Okay, I haven’t read Lean In. Maybe I will. Quite honestly, it depends on whether or not one of my friends puts it in my hands and says “Read this.” I don’t seek out many books these days. The toddler keeps me running.
I don’t have any problem with the book. Unlike the many folks who attacked Sandberg when the book came out, I think the idea is great. I think we need more women in leadership, and I think it’s going to take a lot of work to overcome many hurdles to creating that. Sheryl Sandberg is a powerful woman, and from what I’ve heard of the book, she has a lot of positive things to say about work and family life.
She tells us to “lean in.” To fight the instinct to hold back in the workplace, to achieve more and to do it without fearing the obstacles that may get in our way. To take the job or leadership positions we want to take and find a way to work it out with our families.
That’s great. I want every woman to be able to pursue her dreams.
But what if I don’t want to lean in? Not because I’m afraid, but because that doesn’t sound like any kind of life to me?
Our modern age and maybe our nation is obsessed with work. Our work is supposed to be our life’s calling, what we can show for ourselves, what we’re proud of. Work is our identity, and we work constantly. When we’re not at work, we’re still working – on our smartphones, tablets and computers.
Working my tail off for some company’s bottom line is not my idea of a life. It’s fine to me if someone else wants to, male or female. But I don’t, and neither does my husband. I used to picture myself doing so – juggling work and kids, putting my little ones in daycare while I climbed the ladder of success. I didn’t start slowing down because I wanted to have kids. I slowed down the pace of my life because I realized that I was unhappy, stressing my life away. How I’m raising my kid has grown from the belief that there’s more to life than one’s occupation.
I hesitated to say this aloud until I read this month’s piece in the Atlantic, “Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality.” This part really resonated with me:
But do we want women emulating the egomania of the corporate male? Do we really want that particular brand of insanity to spread? Wasn’t it exactly that arrogance that led to the 2008 financial collapse? I suppose a world in which female bankers spend as much on blow and hookers as their male counterparts would be a fairer world; is it a world worth fighting for?
I suppose you could argue that women in power wouldn’t spend money on blow and hookers, that they wouldn’t have thrown most of America under the bus for their company’s bottom line, but I don’t necessarily think so. Women are people, and just as susceptible to the problems of corporate culture. We are not angels with ovaries. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer increased parental leave at her company, but set a precedent after going back to work two weeks after her baby was born. She created a home at work by building a nursery in her office, but won’t allow her employees to from home. How’s that for family friendly?
If you want to work 60 hours a week and have kids, have at it. I don’t. If that holds women back, I’m sorry. This woman wants to live her life, be with her kids, be with her spouse, learn new things, do a job well but not live for it, and be at peace. To me, that means learning to lean away from the frantic culture of modern work and creating balance in my life. It means saying no to what others define as “success,” and even saying no to the lure of making more money. I want to lean back and enjoy my life – to rest, to read, to eat, to relax. I don’t want to wear power suits or run the meeting. I do want justice for women and men and children, but I don’t believe the corporate board room is the source of justice in this world.
I have nothing against Sheryl Sandberg or any powerful woman who wants to lean any way she likes. Perhaps I’m grateful for women who do want to be in politics or business. I just don’t want to be them. Maybe someday I will, but more likely, I’m going to continue to question a culture where work and making money is our primary identity and purpose. That’s not a virtue I want to live by, nor is it one I want to instill in my child.