I Want You... And my Career
"What are you saying to me?" Alicia asked Jefferson, incredulity clear in her voice. Alicia Mattison-Frazier and Jefferson Frazier had been married for three months after dating for almost two years. Alicia was a marketing professional while Jefferson owned a financial consulting firm. He earned considerably more than she, but Alicia added significantly to their bottom line. Their intention was to have children in two years when Alicia was thirty-four and Jefferson, thirty-five, but when they found out Alicia was eight weeks pregnant, Jefferson's immediate response was for her to stop working. Jefferson's eyes met his wife's.
"I'm saying I want you to quit your job; maybe not immediately, but by the seventh month. I want you home and protected for the last couple months of your pregnancy and then home with my child until he or she begins school. That's important to me. We are not raising latchkey kids."
Alicia's mouth literally dropped open at his words, and she was almost convinced she was dreaming. He could not possibly be defining her entire future.
"Jefferson, that's the most archaic thing I've ever heard. I have a very real career, and I plan to work until I'm not able to. I feel twelve weeks is sufficient maternity leave. My agency offers onsite childcare that we can drop in anytime."
Jefferson pulled himself up to his considerable height and glanced down into the deep brown eyes of his wife.
"That's not good enough, Alicia. My mom was single and lost a child while at work. Not only that, but I came home every day to an empty house and a cold sandwich, only to be babysat by a television. I will not have that for my child."
Taking a deep breath, Alicia weighed her words before saying them. She didn't want to offend the man she loved, however, she had something to say. Reaching out, she touched the sleeve of Jefferson's fine wool jacket.
"Jeff, I'm a professional woman with ten years into a growing career, and I'm not interested in shelving all I’ve worked for. Your mom was working in a tool factory when she had a miscarriage. She returned to work because she had to and could not afford child care. That's not our situation. Besides we never discussed me giving up my career when I got pregnant. You should have mentioned it before."
Jefferson's nose flared as it was prone to do when he was annoyed. Alicia’s heart lurched because he was a handsome man whom she loved completely, but no one told her that love, marriage, and having a child meant she would have to give up her career.
"We are discussing it now, Alicia. I'm not risking my child."
"Jefferson, you have one more time to call OUR baby your child. I'm carrying our child, in our marriage, where we make life changing decisions together!"
His eyes narrowed before he turned and allowed the door to close behind him as he walked out of the house.
I think we just fought Alicia thought as she made her way to their bedroom. She was happy about becoming a mother and having their child, but giving up her career for over five years wasn't an option. She never agreed to that. She was not agreeing to that. She quickly showered and shook off the conversation. They would talk later. Jefferson was her husband, not her dictator.
Jefferson sat in the car, fuming. He wasn't pleased with how that went or how he said it, but he meant it. His dream had always been to be a man who took care of his family. He married Alicia, and with a career, home, and investments intact; and though they planned to wait two years, she was pregnant now. His goal was to ease her into being a stay-at-home mom, but life escalated things. Jefferson recalled meeting Alicia and being enamored with the soft spoken beauty, who was quiet and deep and knew a great deal about a variety of subjects. She loved sports and finance as much as he did. He actually respected her accomplishments, and she knew he did. Alicia was right about his traditional child rearing ideas not coming up until now. Jefferson had not wanted to scare her off or lose her. Rubbing his head, he pulled off into traffic. He needed to talk to a woman he was sure would understand; his mother Marie.
Pulling up to the ranch style home in an aging but lovely neighborhood, Jefferson smiled. His mom was in her mid-fifties and still unmarried. He had been able to purchase this home for her and afford her to live better than she ever had. Marie still worked for the same manufacturing company, but was promoted to supervisor ten years earlier and loved her job. Before he could even knock, the door opened, and Marie invited Jefferson inside. She looked around him as if she expected to see Alicia. Jefferson walked in and sat on the sofa.
"She's not with me."
"Is everything okay?"
Jefferson could hear the genuine concern in his mother's voice, and he knew she adored Alicia. That was a factor in his asking her to marry him when he saw the genuine love between Alicia and Marie.
