"I leaned in so hard I fell on my face"
“I leaned in so hard I fell on my face.” These are the words of one of the hundreds of women Lisen Stromberg interviewed for her book, Work, PAUSE, Thrive. Reading those words, I let out a laugh. Yes, I thought, that is exactly how I feel.
Since having my first child in 2015 I’ve been asking myself, “How do I give my best self to my life’s work and my family?” I’ve looked for answers in a lot of places, and this is the first book that I feel speaks directly to the hopes, dreams, fears, and questions dominating this season of my life.
Over the past several years, I’ve found inspiration in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Arianna Huffington's Thrive and The Sleep Revolution, and Laura Vanderkam's I Know How She Does It and 168 Hours. These books strengthened my beliefs that:
The world will be a better place when more women are in positions of leadership, and we (women) need to confidently claim our seats at the table
We are able to give much more to the world when we take care of ourselves
Time is our most precious resource, and we can do a lot more of what matters to us if we use it mindfully
But when faced with the decision of whether to work 60+ hours per week in order to stay on my career path or leave my job to take care of myself and my family, the writing of these inspiring women left me conflicted. I wanted to “lean in” but I also wanted to take care of myself and spend time with my family. I told my manager I needed to find a way to meet the demands of my role without working nights and weekends. He told me he didn’t think that was possible. I tried desperately to make everything fit, to lean in, but when I found myself more and more anxious and overwhelmed, crying as I gave my boys their bedtime bath, I decided something had to give. If this was what leaning in looked like, I was no longer convinced it was the path I wanted to follow.
As I’ve shared my story in the months since I quit my job, I’ve found that many women are struggling with a similar dilemma. We’re looking for ways to, as Stromberg puts it, lean in not just to our careers, but to the “full bloom of [our] lives.” But the culture of our workplaces seems designed to thwart attempts to do anything of the kind. Stromberg highlights that this problem is not a new one. Her children are now college-age, but her story of navigating career and family is strikingly familiar. She writes, “When I became a new mother, there was no clear path for those of us who wanted to be deeply engaged with our families and still have rewarding careers. The workplace was unforgiving and unyielding to people like me. Sadly, I’ve learned my experience is still the norm.”
Stromberg calls for change so that “women and men will be able to engage in the work they love while living the life they choose.” I still haven’t figured out what my role is in ushering in such change is, but for now, I am content to greet Stromberg’s words with a resounding “Amen!”