I’m three quarters of the way through Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. I know. I know. I know. She’s everywhere—in print, on the talk show circuit. She could die soon from overexposure, but I still wanted to read her book and come to my own conclusions. So far, I like what Sandberg has to say. As a business owner from a young age, I am inordinately relieved that I never had to climb the corporate ladder or navigate the jungle gym as she prefers to describe her ascent to the top. It’s pretty tough up there especially if you are the only woman around. And sometimes it’s not so nice up there even with other women around.
This book interests me on a variety of fronts. I have a 20 something daughter making her way in her profession. I hear stories of non- supportive female superiors. I so want to talk to those women and tell them they need to be constructive with young women. Sandberg talks about the importance of being nice always or “relentlessly pleasant.” It has helped her—not hurt her– in her rise. Take note.
If you’re reading this blog and are a Washington working mom—you are “leaning in” to be sure. This is a working town filled with high achievers who are continually on the way up. I certainly agree with Sandberg’s suggestion that finding the right mate is key to success for a working mom. No kidding. We talk to a lot of dads in our office . We work with many homes where there is a division of labor both in childcare and household chores. Let me assure you that I wouldn’t have been able to do what I have without my partner at work and at home.
Another point made by Sandberg jumped off the page for me. It relates to the fact that the cost of childcare can equal the salary of the working mom. Why should she bother staying at work if her income and her nanny’s salary are a wash? The important observation that Sandberg makes is the mom should measure the cost of childcare against her FUTURE salary instead of her current salary. Paying a nanny is not cheap, but dropping out of the workforce doesn’t make sense considering all the money she has already invested in her career and her projected future earnings. Additionally, flexibility with hours and scheduling tend to increase as people become more senior. This line of thinking is only relevant for moms who want to continue working but are finding the childcare costs hard to justify. For moms who really want to stay home, no justification is going to feel right.
The importance of having all the players in place is evident. Right spouse. Check. Right job. Check. Right nanny. Check. To be sure, this is all a great, complicated balancing act. Even Sandberg clearly states– no one has it all or does it all. Take heart.