I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”. Ok, I technically listened to it on Audible, which means that I was working while I was listening to it, which I think means I was leaning in more than most women. Not that it’s a competition, but it kind of is.
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and wrote a book for women on how to be more successful. The idea behind it is how to stop letting ourselves cave to outside pressures that many men don’t have to deal with. This book seems to be the feminist “ra ra we can do it” manifesto of this year, and many of her thoughts are nothing new, just repackaged so she can get a little financial slice of the feminist pie (which is presumably bushy).
Those who know me know that I’m not much of a feminist in the “man-hating” definition of the word, nor Sandberg’s apparent “you must procreate to be a worthy woman” take on the word. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a woman president, and will fiercely debate my pro-life friends that, they aren’t truly pro-life if they aren’t stepping up to adopt or donate money to unwanted children; they’re just judgemental assholes. But I’m not out their burning my bra. I don’t even know if women are still burning their bras, to be honest. So there’s that.
But I wanted to give it a try because I saw a lot of my female friends recommending it, and I love books, so, why not?
Right off the bat, if you are a child-free woman, this likely isn’t the book for you. In Chapter 2 she began talking about the demands of working moms and I had hoped it was just for that chapter, but unfortunately by chapter 9, she was still rattling on about moms. Also, apparently, there are a lot of women out there with crappy husbands – she even makes her own husband kind of sound like a dick at times. An entire chapter focuses on how to get your husband to do more housework, as well as ways to get him to help take care of the children more. She also says that men get laid more when they do more housework. I guess that again must be a mom-thing because, if Calm-ass Husband tried to do the dishes as a form of foreplay, we’d have an issue on our hands.
For someone who comes off as a feminist, I was disappointed to see her mainly pander to women who are mothers. The child-free movement is growing quickly, and largely stems from our rights to chose whether or not we want children. To assume that we all have kids seems counterintuitive to the fundamental idea around feminism. I find it bizarre that so many women like Sandberg complain that they are discriminated against in the workplace because they have children, while discriminating against women who chose to not have children. Pot, kettle, black.
I think one of the biggest fallacies that surrounds women without kids is that we somehow have it easier than those with kids, but a reminder: having kids was a conscious decision made presumably out of a desire to have them. I think one of the greatest disservices a woman can do to her children is to act as if they, or the life resulting from having them, are a hardship. We’ve all met our fair share of self-righteous moms who love to paint themselves as the martyr who sacrifices so much for her family, while working and keeping the household together. They almost act as if kids were something that just happened to them, rather than a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I am lucky to have mom friends who do a great job at managing all of the responsibilities in their lives without constantly feeling the need to smugly lord it over the heads of others like some sort of trophy. Those also seem to be the moms who actually enjoy motherhood instead of treating it like a cruel inevitability of life. If I were to ever start complaining that I felt lonely without kids, everyone would look at me and say, “You chose this path, suck it up”. Why don’t we say that more to those who want to complain about their lives with kids?
The fact is, being child-free does not exempt you from struggles, sacrifice, and hardships in life, they’re just different. Yet Sandberg continues to beat the mom-thing to death throughout her book, as if only moms deal with these issues. She reminds me of a friend of mine, a mother of two, who will listen to me vent a frustration I’m having about an issue, and then sum it up with, “Well, at least you weren’t up last night at 3am with a vomiting child,” as if it’s some sort of pissing contest, and her vomiting child trumps my heartbreak at having to watch my husband be forced to take steps to put his own mother in jail. Is there some level of disconnect from reality that clouds some womens’ brains and make them complete narcissists once they have a child?
I even double checked the title of the book, it said “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”. It didn’t say “Lean In: Moms, Work, and the Will to Lead”. So in a sense, Sandberg actually managed to write a book about how women are alienated in the workplace, while alienating a portion of the women who read her book. Well done, Sandberg.
One thing she did mention that was helpful is the phenomenon called “Imposter Syndrome”, which I think is an important syndrome of which to be aware. I Wiki’d that syndrome (you know it’s true if it came from Wiki) and found out,
“The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
Basically, when you are receiving accolades, promotions, or a job offer because of your amazing accomplishments, there’s a part of you that says, “I don’t deserve this, I didn’t earn this, they’re going to figure me out eventually.” I know a lot of people, myself included, who have experienced this, so it was nice to hear that someone in a position such as Sandberg experiences it as well.
Overall, Sandberg has valuable things to say to moms, and I’m sure that moms will get a lot out of the book – I even bought it for a mom friend of mine. Unfortunately, for women who don’t have kids, we’ll just have to wait for a successful non-babyhead to be the beacon of inspiration in the murky waters of corporate America.