Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

LeanInI just had a birthday and along with birthday wishes I also had a lot of questions. The usual: “How old are you?”  “What did you get for your birthday?”  “How do you plan to celebrate?”  “Oh, wow.  Are you planning on having kids anytime soon?”  More times than I’d like to admit, the last question was followed by something along the lines of “Shouldn’t you start thinking about that soon?”  I would’ve liked to say “none of your business” but I just laughed it off.  To tell you the truth, I don’t know when that time will come.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel ready for parenthood, and I really love other people’s babies since you can give them back when you (or the baby) get tired. 

Anyway, I’m sure like many people my age, I’m just wondering how I’m going to balance my career and my family.  The truth is that quite often I work until 6… or 7… or on the weekends. (And sometimes I just want to eat cereal for dinner and call it a day!)  But the most common factor in all of these times is that I feel a tiny bit of guilt for neglecting my family and my friends.  Why do I feel guilty? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of my Catholic genes.  Maybe it’s because society has sent me countless signs that I should be able to have an awesome career, a spotless and perfectly decorated home, a happy family with cute kids, a fit figure, and a laid-back attitude to top it off.  Enter my new obsession: people who seem to have successfully figured it out.  That’s why I picked up “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by the Sheryl Sandberg.  She is a mother, a wife, and the COO of Facebook.  Whether you love or hate Facebook, you must give credit where credit is due: it is a very successful company.

“Lean In” is more than a biography.  Sandberg explores myths and challenges related to women’s roles in families, the workplace, communities, etc.  She also focuses on women that have had successful careers in various fields.  While she has some very passionate ideas about how women and men could help remove the gender gap in the workplace, she also has some very valid points.  Some of them are obvious, but she’s not afraid to point out issues that people in power shy away from.  Sandberg states, “Our stereotype of men holds that they are providers, decisive, and driven.  Our stereotype of women holds that they are caregivers, sensitive, and communal.  Because we characterize men and women in opposition to each other, professional achievement and all traits associated with it get placed in the male column.”  She goes on to encourage women to stop holding themselves back because they may have a family one day and to “lean in” to their careers full steam.   Sometimes you have to be aggressive; sometimes you have to kill with kindness.

What I really loved about this book was the pure sincerity that Sandberg portrays.  She speaks of the times she has felt guilty, the missed opportunities, the failures, and even giving in to stereotypes.  She does not pass judgment on people either.  Sandberg fully expresses her admiration for stay-at-home parents, who are often the most active members of our communities.

Please stop yourself before you ask someone else, “Do you plan to keep working after you have kids?”  Women, this is not something that you would ask a man.  (And trust me, I’ve never had a man ask me this question.)   It’s time we stop treating each other as if we only have one choice.  We cannot achieve equality until we can fully support and encourage each other to find a balance.

Total pages: 182  Total FoA pages: 26,126

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