Leaning In… or Not

A few years ago I had coffee with a colleague.  I was wanting to find a new job, a better fit, and wanted to reach out to her to talk about her side of the business.  I had been toying around with the idea of starting my own company, but with small children knew that it was not the wisest decision for me personally.  So Ann* asked me, “What’s your motivation?”  I said, “What?  What do you mean?”  She said, “When you get up in the morning, what motivates you?”  My response was, “Well… I suppose my motivation is to ensure we have a decent life, that we can take a family vacation every year and that I don’t have to drive around in cars that have the potential to break down.  I don’t know.  Is that what you mean?”  Ann’s response was, “My motivation was this Prada purse.  I saw a lady at a meeting and she looked so put together.  She was carrying a Prada purse.  I decided that I would work until I felt like I could purchase a Prada purse.  Now I have a life that matches my Prada purse.”

Mind you, Ann is also a wife and mother of two young children.  This post is not written to bash Ann, but a post about those of us who don’t share those ideas of success…  When success doesn’t amount to material things.

Months prior to that coffee date, I attended a networking event for women in my industry and we watched a TedX talk by Sheryl Sandberg (author of Lean In:Women, Work and the Will to Lead).  Sandberg spoke about how women shouldn’t feel that they have to choose between career and motherhood.  She said women can, in fact, have both lives and the children do just fine.   … As if discrediting my maternal feelings of missing my children when I went back to work.

There I sat in a room full of high heels, pencil skirts and Prada purses listening to a woman empowering these women, confirming and validating their definition of “success.”  … but what about us whose definition of success doesn’t match that?

There are a few great statements about success out there:

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do. ― Bob Dylan

Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value. ― Albert Einstein

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.― W.P. Kinsella

Merriam-Webster defines success simply as this:

the accomplishment of an aim or purpose

So, Ann wanted that Prada purse.  She succeeded.  I suppose if I evaluated my response about providing for my family, giving me a dependable car and vacations, I too succeeded. 

In addition to the generic idea of “providing for my family,” I wanted to come home and give my family my full attention without being harried or stressed from the events of the day.  That’s a bit to much to ask in being a career mom, I’m afraid.

As career moms, we need to be cognizant of how we are different from our counterparts.  Science has shown that women use both sides of the brain for many tasks while men use one or the other; and women are incapable of separating stimulus, emotions, work, etc in their brain while men can separate.  This can make for an exhausting day for a woman, especially.

So I wonder about us moms who struggle with this tension and don’t feel like we are leaning in either direction.  Someone who’s sitting on one side, telling me that it is GOOD for my children to have a mom that works for a variety of reasons and that any guilt I feel is from an old societal construct that doesn’t exist anymore, can’t make the tension dissolve.

Yet, I suppose for some of us, who truly believe that we are fulfilling God’s calling in our work (I’ve seen this more prominently in friends who are nurses, hospice workers, teachers, midwives, and a dietician), we feel less of a tension because we KNOW that we are doing God’s work in both areas which makes it easier to juggle.  Maybe there’s less battle with one’s morals when the pay is decent but not exorbitant and the work is so rewarding. I find this excitement for work mainly in the service field for women, which makes sense given a woman’s ingrained nurturing capabilities.

In “Approval Addiction,” Joyce Meyer writes:

If you want to be unhappy, uncomfortable, and insecure, just spend your life trying to do something that is not right for you.  It is just like trying to wear shoes that don’t fit.

I suppose if one found the right calling, or the right calling for the right season, it will always feel like your shoes fit.  Some women find that their lives are just fine working outside the home and managing the home.  THOSE shoes fit rather well…

Search in the bible for women’s roles and you’ll uncover how the household IS, in fact, her’s to run.

These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.‭‭ – Titus‬ ‭2:4-5‬

So I advise these younger widows to marry again, have children, and take care of their own homes. Then the enemy will not be able to say anything against them. – 1 Timothy 5:14

The mommies who excel in my industries, and many others, MUST put in over 40 hours a week and be expected to answer their work phone and emails well beyond that. Thoughts of work will penetrate off-hours and steal those precious few moments away from family. I once had a female boss who joked that her children HATED her cell phone. She accidentally left it in the car when the family went out to eat and the children were elated.  What does this say about how the children are affected by her work?

Another woman, the leader of her company, called my boss in the evening, cursing him at the top of her lungs while she was standing outside of her son’s cub scouts meeting.

My simple point is this…  If we don’t want to lean in we shouldn’t be made to believe that we have to. There are those in the world who WANT to be successful at both and believe they can be (and there are countless others who are not offered a choice in the matter. Single working moms, widows, homes in which one income just doesn’t make the cut… Hats off to you and you have the respect of so many!!!).  For those that want both and believe they are succeeding in their ideas of success, they are nailing it.  More power to them.  For those that feel called to be the last face their children see as they get on the bus and the first when they return home, more power to them as well.

The very first verse I highlighted in my bible a decade ago is this:.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? – Matthew‬ ‭6:26-30

God WILL provide. He always has and always will. Ladies, we don’t need to prove anything to anyone about our knowledge and ability. God knows our heart. Our job is to please Him and Him alone.  I, personally, will not be defined by my work product or my title at my job. I will not be defined by the class of clients I’ve worked for or any flashy buildings that I have helped construct. I’m not even defined by this blog or any opinions I write about that may change in a week or a year.  I refuse to be defined by my material things that I “earned” in my labor that could disappear in an instant. I am defined as a child of God. Period. The end.

Let’s go shoe shopping!

Not leaning in

The other side of the tension. Man, I’ve been so blessed.

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1 Comment

  1. chrisCgirl

    Our job is to please Him and Him alone. Awesome. Thanks for the reminder.

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