This Is Not My ‘Lean In’ Year

As any mom with a career knows, killing it at the office and at home is nearly impossible. At some point, something’s gotta give. For me, that time came late last year when I wrote about my burnout. That challenging time made me realize that my life isn’t set up to work so many hours. I was meeting my deadlines, but everything else was fraying at the edges. Stuff just wasn’t getting done.

2016 will be different. I am no less committed to work and professional development, but I’m clearing space for myself to be a person too. I’ve finally accepted the fact that this is not my “lean in” moment.

If you’re not familiar with Lean In, it’s a book by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s also a sort of movement. Case in point is that I haven’t gotten around the reading it yet (so many books, so little time!), but many people refer to “leaning in” as though it’s a concept that’s always existed.

To “lean in,” as I understand it, is to take on the additional responsibility, apply for that promotion, take no prisoners and make no apologies for being a successful woman.  Yes, this means you hire someone else to do a lot of your childcare, cleaning, and life-running. But you are a baller, so it’s worth it. Or so goes the theory.

I’m a big fan of this concept, but I don’t think everyone can see it through. Personally, I’d love to lean in, just not right this minute.  I believe when my kids are older and in school, I may very well have the emotional and mental strength to take on new professional conquests. For the moment, however, so much of my energy is diverted to just making sure my little one doesn’t manage to find a knife and going jumping on her bed with it, that there’s not much room left for lofty career pursuits.

I realize that “leaning in” is a remarkably American concept. I think many Europeans would ask “what is all this hard work for if you can’t even enjoy time with your family and friends?” I feel torn between these two life visions. On the one hand, I am American. I was told my whole life I could be and do whatever I wanted. With hard work and determination, I was told, there was no limit to what I could accomplish.

As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve realized that ceaselessly clambering after a higher salary or more stature isn’t really my game. I’m ambitious, sure, but not for those reasons. If I want to make more money, it’s so I can afford to take more time off for vacations and family time. I don’t really want a bigger house or a fancier car. I feel very blessed with what I have already.

So I’ve decided that this year is about appreciating what I’ve got rather than trying to accumulate more. My goals are all time related: more time reading, playing, and sleeping, less time stressing and worrying.  Perhaps I’ll finally get around to reading Lean In as I lay on my couch in my sweat pants in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, like the winner I know I am. Hopefully there will be more blog posts too and none of them will be about burnout.

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