Lean In


Interesting that I chose to read this book right around the time when I decided to lean OUT big time. Prior to March 2013, I had a great job doing interesting work for (mostly) wonderful people, but that job happened to exist in NYC - aka the most expensive city in the country - and for all the job's plusses, "financially rewarding" it was not.

Post March 2013, everything changed. I had my first baby - a sweet, adorable bundle of baby boy joy - and upon crunching the numbers, I realized that

Interesting that I chose to read this book right around the time when I decided to lean OUT big time. Prior to March 2013, I had a great job doing interesting work for (mostly) wonderful people, but that job happened to exist in NYC - aka the most expensive city in the country - and for all the job's plusses, "financially rewarding" it was not.

Post March 2013, everything changed. I had my first baby - a sweet, adorable bundle of baby boy joy - and upon crunching the numbers, I realized that post-tax and post-nanny, it didn't necessarily pay (financially, at least) for me to work. I knew we could live on my husband's salary alone without changing our lifestyle significantly (yes, my salary was that paltry), and I knew that if I were to continue to work, the cost of a nanny would have eaten all but about $5,000 of my post-tax income. Would you work full-time for that amount of money? Would $5,000 get you out of bed every day and help you overlook crowded smelly subways, meetings with people you kind of want to punch in the face, losing PowerPoint presentations when your computer crashes, having no flexibility to your life from M-F, 9am-6pm...$96 a week. $13 a day. No thank you.

That, paired with a rather inconveniently timed move to Boston, left me a stay-at-home mom who now spends her days singing "The Wheels on the Bus" at baby music class, playing with the parachute at baby-and-me class and doing downward dog while blowing kisses at baby yoga class instead of going to meetings, writing proposals and managing budgets. It'd be nice to end that previous paragraph with a "...and I wouldn't have it any other way," but the truth is, I miss work. I miss the brain power involved, I miss being around adults, I miss solving problems...but the flip side of that truth is that if I were at work, I would miss my boy. What's a young professional gal to do?!

Sandberg acknowledges that having approximately $1,000,000,000 in the bank makes it a little easier to cover the childcare and other household help that greatly, greatly simplify the life of a working mother. Still, her message isn't one of an out-of-touch, idealistic celebrity boss - she's not Gwyneth, and this isn't Goop. The stats in Lean In aren't anything that someone with an interest in women's studies wouldn't have encountered, but they're upsetting to read, particularly given how numerous they are. (Most interesting to me is the case study where a successful woman was profiled, and a focus group gave her horrendous ratings on things like "would I be friends with this person," "I'd like to work with this person," etc. The exact same profile was given to another focus group, only this time the woman's name was changed to a man's. You probably aren't surprised to hear that this fictitious man got rave reviews for his business savvy, his drive, his success...all the things the woman was critiqued for.)

I think Sandberg's admonishment to "lean in" is exactly what women need to hear, and her book should be required reading for anyone in the workplace, particularly for those who think being a feminist is bad and/or that things already are equal because the women's rights movement already happened. (These are also the people who don't think racism is a problem anymore, either.) This book made me imagine what my life would be like if I don't go back to work - and if I do.

So, while I can see myself running board meetings and accepting Time's Person of the Year award, I - and millions of others - struggle with the reality of what life would be like with two parents working, and the thought of it makes me hyperventilate. The chaos! I am emphatically not a fan of chaos. After a long day of work, household duties still would need to get done, and while it's not glamorous, someone has to be sure that a healthy dinner is on the table every night and that all members of the household are bathed on a somewhat regular basis and that the dirty laundry gets washed and folded. Since my husband works crazy long hours, that someone would be...me. How some people do it, I have no idea. One of the women I respect most from my job is a C-level executive, has three great kids, works out, always looks impeccable in super chic clothes, cooks AND reads (and is on Goodreads!). For the life of me, I don't know how she does it.

I'm no closer to arriving at the answer - my answer, the one for me and my family - than I was when I started this "review," which is more a blog entry than an actual assessment of the book. I suppose, being a businesswoman, Sandberg can appreciate that economics necessitates that either choice - staying home or working - will result in the diminishment of something else, be it family time, a skyrocketing career, sleep...something's gotta give. I'm just not sure what I want that something to be yet.
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