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.