But what about the women whose partners don’t have control of their schedules, like Sheryl’s husband does? Or whose partners aren’t in a position to say: “Accept the job. It’s your turn”? And what about the 30 percent of families she cites that are led by a single parent? How can you lean in when you don’t have someone to lean on?
Hillary Clinton famously talked about how raising a child takes a village. Except our society isn’t set up that way. We’re organized in nuclear units, and a single mom can ask her friends only so many times for help picking up the kids.
In my case, I’m lucky enough to be able to pay for help. Like all working moms, I also do a lot of juggling. Thank God for online grocery shopping.
But there aren’t many other single-mom CEOs out there. And I think that has a lot to do with resources. You don’t have to be born wealthy. You don’t have to be as incredibly successful and become as incredibly rich as Sheryl is. You do need to be able to advance in your career to the point where you can afford child care and health insurance. Until this country offers more accessible child care, some women won’t be able to lean in very far.
Of course I realize, and Sheryl does, too, that some women who can afford to lean in don’t want to. Either they don’t aspire to the corner office or the board of a publicly traded company, or they decide that more-senior jobs aren’t worth the hours and days they would be away from their children.
It’s hard to accept being anything less than an all-in mom. Women are held — and we hold ourselves — to a different standard of parenting. Even though more dads share day-to-day responsibilities now than in the past, much of society still views their contributions as voluntary. If Dad takes care of the kids while Mom is out of town, it’s considered heroic and sweet. If a woman does it while her husband is away, it’s expected. When a kid is sick at school, the nurse’s office almost always calls Mom first.
Children have the same biases. One day I was going into work late, so I didn’t dress for the office and just threw on some yoga pants to drive my eldest to school. Before she got out of the car, she said, “Finally, you look cool like the other moms.” Great.
The truth is, I want the school to call me first. I want to wake up with my kids at night when they are scared. I want to be at as many games and talent shows as I can be.
I also want to have a job that stimulates my brain and allows me to feel like I have given something back. I would venture to guess we all want that in some form. And we all make decisions about what we are willing to sacrifice and how much guilt we can live with.
I feel incredibly privileged to have terrific kids and a terrific job. I hope that I’m setting a good example for my children by having a career and being a mom. I hope that they can forgive me later for everything I did wrong. For the days that I came home and yelled at them to stop jumping on the bed and go to sleep because I was tired and work was stressful. For the days I burned their lunch but packed it anyway.
It helps that my kids are good managers and let me know when I slip up. Now I always make it to Museum Night. I block it out on my calendar a year ahead.
Also from The Post, Connie Schultz reviews “Lean In,” Jessica Valenti writes about why feminists tear each other down, Ruth Marcus argues that Sheryl Sandberg offers valuable advice and Monica Hesse sits down for an interview with Sandberg. Read more from Outlook, friend us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.