Much has been written this past week about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s forthcoming book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.” Much of what I have read has been negative. I don’t know if that’s because Sandberg is a wealthy executive, or if it’s simply because any conversation about motherhood and work can’t possibly be absent of judgement. Either way, I do plan to listen to her book when it becomes available on March 11.

Like what she has to say or not, the media are fully a buzz. I’ve thought a lot about the subject of women and work this week, and in my head I’ve been writing a blog post that’s thoughtful, coherent and ties together some major themes and arguments. Instead, I’m sitting here with about 10 minutes to write before I have to get dinner on the table, work on my take-home mid term exam, and get the kids ready to return to school tomorrow.

I couldn’t help think of Sheryl Sandberg when I sat down to record this week’s podcast with my guest Manasi. A dermatologist who is in the midst of opening her own practice, Manasi is committed to her profession, despite having a child with special needs at home. Pregnant with #3, she loves her sons, obviously, but she also loves being a physician. In this week’s podcast she speaks of the challenges she’s had along the way, and of her struggle to find a support network of peers.

While chatting with Manasi, I was reminded of another time, early in our podcast years, when we were following a working mom who was seeing a life coach. Jessica had two young girls at home at the time and she spoke of how she was always careening into the parking lot at school, her hair wet, makeup half done, bagel on her lap. After pushing her kids out of the car with their backpacks, always a few minutes late, Jessica would look at other moms in the drop off line and think “What do they know that I don’t? How do other working moms always have their act together while I’m barely making it?”

Sound familiar? The truth is those other moms were probably more like Jessica than she realized.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since we launched Manic Mommies, it’s that working moms need to find their flock. Many of you came to our podcast because you felt isolated and alone. At work and at home you tried to find people like you, who shared the same struggles. Maybe you questioned your choices. Or lack thereof. This is the very reason Kristin and I started this podcast seven (!) years ago.

So while Sheryl Sandberg may write of how to advance at work, and how the right partner at home can make all the difference, I’d argue that what working moms might need most is a support network of peers: Women who understand the challenges, who don’t judge, and who, despite their crazy busy schedules, find time to let you know you are a both a good mom and a good employee, boss, or coworker.

Here in Rochester I recently re-joined a group called Moms in Motion. While most of the members are major runners, triathletes and the like, some of us are content to meet every week to walk together. While I don’t yet feel like a solid member of the group, something happened at yesterday’s practice that made me realize just how much these women are there for each other.

As we were heading out on our walks and runs together, one of the moms lost a diamond earring in the parking lot. Within seconds, every single woman was looking down at the snow-covered pavement. Much like seagulls at the beach scouring for a potato chip or french fry, they were relentless in their pursuit of the earring. No one dared to head out until that earring was found.

It was a simple gesture, really, but one that was symbolic of this group. And it made me think of manic mommies and the wonderful women who listen to our show every week. Sure, we may not all live in the same place, or be able to support each other in daily life, but we do have a special kind of flock right here on the Internet.

So yes, do lean in at work. Sit at the table when decisions are made. Don’t leave until you leave.

But whatever you do, be sure to find your flock. For they will give you wings.

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20 Responses to Lean in, but find your flock

  1. Katie says:

    Wow, this really resonated with me today. I’ve often struggled with finding my flock (in high school, college, working, and now as a mom). But it’s also very true that once I felt like I found that flock – which was never an easy process – everything suddenly got easier. There were others who understood and would be there for me no matter what.

    Thank you.

  2. Kerry says:

    So true! Still working on finding mine. The Manic Mommies are definitely part of it! Thanks!

  3. Susan says:

    I also struggle with this as I am often considered not a “real mom” and maybe even considered an enemy. I am a step mom to my husbands 2 kids with no “real kids of my own.” To head off some stereotype, note my husband was left by his first wife, the bio mom before I ever met my husband. She was remarried first. I am not a home wrecker or 20years younger mid life crisis wife. I am older than my husband and his ex (and her new husband).

    Which is usually how it goes – I feel the need to be defensive up front which is no way to lean into anything. I don’t want to join a bitching group of step mom flock. But I am often feeling left out in a bio mom flock.

    Who is my flock in this blended family world?

  4. Becky says:

    Thank you

  5. Kathy says:

    I was a stay-at-home mom for 7 years and thought I had found my flock – a group of moms who did things together with and without our kids. But when times got tough and I had to go back to work, my flock abandoned me. I was judged very harshly for making that decision. Funny thing is – in the years since, they’ve all had to go back to work too, but our flock is beyond broken. I have been back at work for 5 years now, and have yet to find another. :(

  6. Kristin says:

    Thanks for being part of my flock, Erin!~
    Becks

  7. Julie says:

    I have said this before – I find your writing is really on point. I know you are doing the work going back to school thing, but I wonder what you could create out of the podcast community if that was your primary focus? I know the podcast is something you have had to approach as a necessary to do- but is that were true opportunity lies?? I know, none of my business.
    It is true – working moms often do not have a flock. I often feel I am on the sidelines at both home (I don’t know the moms as well) and at work and I think giving this community a voice is invaluble. Thanks for this post!

  8. Kristin says:

    Erin my friend, this post made me so proud to be part of Manic Mommies, to be your friend, and to have you as part of my flock.

  9. Nichole says:

    Erin, this post really resonated with me! I’ve struggled to find my flock since moving half way across the country more than five years ago. I struggle daily with finding a balance, and me time is so often the first thing to go. Thanks for the reminder that it is worth the time to grow and nurture a flock!