"Yes and no. First of all, you're going to be grandma." Marie squealed, dancing a mini jig before grabbing her son in a hug. He stood, yielding to the hug. He had to smile at his mom's exuberance.
"Son, that's the best news, but why are you here, or more importantly, why isn't Alicia here with you?"
"We had a disagreement. I told her she needed to quit her job and plan to be home with our child, and she said some gibberish about her career." Marie's face quickly displayed a flicker of ranging emotions before she sat down next to her son.
"Why would she quit her job, Jefferson?" Maria asked quietly. His eyes didn't quite meet his mother's.
"It's just the right thing to do..."
"Because your mama didn't stay home with you and lost your little brother or sister, so you're going to recreate the wheel with your wife? Or is it because your daddy didn't take care of us, allowing me to be home every day with milk and cookies that you're going to reduce your wife to that?"
Shock marred Jefferson's face at Marie's words. "Huh?”
"You heard me. You married a smart career woman who already had great job, home, car and future, and because you want to prove something to the world, but mostly yourself, you want to turn her into your wish for a mama instead of leaving her to be the woman she is..."
"Shut up Jefferson. You are over here with your mama sulking when you should be home with your wife, rubbing her belly or getting her tea or something. I'm ashamed of you. I really am." Jefferson stared at Marie, unable to process what she said. He stood to leave, but Marie grabbed his arm. "Before you go home, you need to think long and hard about your motivation Jefferson. You might not have had your dad or a brother or sister, but you had a mom who worked her ass off to support and provide for you, and carved a career out of nothing for herself. You can be embarrassed about that if you wish, but do not penalize that woman who loves you and is capable of doing just that, raising a child and having a career. You think and make some decisions."
"I love you..."
"I love you, Jefferson but you are dead ass wrong, and you need to get it right."
Jefferson wasn't ready to go home. He drove to the barbershop. Cuttin' Up was owned by his cousin Morris, a confessed playboy, and he knew he would get some respect there. Walking in, he noted it was mostly empty except for a kid in the chair. The other barbers were cleaning up their areas.
"What's up married man? How did you get out the house?" Morris asked.
"I needed to. Can you hook me up?"
"I got you. I'm almost done with Youngblood. I'll take him next door then I'll set you straight."
When Morris returned from taking the kid, Jefferson was in the chair waiting.
"So what's up Jeff? With your life, and especially your woman, I would never leave home."
"I'm going to be daddy..."
"That's great. We need that. You sound happy, but something else is at play." Morris noted.
"Alicia wants to continue working. I want her home. I can take care of mine." For several minutes all could be heard was the buzzing of the clippers.
"Brother, you are ridiculous. If you wanted that kind of woman, then you shouldn't have married a got-it-going on woman. Brothers all over town want your problems, including me. Alicia is beautiful, smart, and paid, and she loves your dumb ass. You got first world problems," Morris said and continued the haircut. When he was done, he handed Jefferson the mirror.
"I'm good," Jefferson said, pulling out a twenty and throwing it on the counter. He embraced his cousin before heading out.
"Congrats man. Don’t be a fool." Morris said. Not responding, Jefferson waved, walking out.
Once Alicia was changed and preparing dinner, the doorbell rang. Thinking it was Jefferson, Alicia rushed to answer the door, and seeing that it was her mom, tears filled her eyes. Concern filled Phyllis as she wrapped her arms around her daughter, holding her close. Once Alicia was spent, she led her mom to the kitchen, filling her in. Alicia had always been reticent about discussing her relationship with her parents, but she felt overwhelmed. After hearing about the baby, Phyllis expressed her joy but knew she needed to bring balance and clarity.
"Did he demand or is that how you heard it?" Phyllis asked.
"He demanded and then he left. Mom, I'm not giving up my career. I love Jefferson, and I want this baby." He unconsciously rubbed her belly. "We did not discuss this. Not once. He always seemed to respect what I did and who I am. He came out of left field with this."
