I was having lunch with a working mom friend the other day, and she asked me, “Have you read Lean In yet?”
Books? Read? Time? *Sigh*
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is the latest best-selling business/life manifesto that’s got the working mom community abuzz.
Some have praised Lean In as “a useful guide for thinking through situations where there is no clear or easy answer—particularly those where women face social obstacles particular to their gender.”
Others dismiss the book as lean on substance and heavy on self-help schtick, such as Anne Applebaum of the New York Times: “Read Lean In if you’re looking for some positive uplift, some stirring stories, and some advice about your job or your marriage. But don’t read it if you want to learn how to change the world.”
Side note: One book I believe could teach you how to change the world is No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power by Gloria Feldt. I did manage to read that one, and while I can’t say I employed all of her great advice, it definitely changed how I thought about power.
I can’t really say where I stand on Lean In, because like I said above in the short answer: Reading long-form books is a luxury I haven’t made time for in the past few years. Which is sad, considering I am a total book nerd and used to read novels and nonfiction alike like some people munch on potato chips.
So the premise of the book, as Anne Marie Slaughter summed it up, is this:
Notwithstanding the many gender biases that still operate all over the workplace, excuses and justifications won’t get women anywhere. Instead, believe in yourself, give it your all, “lean in” and “don’t leave before you leave” — which is to say, don’t doubt your ability to combine work and family and thus edge yourself out of plum assignments before you even have a baby.
Leaning in can promote a virtuous circle: you assume you can juggle work and family, you step forward, you succeed professionally, and then you’re in a better position to ask for what you need and to make changes that could benefit others.
My friend, who did actually read Lean In (because she’s way better at time management than I am, among other things), assessed that I am currently following the Lean In model.
Me? That gave me pause.
While I once considered myself quite the ambitious professional lady, after I had kids, I started feeling that seemingly inevitable slide of performance and expectations. The responsibilities of motherhood, full-time work, and all the other stuff I signed up for weighed me down. I felt like I wasn’t all that great at any of them, but did enough to be passable.
I also haven’t been super passionate about work. Yes, my jobs paid the bills and were somewhat interesting to me intellectually. But post-kids, work always felt like a “thing I had to do” and got in the way of the “things I want or need to do” at home or personally.
But since I started this new job as a VP at a tech startup, I’m definitely leaning in. I want to give this opportunity my all. Possibilities for new content partnerships or improvements to our company’s Pinterest tools pop into my head all the time.
At my last gig, I rarely checked my work email outside of work hours. Didn’t feel the need. Now, I choose to have both work and personal emails pop up on my phone (which serves as both my work and personal phone) and everything’s merged together.
Is that bad? Unhealthy? Or good because it shows how into my work I am?
I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is, I’m excited to go to work each morning and have to pull myself away at night. It’s not that I don’t want to go home and be with my family. It’s just that I’m so digging on the entrepreneurial, fast-paced, self-directed work I’m doing. Cruising Pinterest and blogs to discover great content. Meeting new bloggers and publishers and seeing how we can work together for mutual success. That shit is cool and exactly how I want to spend my work day.
Meanwhile, I’m super glad to have a summer sitter my kids love (she’s like a one-woman personalized summer camp). And my hubs and parents help fill in the gaps when I have to work.
So I think I’m going to keep on leaning in, immersing myself in work, but also forcing myself to come up for air. I can’t let this phase take over my life so that I withdraw as a mom or spouse. Tomorrow, I’m totally checking out of work stuff and making Sunday all about the fam. We’ll go to church, maybe the pool, and just enjoy each other.