    Thanks so much for all you do making the Manic Mommies flock available to all of us!

  10. Erin says:

    @Julie, Thanks for your kind comment! I often think about what Manic Mommies could grow up to be. A membership community with local chapters? An online portal with articles, resources, tips and tricks that make managing work and family easier (imagine weekly shopping lists and meal plans)? A lot of these resources are available already, many of us just don’t have the time to go out and find them. We recently received the results of our listener survey and were astounded by what we found. 88% of our listeners work full or part time and 46% have advanced degrees! This is an audience sponsors would love to get in front of. Which makes me think of other events in addition to the Escape, sponsored content, online programs and then I realize…I haven’t picked up my dry cleaning or filled the car with gas or gone for my mammogram, so when/how am I going to find the time to do more with this? And truth is, I discovered one important thing about myself when I was running my own consulting business: I like working with other people. And that’s one reason why I returned to a job outside my home. Anyway, thanks for your support and, well, you never know what might happen.

  11. Shelly says:

    Well stated Erin. I have struggled to find a flock of my own, a lot of moms in my old neighborhood were stay at home and they all did things together and I felt out of the mix. We moved a few years ago to a new neighborhood and most of the moms work outside of the home – but I have found we are all busy just trying to stay above water so we have not flocked together. I wish there was a MIMs group in my area, that would be one I would enjoy. Like many others I have used your podcast as a support system to realize I am sort of normal and not fully screwing my kids up. But I will admit that there are days I feel like saving for future therapy for my kids might be better than saving for college :) I think last week your facebook page had a saying about behind every great kid is a mom who is pretty sure she is screwing it up – that is me!

  12. Heather says:

    I’m really looking forward to your diving deep on Sandberg. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the most recent podcast on working moms, but I wanted to let you know that there was quite a good NPR piece on Betty Friedan, from the Diane Rehm show (<a href="http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-02-20/fifty-years-after-feminine-mystique&quot; title="link here"). The panelists were really quite good, and raised a lot of interesting points. Like how in our parent's generations, "keeping home" was "professionalized" for women, and now parenting has been professionalized for women, with the net effect that we are still really sweating hard over our jobs as housewives. Also that at the start of the feminist movement, there was a sense of collective responsibility, but now if you're having problem with work/life balance, its thought of as not a failure of society, but a personal failure. And other great stuff about how much families depend on women's income. Hope you get the chance to check it out!

  13. Shelle says:

    Thanks for this post! I realize just how blessed I am. I have a wonderful flock of smart, supportive, funny, and endearing women. Your post reminded me of how rare that truly is and I sent them all a brief message telling them they were appreciated. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have gotten through some tough times without my ladies.

  14. Tara says:

    A very nice read for any mom. I am a SAH, of five children 11-2, and my days are full of work. Erin I appreciate you writing who your audience is, I know I am in the minority with staying at home, but I relate constantly to your working lives. Like you I struggle with the 24 hours of it all, the balance of children, home, finances, husband, volunteering, and helping the aging in-laws. Women need to find their flock, as few else “gets” the pure quantity of work we all have, and the worries and stresses that seem to fall on our shoulders. I am happy my flock of mom friends vary from SAH, part time, to WOH… who all support each other as women and very importantly as families.

  15. Laura says:

    Wow… I thought I was the only one who felt alone! Thanks for writing this, and to you and Kristin for being a very important part of my “virtual flock.”

  16. Kerri says:

    Thank you! You and Kristin have a way of saying things that I completely feel but have a hard time articulating. Almost in every podcast or blog post I find myself thinking…”yeah! that’s it” and laughing out loud. It’s reassuring…I’m not alone and not loosing my mind :-) Thank you for your time and energy for what you do for me and fellow Manic Mommies…it is so greatly appreciated.

  17. Julie says:

    Erin – a beautiful post, so well written, so heart felt. Admittedly, I am one of your flaky listeners (on and off for the last 7 yrs & remember Jessica’s story) and an at-home mom, who’s never quite fit into that label. Your post couples nicely with the documentary PBS aired last night, entitled “Women Who Make America.” Check it out (when you have 3 hours to spare, ha!). It’s uplifting for all women in our generation. Supporting one another & finding your flock are key! Thanks for the post. :)

  18. Teresa says:

    Excellent post, Erin! It has been difficult to find a flock at various times in my life. Currently, most of my flock are my fellow Tastefully Simple consultants. It’s nice to have found a group of women who I can have fun with and who are there for me whether I’m up or down. We truly support each other and cheer each other on both in professional and personal endeavors. I also love that part of my job is helping women to make the time to get together with their own flocks in the middle of their hectic lives.

    Thanks so much for all that you do! Manic Mommies has been an exciting part of motherhood for me. I’ve been listening since my oldest son was born…almost 7 years ago!

  19. Shawn says:

    Love this post, Erin! I did find you guys when I felt isolated at home (I was surrounded by the “motherhood is so wonderful! What do you mean, you are having a ‘hard time’?” mothers who drove me crazy! Luckily, I found a flock here in my town, but you have always been the first ladies who were accepting and validating when I needed it the most!

  20. Denise says:

    Hello,
    Please check out the recent NPR Perspectives piece. It speaks directly to the book Lean In and the struggles working mothers face each day.

    http://www.kqed.org/a/perspectives/R201303200735