Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Leaning In, Leaning Back and Making Choices {A Book Review}

My book club is meeting tonight at 6 pm to discuss our most recent read, Lean In. I have been anticipating the conversation for almost a month - all of us crowded around a large, wooden table with generous pours of wine and cheese or pastries to accompany our conversations. I have been curiously awaiting the opinions of the women in this group - most in their late 20's or early 30s, working professional, (most) pre-children. They're the demographic I think Sandberg was thinking of when she wrote it, and I'm wondering how the book resonated with them as they turned the pages and read her words.

I won't know, because I won't be there. At 6 pm, I'll be giving my baby his last bottle, sniffing the almond smell of his shampoo lingering from his bath and watching his long eyelashes fall heavy on his cheek. I'll be missing a conversation I've waited eagerly for, but that's okay. I'll be right where I'm supposed to be. 

It's hard sometimes, to miss out on stuff you want to do. That's just part and parcel of parenting, right? I told myself early on one day "the sooner you accept that you are no longer in control, the easier this will be." And I did and it has been, and it's allowed me to realize that the days of my baby (and future babies?) being so tiny are going to be heartbreakingly short. Rather than lament the missed book clubs, cancelled lunch dates or inability to keep up with my former 4-times-a-week Dance Trance schedule, acknowledging the brevity of this time period in my life has allowed me to savor it. And when I do, it is breathtaking how sweet it is. 

I consider it an absolute privilege that I have the opportunity to be home with Bo. I try to make sure Matt knows how much I appreciate the fact that he heads out the door to work every day and affords us both the chance for me to be home with our baby. I know it is not what every woman chooses to do and I know that there are many women who would choose to do so but are not able to. I know there are many women who are torn between both. I don't begrudge anyone their path.  I simply acknowledge how fortunate I was to be able to choose. 

That's why it surprised me that I liked Sheryl Sandberg's book as much as I did. As a woman who had chosen to put her career on hold and stay home with her baby, I expected to whole-heartedly disagree with her message. Before I read the book, what I had gathered from other reviews of it was that it was a rah-rah-rah book for women who wanted to be leaders in the workplace, who wanted to push forward mightily with their careers and be the next CEO. I've never had grand ambition of that manner and didn't expect to resonate with the Sheryl, who obviously does. 

And her book certainly was a rah-rah-rah message for woman who want to be leaders in the workplace. There's plenty of motivation and inspiration for the next generation of women who want to sit at the table and take the helm. But, what surprised me the most, was how the overarching theme of her book was not that this was the only path that women should be on… the book was about having the opportunity to choose. Choice is the very thing I am most thankful for, and what I wish every woman had. What I believe every woman should have. 

I didn't love everything about the book, and I didn't agree with everything in it. In fact, I sometimes found it contradictory or confusing - which could be slightly accounted for the fact that I listened to it in my car and probably had my attention divided between the road, the book, the baby in the car seat and the anxious dog in the way back. But I didn't hate it or passionately disagree with it, which is exactly what I anticipated going into it. 

I was genuinely surprised by how much I learned from it or points I found myself nodding along in agreement to. Some of the research she shared that resonated with me helped me recognize critical moments throughout my own education and career. And then, some of the moments I wholeheartedly disagreed with her forced me to think through and articulate (at least to myself) what some of my values and belief were. 

In short (and because nap time is almost over), it is a good read. It's a worthy read. I think anything that broadens the conversation about the choices women have to make, or should be able to make, is a good thing. It's a book I'd recommend anyone read, if only to be able to add their own voice to the conversation. Even if on some days it feels like the only leadership skills you're currently using are directing the plastic spoon to keep mashed bananas out of someone's hair...


Anonymous said...

Don't sell yourself short, Meg! You are a leader. Who wrote a book last year and PUBLISHED it, while keeping 2 humans and a canine fed! I look forward to reading Lean In.

k. said...

Acknowledging brevity = ability to savor. A brilliant point that I needed to hear (again and again and again) this week.

You're a good mama.

Jamie said...

So true. All of it. And there's no way to explain this to someone; they just have to experience it for themselves and then they will understand. Thanks for a honest review of a momma's life!