Leaning over Backwards

I’m pretty sure no law actually exists prohibiting me from writing a critical review of a book I haven’t read, but it’s definitely not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Still, Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In is getting on my last, hard working, overtired, doing it all nerve.  The book is everywhere, she is everywhere, there is even a Lean In website, leanin.org, populated by serene yet efficient looking women sharing their thoughts on the topic of Sandberg’s book.


Again, keep in mind that I haven’t read the book…not one page…not even the back cover, but from what I glean by way of interviews, articles, “news” stories, and the like, the book is both a commentary and a “how-to,” addressing the fact that there aren’t as many women in positions of leadership as there should be, both in government and business, and the reasons why this is (and, ostensibly, how to remedy some of that).

I have heard Sandberg interviewed at least three times about her book and I caught most of a speech she gave locally.  Yes, you can do it.  You can be a great mother and wife and self-actualized human and, yes, LEADER.

Sure you can.  If you are OK not ever having control over your own schedule, you have a partner who is fully committed to your success and not his/her own, that same partner is totally OK with running the household and all matters domestic, you don’t mind missing out on the day to day of your children’s lives – school plays, reading to the class that one time a year they ask you to, attending Muffins for Mom around mother’s day, making it to swim meets on time – or ever. Or, if you don’t have kids, then you have to be OK never forging the kind of social relationships with people in your community that give meaning to your life beyond your professional identity.  Because nobody likes to make plans, repeatedly, with the chick who bails at the last minute Every Single Time because she’s working.

I call bullshit on Sheryl Sandberg.  I don’t know a single woman who can be all that she wants to be as a mom, a partner, and a mid-level employee and/or homemaker, let alone capital L Leader.  More to the point, I don’t know very many women who want it all.  We’ve all been there – overscheduled, overtaxed, stretched too thin.  It sucks.  Why would anyone make that the intentional choice?  Sandberg writes about having the confidence to make the moves that propel women forward into positions of leadership.  Maybe lack of confidence is holding some women back, and for them I am sorry.  Mostly, though, I think it’s sanity keeping them from asking for more.

The harsh reality is that you have to choose.  Not just women, men, too.   What means more to you?  What do you want most?  What is going to afford you the quality of life you desire?  Is it people, is it time, is it power, is it a massive paycheck, is it the luxury of not having to be where you don’t want to be when you really want to be somewhere else?  Maybe some women really don’t lack the confidence to pursue positions of greater responsibility and power and earning potential in the business world, maybe it’s that other women actually need to find the confidence to admit that they would prefer to be in a position of greater professional responsibility and power and earning potential in the business world RATHER than have relationships and households.  Which is a perfectly OK choice, it’s still, however, a choice.

Sure.  It will be better for everyone when, in two parent working families, both partners assume equal responsibility for every single thing involved in housekeeping and childraising.  Although most women I know will reluctantly admit that they have a very hard time relinquishing control over lots of what happens in their houses.   Let’s say, even if it was all equally divided, a couple figured out how to split the load fairly,  the truth is that there still wouldn’t be enough time and energy in a given day for one of the people in that partnership to lean in all the way…to anything.  Everybody in that equation is getting shortchanged.  Nobody is getting it all, unless they only want all of one thing.

We are too used to getting our way.  We want what we want immediately, on demand, delivered, perfect, and we want it for cheap.  There’s no instant gratification in happiness, or building a successful family, or becoming a leader.  You can’t have it for cheap and on demand, you have to pay somewhere.

I guess I’m lucky, and I realize that some of this is easy for me to say because I didn’t blink when I had to make a choice.  I climbed right back down the ladder the second it became clear that the distance between what patiently waited for me at the bottom of the ladder and what was beckoning, and in reach, at the top, would be too great.   The way I saw it was that if I kept climbing up, pretty soon what was waiting for me at the bottom would be too far away for me to see it anymore.

Putting Toothpaste Back in the Tube

I spent some time this week substituting in a 2nd grade art classroom.

Not for the faint of heart or slow on the hoof.

It was much like herding cats or trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.  But dang, did we crank out some mighty fine birdhouse collages.

And second graders know how to openly express gratitude like nobody else on the planet.  Unabashedly and full throated Thank YOU MRS DUNNING!!!!

They are also excellent helpers.  They will get their friends scissors or glue sticks or show them the very absolutely right and not the wrong way to draw a bird.

Second graders will not let you get away with bad behavior.  If you are, say, trying to make a cootie catcher instead of drawing a sun and clouds on the background paper of your birdhouse collage, make no mistake, you will be dimed out.  But it is for your own good.  You are being encouraged to walk a righteous path.

If you are sad about the way your birdhouse roof pattern turned out, a second grader will know how to console you.  Second graders are excellent at compliments.

Second graders are good at sharing.  Songs.  Tape.  Germs.  Hugs.

When second graders get too loud during art class, they have “silent art time,” when they just concentrate on making beautiful things.  They don’t mind admitting that they actually really loooove silent art time.

I spend most of my work days trying to either motivate seventeen year olds or teach seventeen year olds how not to be anxious messes because they are too highly motivated.  I’m thinking that once in a while, I should spend some time making birdhouse collages with them.  Maybe they would recall all of those important lessons they used to know about helping and righteousness and consoling friends and giving compliments and  sharing and being silent.




Surprise Me

One of my favorite books growing up was Cheaper by the Dozen, the true story of the Gilbreth family, 12 children and their efficiency expert parents.  The dad in the story was obsessed by making every task as quick, fluid, and routine as possible in the interest of saving time and money.

I get that.  Particularly during weeks when it seems like everyone in the family needs to be in a different place at once every hour of every day, house projects are in full swing, work is heating up for both parents, somebody needs baking soda and Poprocks for a science experiment,  we are three days behind in practicing one of three instruments, and nobody can remember the last time somebody ate a green vegetable.

But.  I hate routine.

Hate.  Loathe.  Despise.  My personal goal is not to have a fulfilling career, usher my children into self-sufficient, well educated, and happy adulthood so that I can retire, it’s to have a fulfilling career, usher my children into self-sufficient, well educated, and happy adulthood so that I can stop doing the same damn stuff over and over again most days of the week.

Mind you, my job is great in that I am challenged in new ways and there is variety in my work life. It’s the making lunches, finding work clothes, set the alarm, drive here, drive there, meals on the table, do the homework, bed at this time, wake up at that time,  follow the same pattern all the time because there just isn’t room for any meaningful variation THING that makes me feel like I’m going to scream.*

This explains my weather fetish.  I’ve been known to read up on the weather blogs.  Yes.  There are weather blogs.  Not just the weather channel.  Or weather.com.  Or Accuweather.  Yesterday it was supposed to snow here.  And it didn’t. Not even a flurry. Beginning last week, there was big buzz in the weather world about this storm.  The forecast over the past week changed every hour or so, and I tracked every single alteration.  A weather event = change in routine.  A big weather event = big change in routine.  Big weather event = big change in routine = Me = happy.

I was supposed to wake up today to a wintery world, at least briefly changed from the ordinary to something other than that.  Maybe complicated or messy or problematic, but certainly different.







*I totally reserve the right to whinge about how much I miss this stuff when my kids are grown up.