• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


A Year After 'Leaning In'

Some issues that are missing from the book.

March 19, 2014

I was at a meeting this week with about twenty people. We could not all fit around the conference room table, so someone brought in extra chairs. I ended up seated at the edge of the crowd, nowhere near the conference table.

I make a joke about how, seated where I was, I wouldn’t be able to “lean in.” Apparently, I was the only one who found it funny (maybe this wasn’t a Sheryl Sandberg crowd?). Seriously, though, not leaning in allowed me to have such a relaxing meeting. I could sit back, watch, and not be “volunteered” for any new activities. It’s made me realize just how much I had been leaning in lately.

It’s about a year since Sandberg’s book came out and I, properly nudged, began volunteering for more activities. I co-chaired a major project at my college, took on additional leadership responsibilities as chair of my department, and agreed to co-edit a new book, among countless other tasks.

I have to say that all this leaning in has made me exhausted. Sure, I have more responsibility and can add more lines on my CV, but all I have gained is more responsibility and even more work. I have discovered that once you “lean in,” others lean on you more.

Meanwhile, despite reading her book again, watching her Ted Talk, and many of her interviews, I never see where she addresses the work-life balance. Where does the care of my three children fit in?

Sandberg says that I’m supposed to lean on my spouse, but that assumes he is not already splitting duties with me, which he is. She acknowledges that balancing parental duties is hard work, but she does not explain where I’m supposed to find the time to help each of my children create a poster on why going to college is important (a school project due Friday that I know we can ace, if only we had the time).
In fact, last month I discovered my daughter doesn’t even know what I do for a living. She told me that she knows I work somewhere, but she was not sure exactly what I do. Now I have to add take-my-daughter-to-work day to my “to-do” list. Meanwhile, where has my “me time” gone?  Everyone else is talking about some show called True Detective; I’ll be lucky if I’m able to see the first episode before the Broadway adaptation comes out.

Now that Sheryl Sandberg has started yet another public service campaign – no more calling women/girls bossy – I feel I need to reassess her earlier advice. Maybe, instead of encouraging women to lean in more, we should encourage everyone to have more downtime in our lives. We could call it Stepping Out.

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Laura Tropp

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