“You might call them ‘Alpha Dads,’ guys who are as serious about their parenting as they are about making partner. . . . They don’t believe in ‘balance.’ They believe in getting what they want, even if it’s time to yell at their 5-year-olds from the sidelines of a soccer game on a Wednesday afternoon.” “
There’s no denying it. The world has changed. This isn’t “Leave it to Beaversville” or “Ozzie and Harriet Land,” and most members of the rising generation won’t even know what I just said.
Just so everyone is on the same page, what I’m saying is that the challenges facing working women today aren’t the same as those of our mothers and grandmothers. As a woman who cares desperately for her career, her husband, and her children (and not necessarily in that order), Sandberg isn’t lamenting along with Adele that “we could have had it all.” Instead she explodes the myth that women can have it all—meaning a successful career, a clean house, nutritious dinner on the table at 6pm, a fit body, and plenty of time to devote to husband and children.
Lean In Ch 9: The Myth of Doing it All is a healthy reality check for working moms (dads too), and I suspect will also touch down in surprising ways for single women and empty nesters who also struggle to achieve that illusive “balance” in their lives.
From her poised, professional image online, no one would guess Facebook’s famous COO struggles to find a livable balance between career and family or feels a stab of guilt for sending her young son to school on St. Patrick’s Day in a blue T-shirt.
Once again, Sheryl doesn’t hide behind pretense or preach to other struggling souls from on high as the woman who has figured it all out. She’s up front with her fierce and ongoing struggle to keep up with the demands of career and longing/needing to be with her children and how she’s become more realistic and careful about focusing on what matters most.
“Each of us makes choices constantly between work and family, exercising and relaxing, making time for others and taking time for ourselves. Being a parent means making adjustments, compromises, and sacrifices every day. For most people, sacrifices and hardships are not a choice, but a necessity.” (p.122)
Working mothers who labor under guilt for not being omnipresent for their children will be pleasantly surprised to learn that a study in 1975 found working moms spent 6 hours per week on average on “primary child care” compared to 11 hours for stay-at-home mothers. Today, those numbers have jumped to 11 hours for working moms and 17 for those at home. (p.134) Meaning on average working mothers today “are spending the same number of hours with our kids as our mothers did.” (p.135)
It’s also reassuring to learn that extensive research also found no developmental differences between kids raised with stay-at-home and working mothers. (pp.135-136)
Besides guilt, some of the other culprits Sandberg identifies that are driving women to strive for unrealistic goals are comparisons, perfectionism, and the wonders of technology that make it possible to work 24/7.
“Like me, most of the women I know do a great job of worrying that we don’t measure up. We compare our efforts at work to those of our colleagues, usually men, who typically have far fewer responsibilities at home. Then we compare our efforts at home to those of mothers who dedicate themselves solely to their families.” (p.123)
The Facebook slogan, “Done is better than perfect,” helps her battle perfectionist tendencies and forced her to take control of her workday and schedule.
“I became much more efficient—more vigilant about only attending or setting up meetings that were truly necessary, more determined to maximize my output during every minute I spent away from home. I also started paying more attention to the working hours of those around me; cutting unnecessary meetings saved time for them as well. I tried to focus on what really mattered.” (p.129)
According to Sandberg, “success is making the best choices we can . . . and accepting them.” (p.139)
I never bought into the nonsense that we can “have it all.” I’m not sure where the idea originated, but to be perfectly honest, it always sounded to me like a misogynist caricature of working women as greedy and selfishly determined to maintain a lavish lifestyle at the expense of their children.
Just being honest.
For most working mothers, the struggles Sandberg describes more accurately reflect reality and the sacrifices and tough choices involved in trying to do their best on both job and home fronts.
I worked full-time during my daughter’s first year, and my seminarian husband was a stay-at-home dad. (Frank always said that year was one of the great privileges of his life). I can’t say the sacrifice was easy for me, although it helped a lot that I loved my job. I once tallied up the hours a week I spent with our infant daughter (compared to Frank) and was relieved that my numbers were greater. But then, I didn’t do much else besides home and work.
After that first tough year, I worked part-time and eventually as a full-time software developer, which meant most of my work was done at home. I scheduled my working hours around when my daughter was sleeping. Got up at 5am and went straight to the computer and worked in my pajamas until she woke up, and we started our day. Nap times I was back at the computer. Anything I didn’t get done then had to wait until bedtime.
Life was complicated to be sure, but there I learned a few things.
I learned that marriage and family was a “team sport,” that is, Frank and I had to work together as a team, juggling our schedules and covering for each other when urgent matters surfaced.
I learned that “you do what have to do.” There was no neat and tidy perimeter to my role as a mom. Some days I had to go to a business meeting while Frank had to change diapers. I had to limit my extracurricular activities to focus on who and what mattered most.
I learned that life is full of sacrifices. No one actually attains the fairy-tale dream of a perfect balance between marriage-family-work. The Adamic fall and our sin natures inevitably burst such bubbles.
Despite the challenges, this was a time of deep spiritual growth as I began to realize how the gospel itself frames the crazy, unpredictable, overwhelmingly unbalanced lives of women and of men with profound meaning and purpose. Choices and sacrifices we make to care for our loved ones and to follow God’s calling on our lives into the workplace are bound up in what it means to follow Jesus. Embracing his gospel always means self-sacrifice and putting the needs of others first no matter what our marital status or where we spend our working hours. It is in the maelstrom of this clumsy, cluttered, and complicated life that we live out the gospel and grow spiritually.
Sandberg’s advice to take control of your schedule and not to allow work or technology to fill every waking hour is well taken. And here I am, well past midnight … still working. What can I say?
Need to work on that one!
So What’s Your Take?
How do you view the notion that you “can have it all”? What challenges do you face in managing your commitment to work and home? No matter where you work, what ideas have helped you end the battle with guilt and find better ways to manage your busy lifestyle? How have you grown spiritually in the midst of your complicated life?
Lean in with your comments!
Previous Lean In Posts …
- Introduction: Women, Work and the Church
- Chapter 1: The Leadership Ambition Gap
- Chapter 2: Sit at the Table
- Chapter 3: Success and Likeability
- Chapter 4: It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder
- Chapter 5: Are You My Mentor?
- Chapter 6: Seek and Speak Your Truth
- Chapter 7: Don’t Leave Before You Leave
- Chapter 8: Make Your Partner a Real Partner
Other related posts …