This Is What Leaning In Looks Like

Like the other 5,000 bloggers at BlogHer ’13 last weekend, I listened to Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg talk about the principles of leaning in.  I haven’t read the book, though it’s in my queue with about 47 other books I intend to read this year.  I had reservations about the Lean In model– in part because it feels too close to “bend over” and I feel like why do I have to change my posture to try to fit into a man’s world?  Blah blah, I’m bitter and ambivalent. That’s not news.


Image from:

Image from:

After hearing Ms. Sandberg’s talk, I have fewer reservations.  As I heard it, leaning in is for every women, regardless of her goal.  It’s for those who are fighting in the board room, the cubicle, the courtroom, the trading desk or the front desk.  It’s also for women who are home with their children.  Basically, it’s for anyone with a vagina and a dream.  I was won over by the inclusiveness of her message, though put off by the gigantic, bigger-than-a-Big-Gulp beverage that Ms. Sandberg was drinking during her interview.  My assumption is that her jumbo tumbler was full of a caffeinated beverage and I’m thinking to myself, if it takes that much caffeine to get to 10:30 AM, I’m not sure my heart can take the stress of leaning in.

Yes, that was a judgment.  Yes, I will be accepting the opportunity to vigorously debate any and all of this in the comments below.

For me, if there is any inspiration to be drawn from the concept of leaning in, it must come from women I know who are doing it right this minute.  Ms. Sandberg is a great figure for the head of the movement, but I’m a foot soldier and I need other foot soldiers.  It’s from my peers that I will get ideas and inspirations of how I too could it all– raise my moppets, hold on to my law career, write fiction, blog my ass off, and remain married.

So, here’s a present for all of us.  THIS POST from Welcome To the Motherhood.  It’s a follow-up to this piece here a few weeks ago before Carinn had returned to work. Now, she’s back and she’s an illuminating example of how leaning in takes creativity, partnership, and guts.  She’s got all of that.  I’m tempted to lay it on thick about how awesome her husband is, and while I’m pretty sure he’s amazing, this is about Carinn and praising her partner for stepping up is condescending to him and all the other men who are doing this all the time.  It’s also what men should have been doing all along.  Just sayin.


23 thoughts on “This Is What Leaning In Looks Like

  1. I am quite literally in tears here. When you said you wanted to link to my post, I thought you meant on Facebook or Twitter. This blew me away. I’m also HELLA happy to say that my first swarm of feelings included pride, rather than I don’t deserve this shame. And also a healthy dose of gratitude for having a friend like you. I honestly wouldn’t be able to do any of it without your support, your cheerleading, your inspiration and your empathy. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    • And PS – it’s fair to give a HUGE pat on the back to my husband. He’s an equal partner in every sense of the word and has stepped up in ways that inspire me over and over.

      • I feel that way about my hubs and always worry that I am like “ooh, lookie a man who loves his kids,” which seems so unseemly. But maybe we can all get credit in partnerships where it’s working because everyone is leaning every which way.

    • If I could spent 1 hour with either you or Ms. Sandberg, I’d choose you hands down because you are like me. You have my life (only about 1000 times cooler with your NYC life and your writing cred) and you can make me believe in a way that she just can’t. But I give her credit for starting the conversation and giving us a good title: leaning in.

  2. I read a post on Ilene’s Fierce Diva blog about this topic the other day and I have to say I agree with both of you. Her point was that there should be more “you go, girl” among us women (extremely simplified) and I agree with that. I also agree with your point that we need examples from people we know, not just people who write those kinds of books.
    I have not read the book and only heard bits and pieces of how the whole thing works, but the general sentiment is empowering women and that’s not exactly new…
    I’ve always believed that if someone wants it all, she should be able to have it – career, writing, children, marriage, sex, whatever. For me personally, I just want to know that I could if I wanted to, but “having it all” has been pretty low on my list of priorities; I’m more of a “having what I truly need” kind of girl.
    Also: what’s wrong with judgement? People with opinions are the ones who spark discussions (and some people need a big gulp of caffeine to handle those discussions, just sayin’ :))

    • Watch out, I may start unleashing all my judgments and OMG, I will not be able to shut up. I am struggling with the concept of judgment. Like I am afraid it’s always bad and wrong so I stifle it and that probably makes this blog super boring and flat sometimes. I am going to start letting it out!

