I’ve been a proud member of corporate America for nearly 20 years. And I knew growing up that I was going to be a working mom. I would have it all: a family, a career, time, balance, and financial freedom.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Now that I’m a mom, I realize what a fantasy world I was envisioning. And it makes me mad. Not just mad… pissed. Because this is the bullshit we’re feeding women in the United States. This is the propaganda book premises like Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, imply.
You CAN have it all! You can be a mom, you can have a career, you can find balance and financial freedom and it’s fun and doable and go get ’em, girl!
I know because I’m living it. I’ve been doing the working mom gig for several years and this is not easy. And it’s not fair… not to us as women, and not to our kids. We deserve more. We deserve better.
The United States is the biggest perpetrator of instilling this notion of women “having it all,” and for good reason. Unlike almost every other first-world country, this country pushes moms to go back to the workforce whether or not they’re ready. Or whether or not their baby’s ready. We tell new moms to ignore the postpartum anxiety or depression, to work around the breastfeeding, and the baby’s need to bond with his or her parents during these critical months.
“Go back to work! Empower the feminist movement!”
Only we’re not empowering women by going back to work, we are just pushing ourselves into a routine that is at best exhausting and at worst unsustainable.
There’s a reason mothers joke about needing wine and Xanax all the time. It’s because we need it. Seriously. We are expected to raise our kids properly, work full time, make and pack lunches for school, cook balanced meals for the family, keep the house clean, and play event coordinator for the daily and weekly activities. Every damn day. Pour me another glass of wine.
Oh, and little Billy took his first steps today at day care and you missed it? Don’t feel guilty. Nope.
Look, I’m not harping on Sheryl Sandberg. I think she’s trying to build women up who have to work or love to work to not feel bad about it. I admire that. And I recognize that some women choose to take on the world and love the challenge of doing it all. These women can and should “lean in.” Do it, because it’s your passion and it’s your decision. But for many of us, we are just trying to get by. We are exhausted. We feel defeated. We just want to sit down and let someone else decide what’s for dinner for once.
I think the Lean In movement is bullshit. This is not a recipe for girl power. This is a ticking time bomb for a lot of women. Because having and doing it all are two very different things. And honestly, I’m at the point where I don’t HAVE or DO either very well.
So I’m calling it quits. I’m leaning the fuck back out. I’m done trying to make everything work and look effortless, while I feel my sanity slip away. I’ve decided to stay home and be with my kids. Watch them grow, play with them, and teach them while I learn from them too.
I’m lucky. I know. Not every mom gets to make this decision. Many are pushed back into the workforce whether they like it or not in order to pay the bills, retain their job, or because it’s what’s expected of them. And I think even Sheryl would agree, that’s not “leaning in.” That’s not empowering, and it’s not how it has to be.
I hope one day all new moms get to choose their journeys out of their own passion, experience, and desires. I hope women can slow down and find a true work-life balance that’s achievable and sustainable. Because that would merit the true definition of what it means to Lean In.