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Lean In

7 April 2015

Janie read Lean In, and pondered the challenges of balancing career and family.

Tags: balance, janie read, leadership, women and leadership

My interest in Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead began a little over a month ago when I attended Quadruplicity, a local conference sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce Business Women’s Roundtable. It was the first time I had the pleasure of attending a conference I had nothing to do with planning, and I really enjoyed the day. I attended an afternoon breakout session focused on Lean In - and was part of a great discussion about the challenges of balancing career and family. This is a balance with which I am constantly struggling. Our discussion led me to pick up a copy of Lean In and see what Sheryl Sandberg had to say.

The main premise of Lean In is that women are often guilty of holding themselves back, either because they are scared or because they don’t think they can handle a challenging career with the challenges of being a mother. Sandberg argues that instead of being afraid, women should embrace the challenges at work, and not be afraid to ask their partner for more help at home. While not everything in the book resonated with me, there were several times I found myself nodding my head, and grabbing a pen to make a note about what I had just read.

One concept that really resonated with me was the idea of “imposter syndrome.” This is a phenomenon where capable people are plagued by self-doubt that causes them to underestimate themselves constantly. This idea is something I periodically experience, and have my whole life. When I’m getting enough sleep, and life is mostly moving along as I expect it to, I don’t have this trouble. However, when I’m not sleeping well, or I’m stressed out about something that is happening in my life, I find myself being overwhelmed with self-doubt and worries. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this. Telling myself that my thoughts are just thoughts and many people experience these same doubts helps me to work through the worries when I feel them taking over.

Toward the end of the book, Sandberg touches on some of the competition that is prevalent between moms today. This issue, often referred to as the “mommy wars,” is the constant debate over whether it is more challenging to be a stay at home mom or to be a working mom. There is a lot of criticism lobbied at moms on both sides of the equation. I think this debate is so sad. I have close friends who are working moms and stay at home moms and what I’ve learned from that is that it is just hard to be a parent, no matter what your circumstances! Children can be exhausting. A friend and former employer of mine told me that, “Being a parent is both the hardest and the most rewarding job you will ever do.” How much of my day is spent doing the work of parenting doesn’t make it easier or harder – it simply makes my day different than someone else’s might be. And when I start to feel like the grass might be greener on the other side, I try to remind myself that my life as a working mom has some upsides that other moms might not experience.

As someone who is a bit of a perfectionist, I tend to push myself very hard at work and at home. Sandberg touches on this issue as well. She talks about how the stakes are high when trying to combine fulltime work and parenthood. If you push yourself too hard to achieve perfection in both areas, you can end up retreating at work or at home. When I feel myself doing this, I do all I can to let go of trying to be perfect and just focus on doing the best I can. Sometimes that means I make a mistake, or don’t get to all the projects on my list in the timeframe I would like, but I’ve learned that if I take a deep breath, communicate with the people around me, and keep making progress on things, it usually works out okay.

Here’s what else I know. My son doesn’t expect perfection, but he does expect me to relax and enjoy playing with him. He doesn’t care that I wish I’d gotten farther on a project at work, or that the dishes aren’t done, or that we’re having leftovers again. He is just happy to be with me. That is pretty great. Reading this book helped me to realize that I am far from alone in many of my struggles. I need to be kinder to myself and lean in to my life. I have a pretty great one!


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Lauren Magness Mccay
Apr 07, 2015

That was very articulate and you shared many of my same thoughts after just finishing Lean In. Please let me know if you attend any other Women’s Leadership conferences in the area. I’d love to reconnect and go with you. As I find myself at a “mans” roundtable more and more I’d love the support and professional growth opportunities. I hope all is well with you and your family. It seems like we were just 5 the other day.


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