I finally finished. Those last 50 pages were hanging over my head and kept slipping down my priority list for three great reasons. 1. I was on vacation, 2. “Gone Girls” captivated me and 3. Sheryl’s writing is just a little dry. That being said I was surprised at how often I found myself nodding my head, remembering learning the same lessons Sheryl was talking about. And I am no Sheryl Sandberg I can assure you that! But perhaps there are some universal revelations that career-minded Moms go through. And though the challenges and concerns may be generalized, the answers cannot.
And because the answers are unique to each woman, it is close to impossible to find them by reading a book. But perhaps the book can create an awareness of opportunities to redefine your world. What I know for sure (Oh…Oprah…) is that when navigating a career and a life, there is comfort in knowing you are not alone. And for this reason, reading “Lean In” might be a little like having a best friend to hold your hand. Back in my day, that book was “I Don’t Know How She Does It”. (http://www.randomhouse.com/book/128882/i-dont-know-how-she-does-it-by-allison-pearson) It was the first time I read a book and wanted to cry because someone was able to articulate the range of issues and feelings I had. So I hope “Lean In” can do this for women “coming up” now.
For what it’s worth – there are four messages from “our” shared stories that if you can find your own answers early enough in the game – you will be rewarded with success, balance, and way more fun.
- Know what matters and have people around you to remind of them. For Sheryl – it was realizing that she didn’t need to know the kids were supposed to wear green for St Patrick’s Day. For me, it was overcoming the guilt about not knowing what time the bus dropped the kids off for our sitter to pick them up. (My husband looked at me quizzically – “You don’t need to know. Why are you even asking?”) Let go of the things you “should” do or “should” know. Easier said than done which is why you need great people around you to remind you.
- “Done is good enough.” My best friend and I shared a common goal as we became more experienced career women, mothers, wives. “Strive to be average”. The overachiever in us wasn’t necessary – that’s why it’s called OVERachiever. Another wise friend would regularly admonish me when I would choose to work on a paper rather than have a drink on the deck on a Friday night. Working, parenting, wifeing, socializing and working on my Masters- not everything had to be great. “Cs get degrees” she would say. Pick your spots where done is good enough.
- Appreciate the differences – from afar. When I stopped comparing myself against standards and measures that weren’t my world I freed up a lot of time! Learn to appreciate the lifestyle differences between yourself and at-home Moms, male execs, etc. and create your own measuring stick for a successful life. When you create your own measures, it all becomes a lot more invigorating.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Know what the norm is and know what changes would make it better for you. Then ASK. Sucking it up is an important skill but it only gets you so far. When you are managing a work schedule, home calendar, staff, money, etc. there are probably alternatives to the status quo that will work better for you and your life. Whatever it is that would work best for you – ask for it. Then everything and everyone around you gets the best of you – and that is what you want to give.
So I hope “Lean In” becomes a guidebook/source of support/hand holding best friend for career-minded women who will only get stronger by knowing their struggle is universal and their answer is the only answer. I can only say I’m glad that these challenges are behind me – ‘coz I still don’t know how I did it!
P.S. I enjoyed “Bossypants” more.