In defense of ‘leaning out’: Moms differ in defining success

Absolutely spot-on:

In her book “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg blames women for subconsciously self-selecting out of career tracks that lead to the corner office and the big bucks. By being fearful, unassertive, and hedging their bets in favor of flexibility for kids many of them don’t yet have, Sandberg says that women themselves are largely responsible for why men still dominate at the highest levels of corporate and political leadership.

Her assumption is that a fabulous, prestigious, well-paid career is the pinnacle of all human achievement and that gender equity at the highest levels of industry is always preferable. But my question is: for who? For children? For families? For women who want to be present for their children or enjoy the fleeting early years of their children’s lives? As Caitlin Flanagan rightly points out in her column,“What about the children,” leaning in to a career, Sandberg-style, inevitably means leaning away from family, friends and a life that’s centered at home.

I admire Mrs. Sandberg’s career, but what she fails to appreciate is the wisdom of women who do not define success (or happiness) solely by the male standards of achievement that spurred her to the top of the heap.

Read the full piece at THIS LINK.

2 thoughts on “In defense of ‘leaning out’: Moms differ in defining success

  1. After hearing a few recent news stories about women’s issues, I wondered what the ladies at this site would have to say. I haven’t been an active reader, but my dismayed and confused stance on some of these issues led me to see what the good women here might be thinking. Regarding your post, I listened to Ms. Sandberg on TED Talks and found her to be very sympathetic to women in general. I do not agree that she is promoting a high-powered career and lifestyle. I believe she is promoting a positive self-view for women, and encouraging a specific audience in their career decisions, She specifically says, in a non-judgmental way, that a career is not for everyone. She is speaking, as she states, to women who would ‘like’ to continue a career, but due to societal pressure, lean away from the table (in her case the corporate table), and thus may make a wrong choice for themselves and their families. I wholeheartedly agree with LAF’s stance that women are different, and the continued struggle women face in the public sphere demonstrate this. However, I don not feel there is anything righteous in speaking out against women like Ms. Sandberg, simply because they promote feminist values. If you listen to her message, I believe she truly positive intentions for all women’s rights and development, though she speaks from her position in the corporate sphere. She is not promoting all women follow this path. She is apparently speaking to those who are already on this path and are navigating their options as they face life decisions. She also speaks about children and families and how it is the responsibility of both parents to raise their children, however they best see fit. We cannot deny there are many of God’s female children who have the intellect, talent and drive to pursue worthy careers that benefit society. And if it keeps them from being miserable at home, then I cannot see why their children wouldn’t benefit from having a career mom. Certainly we can’t denounce all women who pursue careers from having a family. What Ms. Sandberg is sharing are the things she’s learned in navigating both successfully. I felt she presented herself as a modest, feminine and God-gifted woman. Different from those of us who work at home, but no less a true woman and mother. I wouldn’t judge her negatively just because her views are different.


    1. Kay, the TED talk isn’t what was addressed in this piece, but the actual book. Like a lot of other feminist writers, Sandberg really does seem to believe that staying home with children is letting down “the team” — the “team” being the women who choose feminist/careerist values over family and home. What struck me in your comment (and I’m sure you didn’t intend it this way) was when you wrote “there are many of God’s female children who have the intellect, talent and drive to pursue worthy careers that benefit society.” The implication is that those who choose to stay at home do not have the “intellect, talent and drive” and that “worthy careers that benefit society” are outside of the home and family. That’s precisely what’s at issue here. Home is a career–and a very worthy one. Feminism has done its best to make sure home is seen as a last resort for the untalented and incapable when it actually requires all the talent and capability we can pour into it. There are millions of unsung women “leaning in” at home, pursuing the Proverbs 31 to the hilt (teaching their children, helping their husbands to succeed, and often running their own businesses from home to boot). They shouldn’t be made to feel that they chose the brainless path. That’s the point here. Thanks!


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