“I Did Not Quite Get It” on Lean In
A few years ago, I read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. It was hard. It was uncomfortable.
I was one of those women constantly asking for permission to speak and saying “sorry” everytime I raised my hand to interrupt someone or when I happened to disagree with an opinion or statement.
The beauty of “Lean In” was that it was not a book about making you feel valuable and loved and gave you hugs and warm feelings about women and our potential. It was fierce, and raw and ugly and controversial. But it rang mostly true in so many ways.
I made some decisions about my life, I bought the book and gave it away to friends. I tried to be conscious about my words and my attitude towards work. I recognized the many opportunities I had left pass because I did not “Lean In”. It was a pivotal book in my life, yet…
There were 2 things I did not agree with:
- The fact that Sheryl Sandberg basically said that if you stay with your kids at home you are not only hurting yourself and your career, you are also hurting millions of women by not raising children that grow up to enjoy and appreciate working moms AND that your voice was not joining the millions of voices asking for equity in the workplace. You basically took the easy way.
- The idea that YES, YOU LEAN IN EVERY TIME – ALL THE TIME at work and then, at home, well, things will figure themselves out somehow… or… you could marry a partner underneath your potential so it was always clear who would pursue the fabulous career.
Sure, it was Sheryl’s book and her opinions, but as someone that tried (and still tries) to balance time and availablity with my daughters, my husband, and a career, it simply felt selfish and an opinion born in a silo of privilege up in a mountain.
2 days ago, Sheryl wrote extensively in her page “I did not quite get it. I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home” Sandberg, of course referred with the comment to her experience as a single mom.
Sandberg’s husband passed away one year ago. She had been able to develop her incredibly successful career, write a book, start a movement, all of it, because her husband’s schedule was more flexible and more importantly, because she had a supportive partner.
Now, Sheryl realizes how sheltered her existence was (and is!) as a single mother that does not have to suffer poverty and isolation like so many millions of mothers face every single day while trying to not loose themselves in the struggle of it all.
Sheryl writes: “Dave’s absense has re-defined what it is to be a mother… Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right”.
For single parents, there is no safety net, there is nothing for them to fall on if a child gets sick, if one gets sick, if your hours are cut, if the check does not arrive on time.
Thank you Sheryl Sandbert for writing about this, for recognizing an opportunity for improvement. For saying: “I did not get it”. I respect you so much for that. Because it is not easy to acknowledge mistakes, much less on a public site, even less with such a strong statement on Mother’s Day.