leaning in (part 2): why my place is not in the kitchen

Photo Credit: Karolina

Photo Credit: Karolina

Here we are again, part 2 of the tidbits of knowledge I gleaned from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.  My prior post focused on some of the aspects that tend to chain us down while we’re slaving away at our 9 to 5s (oh, how I wish those were my hours).  But what about those fences we put up ourselves outside of the workplace?  What about those stereotypes that follow us home?  We’re not immune to ignoring everything that the world tells us about who we, as women, should be, and that’s what we need to change.  Read on.

WE BELIEVE WE WILL EITHER BE GOOD MOTHERS OR GOOD EMPLOYEES, NOT BOTH

“Of Yale alumni who had reached their forties by 2000, only 56 percent of the women remained in the workforce, compared with 90 percent of the men.”

I don’t have children, so I may not be the best person to speak on this; however, I know that the debate continues to rage between women regarding whether it is better to stay at home or rejoin the workforce after you have children. Do you sacrifice career success to focus solely on your children or sacrifice being able to be there for all of your children’s milestones to chase your own individual dreams? It’s a hard decision to make, especially when studies have shown that when a husband and wife both are employed full-time, the mother does 40 percent more child care and about 30 percent more housework than the father. Those numbers frighten even the most steel-hearted of us – we realize that rejoining the workforce means we are going to run ourselves ragged.

But why? Why do we have to be the ones that cook all of the dinners or clean the floors or make sure that lunch boxes are packed in the morning? It’s a stigma that, for some strange reason, has endured through the feminist movement, and it’s one that needs to be ended quickly. We shouldn’t settle for a partner who believes that women automatically belong in the kitchen or laundry room. Trust me, we’re not better at making sandwiches than they are. As Gloria Steinem once said in an interview with Oprah, “Now we know that women can do what men can do, but we don’t know that men can do what women can do.” If we are going to put in the same hours outside of the household as our spouse, they need to do the same inside of the household as well. It’s that kind of teamwork that will allow you (and your significant other) to succeed not only in your career, but in your home life as well.

The other thing I learned from the book?  We need to stop berating others for making a choice that is different than our own.  Yes, some with Yale degrees choose to become stay-at-home mothers while others go on to be COO of Facebook; however, we need to realize we all have different life situations, personalities, and goals, and believing that what was right for you and your family is also right for everyone else around you is ridiculous.  We need to support each other no matter what decision we make – there’s no reason for there to be an “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to stay-at-home moms and those with careers.   I believe that Madeleine Albright said it best:  “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  So stop the judgment – both groups add extreme value to the world, and we need to start acknowledging that.

Source: www.Forbes.com
Source: www.Forbes.com

WE BELIEVE WE HAVE TO DO IT ALL

“I had to decide what mattered and what didn’t, and I learned to be a perfectionist in only the things that mattered.” – Dr. Laurie Glimcher, Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College.

We believe we have to be the mothers who effortlessly make cupcakes that look exactly like ladybugs, employees who juggle 5 different projects that are always finished a week before their deadlines, and wives/girlfriends who give spa-quality massages and cook gourmet meals, all the while sporting a toned body, perfect hair, and walking in 4-inch heels. Trust me, I’m right there with you. It’s hard to give up the chase of perfection – we want to be all of those things for the people we love, and to completely slash that ideal is a bit scary. However, if we don’t, we’re going to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

As Dr. Glimcher stated, we need to prioritize aspects of our lives and devote our attention to those things that truly matter. Many times we feel that we have to “do it all,” and in reality, all we’re doing is stretching ourselves thin. So take off the chains that shackle you to that impossible goal of perfection and instead, start allocating a majority of your time to those 5 things most important to you. Let me tell you, it’s absolutely freeing.

There you have it – just a snippet of what I learned in the book but still valuable information.  If you find this remotely inspiring, go out, get the book, and read it in full.  It’s a great catalyst for women in all stages of life and will give you a new perspective on how we, as a gender, need to step up our game.  The women before us got us this far, but we can’t settle for the status quo – the continued disrespect, unequal pay, and lack of leadership positions.  So go to your local library, browse Barnes & Noble’s website, whatever – just make sure you get this in your hands.  It’s a life-changer.

Photo Credit: Anda Ambrosini

Photo Credit: Anda Ambrosini