lean in

by humanmama on March 22, 2013

There’s a really interesting piece in the latest Time magazine about Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg (actually, it was like 2 Time’s ago, but since I’m just getting around to reading it it’s the latest, for me. Which means that at this rate I’m on Season 1 episode 2 of Downton Abbey, so don’t spoil anything for me!). She’s a very influential leading corporate businesswoman, and she urges women to lean in to the corporate world. She writes that women lean back away from leadership from a very early point in their careers, thinking that since they want a family they should hold off on being driven until later. Then, after kids come, if the women reenter the work force, they figure they can’t get to the top and basically finish off their careers on the outskirts of the ladder, never daring to climb too high for fear that they already missed their opportunity, or that their family prevents them from reaching lofty goals.

She also mentions how little of the higher echelon of the workplace is made up of women–roughly only 4.3% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. In 2013! And I’m sure in her book Lean In, out this year, she goes on. Sandberg believes that women should stay in the workforce, if they so desire, and even if they need to leave for childrearing, that they should come back and give their all to advancing.

It got me thinking a lot about Staying At Home. As I often write, I’m kind-of an accidental SAHM. I was laid off, it worked out, and we didn’t look back. Well, our family didn’t look back. Pretty much once or twice a year (definitely every winter) I look back, with yearning and nostalgia, at my old career. It’s still there, laying on the side of the road about six years back, old and tattered with some litter stuck to it. But it’s still there.

Many women I know are happy to stay at home. Some even say [I’m thinking of a great friend and neighbor here] that they were never really career people. This is what they always felt called to do, and it’s awesome. It’s awesome because they’re totally honest about it, how much it sucks sometimes, how exhausting and draining it is, but that this is what they wanted and what they chose.

Then there are the women I know who are working full- or part-time. They’re happy to have the incoming paycheck. They [often] enjoy their jobs. They know it wouldn’t work without their income, and they know they chose to work. And some of them are truly okay with work being the career path they chose.

But most women are like me. Stuck in the middle. Not always hating it, mind you! Sometimes really loving it! But feeling guilty for working. Or feeling guilty for not working [outside the home, you know we’re all working]. Feeling like they are trying their hardest. And failing a lot. Sandberg says that one of the biggest myths ever invented was the catchphrase having it all, since that is so damaging to women. No one can have it all. No matter how hard you try! So I found a lot of solace in a quote from a small article that Sandberg wrote herself, titled Why I Want Women to Lean In:

When I remember that no one can do it all and identify my real priorities at home and at work, I feel better–and I am more productive in the office and probably a better mother as well. Instead of perfect, we should aim for sustainable and fulfilling. [emphasis mine, Time March 18 2013.]

Okay. Sustainable and fulfilling. Sustainable and fulfilling. I’ll work on that. That and the dishes. And the laundry. And the housework. And the blog. And the bills. And the dog.


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