Leaning Out

“Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few.”
Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

I read Lean In about a year ago, and it was a good read. For all the criticism leveled against Sandberg (some of which I agree with) she does make some really important points about what barriers women face in the work world today and what women can do to navigate these barriers. She also articulates the way the men need to step up, both in how they interact with women who are colleagues and how they support the work that must take place in the home. I appreciate all these points. I want to make the world a better place for women. I’m a feminist through and through. I want more women in leadership positions so that positive change will happen. I want to be part of this shift in work culture.

But I don’t want to lean in.

In fact, its worse than that. I’m actually leaning out! I’m going back to working part-time work this year. I’m not doing it to take on some free-lancing projects or getting a new credential on the side. I’m working part-time in order to spend more time with my kids, volunteer at their schools, try to get dinner made earlier, etc.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 11.17.41 AMThe strange thing is I’m in an ideal position to lean in. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. I’m a teacher, which comes with no flexibility during the school year, but lots of flexibility over school vacations and summer. I could pursue administration credentials if I wanted to. I could have a student teacher. I could lead committees at my school. In essence, I could be assertive, take on leadership roles a step above my current qualifications, put myself in a position of power.

Instead, I’m actively saying “no” to many of these opportunities.

People can judge my choices how they will. Most of these choices are more about my ever-developing minimalist philosophy. But there is another piece of the puzzle here. One of the reasons I’m not leaning in, not taking on new roles, not speaking up even when I have something to say, is that I’m just too damn tired.

  • I’m tired of my comments going over people’s heads, only to have the same comments be applauded and considered when a male colleague says essentially the same thing.
  • I’m tired of sitting in a meeting with 7 women and 1 man and watching him take up half the air-time
  • I’m tired of having discussion after discussion about how hard it is to be a working mom, only to have the same people show a complete lack of respect for the importance of efficiency, time, and getting home for an early dinner.
  • I’m tired of watching men be celebrated when they pick their kids up from daycare and watching women accept that they will always be the ones who get up half an hour early to make everyone’s lunches.
  • I’m tired of saying “I’m sorry” or “just” before I begin any request, but even when I try to stop, I know that I sound “bitchy” the minute the statement comes out of my mouth.
  • I’m tired of trying to help new mom’s figure out how they can pump during a school day when they teach more than two classes in a row.

I’m just damn tired of the whole thing. I’m exhausted, and the emotional and intensive energy it would take for me to “lean in” seems like too great a personal sacrifice. This makes me feel like a lousy feminist in some ways, but I also know it is real and it is me. The best I can do is be vocal about why I am leaning out and what barriers prevent me from taking on leadership roles. Because, I expect, that while many women may not agree with my choices, most of them completely understand my experience. So, I’m leaning out. How do you cope?

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2 thoughts on “Leaning Out

  1. Bravo, Marie! Everyone’s life is important, not just to “future women” but to ourselves. We should be role models and trailblazers only to the extent that we want to. I’m glad that you do not lightly take on other people’s “shoulds” and that you thoughtfully decide for yourself what is right for you. That sounds like the best kind of role model to me! Roberta

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful response Roberta. I wish we all could really decide was is best for ourselves outside of society’s expectations, but we just have to do the best we can. It is so true that our lives are very important in the here and now, which really does matter the most!

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