Lean In…it’s not what you think…


I was pretty appalled when Boof presented me with a book he bought off Amazon: Lean In. I even believe the words out of my mouth were, “What, you think I’m not handling the career/motherhood balance enough? You think I need to work more? Work harder?” He was flabbergasted, as he had done this as a sweet gesture based on the fact that a) I love reading, and b) had been discussing some gender discrimination that I was witnessing at work. In fact, my pre-conceived opinion of the book had been based on some bloggy articles reviewing the premise, and now that I’m 3/4 of the way through the book I assume that those individuals who made critical write-ups of Sheryl Sandburg’s philosophy had, themselves, not actually read the book, either.

What I thought was going to be the idea “lean-in to your career, get ahead at the sacrifice of your family,” is actually a well-thought-and-lived out manifesto for how strong women are and how they can be even more strategic both at home AND at work to get the maximum out of their life. It was like a breath of fresh air, particularly because I am surrounded by women who have chosen to stay-at-home full time and I often feel that I am a crazy person for LOVING my job (or, on most days, liking it about as much as I like my husband Boof whom I’m committed to forever…which says a lot more than shmoopy ‘ohmygawdmyjobisthebestest!sqeee!). I though it was going to tell me that I need to strive for high paying executive jobs (of which I have no desire…at this point), but instead it was about making myself open to the possibilities that lie before me without being afraid.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was this idea of the ways that women prevent themselves from the success they want by making sacrifices for family…before they even HAVE a family. Whoa, that hit me in the gut like a punch. Because here I am, at a job I love, but thinking silently and secretly to myself in my heart of hearts “well, if I don’t do that good of job at my administrative stuff, it won’t hurt so bad when I have a 2nd kid and either I need to take extended time off or they don’t renew my contract and find someone else.”

Um, what? The potential for getting pregnant sometime in the next 2 years has been influencing whether I do a top-notch job in the here-and-now of my job. Whoa. That’s powerful. While not going into statistics (yawn), she does say that many women begin making these type sacrifices (not going for promotions, or switching companies/jobs to something more lucrative or desirable or challenging) years before they even begin having a family (one funny anecdote was a woman doing this before she even had a boyfriend! imagine that!). But that there is an inevitable time when mothers will take some time off (be it maternity leave or extended family leave) and if they haven’t set themselves up to be where they want to be, they tend to be dissatisfied when they come back after 3 months, 3 or 10 years later. Yeah. These women feel undervalued and underpaid BECAUSE THEY ARE. They look around and see, “dang, those that weren’t parents, they took risks and now they’re getting XYZ salary, why am I still at this piddly level?”

Now maybe that’s extreme and doesn’t apply to everyone, but I sure as hell know that if I hadn’t gotten that new job (coincidentally the day that I learned I was pregnant), I wouldn’t have left that previous company because of fear of being able to do anything else while pregnant or with a child. Despite the toxic non-profit environment I was in, I would have sucked it up and likely would have had a slow soul-death in an un-fulfilling dead-end job that served me well for the first 7 months post-graduate school, but wouldn’t have sustained me 3 years later.

This book validated my desires and reminded me not to feel bad for the 3 jobs in 2.5 years that I took because I was career advancing and now I am in my “dream job,” though I know that there is so much more that I want to contribute at the collegiate level in different capacities. It might mean more schooling or moving colleges, but it certainly doesn’t mean willfully sitting on pinterest for 8 hours a day to set myself up for handling the rejection if I can’t come back after a hypothetical 2nd kid comes along, ya know?

Now I haven’t agreed with everything she says, but it has given me a lot to chew on and has validated my experience as a working-mom, or, as she says a ‘career loving parent,” because that’s the truth: I absolutely adore and love Potamus, and I also know that I am built to be leaning-in to a career that fulfills me, too!

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3 Comments

  1. I’m so glad to read your thoughts on this. My impressions have been similar to your initial thoughts on leaning in (“What? What I’m doing now isn’t enough?!”), and now I’m inspired to read the book myself. Great insight from you. Thanks!

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