There’s been a lot more commentary on Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” in the past week; here’s a piece by a mom who returned to work full time after her baby was born, but later chose to leave her career, and be, for now, substantially with her child. She vividly expresses the mix of concerns and joys she feels, including an honest admission that she worries about how and *whether* she’ll “get back in” when, eventually, she wants a career back.
I like this essay for its honesty. It takes character to acknowledge your reservations and not just cling fiercely to a defensive “I did the right thing that all mothers should do” or “what I did was dreadfully wrong so don’t make my mistake!” mentality. Especially on this topic. So first of all, congratulations to Ms. Morison and I’d love to see more of this, everywhere, not just at my working moms’ groups, where moms can be brave because they know they can lean on each other (and there’s wine!).
Second, and importantly, to all folks who have stepped out for a few months or a few years. To the extent you are wondering, can I ever get back in? The answer is yes. I don’t know what your job is, and I can’t promise you you can return to your exact same job. Truly, after a hiatus where you’ve been doing something profoundly different, you may not want the exact same thing you wanted before anyway.
But yes, when you are ready to be done with what you’re doing now and rejoin the workforce in a more ambitious or earnest or focused or unambivalent way than you feel now — yes, you will be able to do it. I have watched it happen for clients and for friends. They are not CEOs of mega corporations. But they are outstandingly successful, fully engaged, bettering the world, inspiring their kids and their friends, and bringing in money. They are stressed by childcare issues and parent-teacher conferences sometimes, and by their work, sometimes. But that’s because they’re human. In the main, they are happy. You can do it, too. You’ll need to have a lot of creativity and confidence, and there will be moments where you have to be courageous or do something scary or uncertain, and that’s where peers and colleagues who love you can help a lot.
Last: Ms Morison brags
I was great at my job – before I became a mom, and after. I have trouble even typing that statement — which perhaps gets at some of what Sheryl Sandberg is talking about to begin with — but I was.
YES. I don’t know, yet, whether that’s what Lean In is about, but getting to a point where women can be proud and confidently tout their own awesomeness when they deserve it: that has to be one of the most fundamental parts of any movement that seeks to reinvigorate this very old discussion.
That and adequate affordable childcare and an understanding that corporate success is not the only type of success.