An abbreviation of Carol Anderson by Invitation (she’s the designer), CAbi is a women’s clothing company that bills itself as the “ultimate personal shopping experience.” Their colorful (ok, very colorful) sportswear is designed to mix and match, helping women max out their clothing options. Parties are like miniature fashion shows, with a CAbi consultant introducing the line and helping attendees try on clothes to show their friends as they nibble on food and have cocktails. CAbi has a user-friendly website that helps its clients accessorize their CAbi designs, plus a blog with recipes, fashion tips, etc. CAbi lists their consultants’ median income at around 20K for 2011.

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Pampered Chef is geared toward all things kitchen, from gadgets to cookbooks to cutlery. Pampered chef parties are designed to feel like you’re inside a Food Network cooking demonstration, with the recipes geared toward showcasing PC’s featured products. Anything with food sounds attractive to me, so I’d be excited to attend one of these. PC hostesses get free products, hefty discounts on products and free shipping on anything they buy. Consultants make anywhere from 20-25% commission on sales and get perks like vacations and jewelry when they hit certain sales goals.

Miche (pronounced mee-she) is a newcomer to direct buy products compared to the others on this list, but is gaining popularity due to its unique design features. Miche bags have interchangeable “shells” that can quickly be swapped to match your shoes without having to dump and transfer the contents inside. It’s a cool idea, and the prices are pretty great (around $20-$40 for the “base” bag and $15-$45 per shell), considering how many options you can create with one “base.” Consultants can make up to 35% commission on their sales, and party hostesses get discounts and freebies. Check out my friend Tiffany’s Miche page here. Tiff is hosting her big product launch party this week!

ImageWhen it comes to direct buy opportunities, my list is just a microscopic sampling—there are hundreds of these out there… maybe even thousands. Some ladies get involved strictly for the social aspects and freebies, but it sounds like you can actually make a pretty decent income if you become a sales consultant, which explains why so many stay-at-home moms are joining the ranks and becoming work-at-home moms (or “naptime entrepreneurs,” as my friend Claire likes to call it!). I’ll be sure to ask at my next party and update this post accordingly!

Oh, and to my beloved girls here in town who might be reading this today and thinking “pssh, I’m not inviting her to any more of my XYZ parties.” Please keep inviting me! I promise I’ll be there next time with a bottle of wine… and my wallet, just in case ;)

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