“… I do not believe there is one definition of success or happiness. Not all women want careers. Not all women want children. Not all women want both. I would never advocate that we should all have the same objectives. Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire. Some of the most important contributions to our world are made by caring for one person at a time. We each have to chart out own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values, and dreams.” Sheryl Sandberg
I recently read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Wow. What an incredible book, not only for the amazingly rich and well-researched content, but also because it kept my interest. Not always an easy thing to do.
Being in corporate for over twenty years, I’ve read a lot of management-genre books. I usually enjoy them at first, though around halfway through, I lose interest. The content seems more of the same and I often feel as if the book could be a wonderful ten-page article instead of an incredibly long book that I want to use to pummel myself to a slow, painful death.
This book was nothing of the sort. In truth, part of my level of engagement was the subject matter. The book makes a case for the cultural and historical perspective of the gender gap, and through poignant relatable examples, gives examples of what women and men both do to perpetuate it. Sheryl tactfully and touchingly addresses the personal choices that women make regarding family and career, and drives the importance of selecting a real partner in a spouse in order to juggle, if that’s what a woman chooses. She also talks about the consequences of the choices we make.
I remember over ten years ago running into a woman I was friends with in middle school. She told me she had four children, and asked how many I had. When I said that I had none, her lip curled and she grew very distant. “Oh, you’re a “career girl”,” she said. She may as well have substituted “career girl” with “child molester” with her reaction.
By not making a choice to have a family, I essentially made my choice. I never consciously decided to not have children, and even now, it still surprises me that I don’t. I never pictured my life without them. However, I won’t live in a place of regret for not having children and for not following societal norms. The truth is that I wasn’t ready to have a child when my body physically was. And regardless of what my middle school friend thinks, that’s ok. It’s just a different choice. I didn’t place a priority of my career over family; I simply realized that I wasn’t ready to have a child and chose to do the work that I needed to in order to avoid perpetuating the cycle of abuse that I grew up in.
On the last page of the book, Sheryl notes that she looks “toward the world I want for all children—and my own. My greatest hope is that my son and my daughter will be able to choose what to do with their lives without external or internal obstacles slowing them down or making them question their choices… I hope they both end up exactly where they want to be. And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in—all the way.”
Wow. I’ll be thinking about this for quite a while, and in my opinion, that is the epitome of a very well-written book.