  3. Her book is in my line-up too. I totally agree with her point of view as I have personally found myself the only woman in the good-old-boys-club at work. I wish she was around then, it would have helped me get through the days. And I love her quote about the next time someone says you’re daughter is bossy, tell them she has leadership qualities 🙂

  4. Darn, the “” link won’t load. I loved your post from June 28, Carinn, so I’ll come back later and try again. I want to see how that vegetable garden is coming along.

  5. So, Mama, Here’s my take on the whole “OTHER” thing that takes on all the ism masks in our society. My work show me many of us automatically look for some place to lay the blame for our victimhood. I’ve certainly done it many times myself so I know the mechanism well.

    As soon as blame is laid the victim relinquishes all responsibility. And since it’s not my fault I’m done. Game over. Take it quietly or bitchingly, but take it.

    I am really not a fan of Author/Heroes who produce the self help literature, usually based on the author’s fabulousness. And I’m jealous, not so much about what they have, but what I make u[ they have.

    Here’s where Sheryl differs. She doesn’t allow herself to blame her vagina for her plight. She refuses to blame her gender for her struggle. She takes responsibility for it. She gets that one of the fundamentals of her identity is being a woman and wanting to be a mother. That’s nothing needing explanation, defense or compromising her integrity. What se does is continue to negotiate with the people in her life, many of them men, to get what she needs. Or thinks she needs.

    Furthermore, she doesn’t resign herself, even to a great situation. She has stuff going on inside herself that wants answers. And she goes for it. How many are wiling to forge ahead without perpetrators we can blame.

    Here’s to Sheryl Sandberg and her story of refusal to compromise on her integrity. And her courage to continue to know that if she wants to be her kind of mother, this is the way she needs to do it. She calls it Leaning in. I call it not giving in. And if she is in relation with people who don;t want to negotiate with her, she knows to move on instead of making herself wrong.

    Thanks for the example, Sheryl.

  6. I need to read this book. I didn’t get to hear her because I wasn’t at BlogHer *sob* but, I’ve heard all kinds of things about her and the book.–Lisa

  7. I had to read Lean In for a book club. I didn’t finish it, but was surprised that of what I did read, I didn’t hate it as much as I wanted to, especially once I got beyond some of the Sandberg details and focused on the bigger picture message. I have appreciated reading the return-to-work posts by both you and Carinn as I consider if I want to go back in any capacity. Cheers to you both!

  8. I haven’t read the book and I really don’t know much about the movement (is it a movement? I don’t even know that). I don’t know what lean in means. I’m struggling with the having it all thing because, well, that’s a whole post not yet written. The working mom thing is hard. That’s about all I can must on that for the moment.

    I read Carinn’s piece and I think what she’s doing to do what she has to do (and her husband) is just awesome. I probably should have said that instead of just what I did say but my comment would have even longer (Hi Carinn, I think you rock!!).

    And Christie, you know I think the world of you as well. I constantly wonder how you write so much and work and have double the kids I do and that you seem to do it all so well.

    As for the caffeine, if it takes extraordinary amounts to lean in and I’m already consuming far more than my fair share, perhaps leaning in isn’t for me. I’m now embarrassed by what it takes for me to make it to 10:30.

    I’m longwinded lately. Oops.

  9. I need to read the book and I need to get to Carin’s blog more. So inspiring in a “no excuses” kind of way – because we can’t have excuses if we’re going to make it all work or at least try to make it work. And I love me a huge tumbler of caffeine at 10:30 or any time of the day, really!

  10. Admittedly, I haven’t read Lean In yet. It’s on my list too. But I am pretty active in the Womens Committee at my law firm, and spend more than my fair share of time talking about and debating these issues. And while I appreciate Sheryl Sandberg and her message, and am a little bit in awe of all that she has accomplished over the course of her career, I can’t help but think that her “Lean In” message doesn’t go quite far enough.

    It’s great to lean in to our careers and to whatever life we have chosen for ourselves. But my problem with her message is, what happens when you have to be leaning into 2 different places at once? If you work full time, but have a child who for whatever reason needs extra attention, no amount of leaning in at work is going to solve that problem, and if you lean in more at home, aren’t you then, by definition, leaning out at work? We are all pulled in so many different directions, that we are always going to have to choose where to lean in, and also where to lean out. It’s all a big balancing act, and I’m not sure that her message takes that all into account.

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