"I understand, but life and marriage are full of compromise. When I got pregnant with you, Forrest was a new dentist, and I would have loved to stay home a while, but I didn't have that option. My job teaching paid the bills. Forrest didn't want to work for anyone else, and we needed my check. That's why we didn't have another child. I couldn't bear to turn another child over to daycare. My career eventually flourished as did Forrest's dental practice, but I would have loved at least a year or two home with you. Sometimes we do what we want, always, and that's called being single. Other times we meet our loves, halfway. That's called being married." Alicia gasped at her mom's words. She never had an inkling.
"Mom I didn't know that. Are you suggesting I do as he wishes, my feelings be damned? I should just stay home, have babies and pretend I'm not career oriented?"
"Of course not, Alicia. Your situation is different in what your company offers with a childcare stipend and on-premises childcare, but there are compromises to be made. It does not have to be all or nothing. Perhaps you can take a longer maternity leave or perhaps work part time. There is also the option of hanging out your own shingle. You always wanted your own business. You're just like your daddy in that way. You could make that happen. There are always options."
The idea of starting her own small marketing firm was Alicia's dream. It would also allow her to work from home since much of her campaigns were done online and she could tailor her schedule. She would also get to be a hands-on mom, having the best of all possible worlds.
"Oh mom... Jefferson is so stubborn."
"Perhaps, but that man loves you… Talk to him. By the way, I felt something was wrong with my baby so I stopped by. Can I tell Forrest?"
"Of course." Phyllis wrapped her arms around her daughter, congratulating her again before leaving.
Alicia was pulling food from the oven when Jefferson walked in. He stood in the door watching her, and his heart filled with love. She was so pretty in her mini dress and the heat from the stove made her brown skin glow. He knew she would be a great mom. Turning to place the dish on the counter, she smiled at him.
"Go wash up. We have baked angel hair pasta with shrimp and garlic marinara." His stomach rumbled at the scent of the food, and he grinned before going to change. When he returned, Alicia had placed plates of food on the table, with a beer for him and tea for her. They sat, joining hands as they always did, and blessed the food. They ate quietly for several minutes before Jefferson spoke.
"I love you, Alicia." She continued eating. "I'm sorry. I was so happy to hear that we were going to have a baby, and I ruined it. I panicked and transferred my feelings about my childhood to you, to us." Placing her fork down, she looked up, giving Jefferson her full attention.
"How's Mama Marie?"
He grinned sheepishly at her insight.
"She's good, and she chopped me to bits. She cussed me out too. Most importantly, she made me think. I fell in love with a full woman. I love a full woman. I would be a damn lie if I said I am going to be happy with you going back to work when our baby is twelve weeks old, but I'll work with it. Believe or not, Morris also handed me my ass."
Picking up her fork, Alicia continued eating quietly until her plate was clean. Jefferson ate also, watching his wife. After they were done, she filled the dishwasher, and they cleaned the kitchen before she said another word. Once they were seated in the living room, Jefferson said, "Alicia, you're killing me."
"That's not my goal, but I also had a mama visit. Mine stopped by..."
"Oh no, now I'm in double trouble."
"Not at all, Jefferson. Mom actually saw both our positions." She filled him in on what Phyllis shared.
"Wow... You never knew?"
"I didn't, but what resonated was her talking about compromise. Neither of us discussed compromise. You demanded, and I snapped back. We are married, and on the parent road, I have a proposition."
"I'll quit working at seven months..." He smiled almost smugly and that sent a frisson of desire through her, but it made her giggle. Jefferson was so sure of his charm. "However, I'm going back to work when our child turns one." As quickly as the smile appeared, it receded, though Jefferson tried to mask his dissatisfaction.
"I’m going back to work for me. I'm going to open AF Marketing from here and hire a part- time nanny and assistant. That way, I'll have the best of all possible worlds. So at the age we originally planned to have the baby, I can take care of our baby and birth a new career."
Jefferson allowed what she said to resonate and penetrate his mind, realizing he loved the sound of that, and he knew that AF stood for Alicia Forrest. Unable to speak, he covered her mouth with his, kissing her until they were breathless.
"I'm sorry baby, that's beautiful. I just want to love and care for you." Their eyes met, mirroring the love shown in one another’s.
"I know. I love you, and I want a career. It is possible you know, with love and compromise."
Angelia Vernon Menchan
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