Leaning In: Part 2

Since starting this blog, I’ve been convinced that my mom was the only person that read it. However, my previous Leaning In blog got some serious traction. People I hadn’t spoken to in years contacted me to chat about some of the issues I raised. My blog got reposted by others, and I guess what surprised me most was how much women want to talk about this.  Women are seriously conflicted trying to maintain a work/life balance, especially those of us with kids, and we have minimal outlets for this kind of discussion. On one hand, we want to further our careers. As one person put it to me, “I ‘d love to, but I can’t be a stay-at-home mom. I worked really hard in my 20s and early 30s and I don’t want to give it up to start over.” The sad reality is if you choose the stay-at-home mom route, it’s really tough to get back in the game when your kids go to school 6 years later. There’s always an unencumbered younger person willing to work more hours and for less money. On the other hand, we love our families and value our time with them. What will you remember in 10 years, the night you spent 4 extra hours muddling through a spreadsheet or the night you took the kids to an outdoor movie in the park?

The more I talked with people the more I realize these dialogues are important– the first step toward change, right? But, ugh, alas, not so easy. Here’s the crummy flip side: one friend told me her company urged her to attend “Lean In Sessions.” She had no idea what it was, hadn’t read the book, hadn’t heard of our friend Sheryl Sandberg, but since her boss (a man) told her to go, she went. And…it was awful. The session consisted of a brownbag lunch where women sat around and complained about their jobs and husbands and kids. My friend never went back as it was a pretty worthless enterprise and not a productive way to further her career. I could see why she hated it, BECAUSE IT IS EXACTLY WHAT I DO WITH MY WORKING FRIENDS. We sit around and moan about how hard our lives are as working moms. The only difference is it isn’t in a corporate setting and usually we are ordering food in a restaurant. Yet another problem with all of this: how do you enact change without coming across as a whiny brat?

The reality is you have to sacrifice on either side (the career or the family). You can’t make it perfect and you have to accept that’s part of the deal. You try and make a situation where both are acceptable enough. It’s a lame solution but appears to be the only one: lean in to your career when it makes sense and lean in to your family when you are frustrated with your job. I have to find balance where I can, otherwise, if I lean too much in either direction, I’ll fall.

Finally, a side note: I got the project I mentioned in the previous blog. I guess I owe Ms. Sandberg a thank you note.