Leaning In: A Personal Account

I avoid self-help books like plague. My theory is— to each, their own. I do not subscribe to most of these views, so it is counterproductive and I almost always feel lousy afterwards because books are expensive. The last few self-help books I read were from the “parenting” genre. My my, that is still a colossal work in progress.

I’m trying to squeeze in few minutes of reading before bed time and during my commute to work. I picked up ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg recently. I’d been hearing this phrase and her name for quite some time, and I told myself that it’s alright if I do not end up liking the book, I would maybe derive some perspective out of it. This book couldn’t have landed into my lap (erm, Kindle) at a better time.

Of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about women in workplace. I take the Metro to and from work every day. Recently, they reserved the first two coaches exclusively for women. I see a lot of frazzled women in the train going to work in the morning, and I’m thinking about child care, equal parenting and lots of associated thoughts. I wouldn’t have given this scene a second thought before I became a mother myself.

Anyway, the book. I read it with a very open mind, and now I have so many takeaways from the book— yay, a victory for self-improvement books. I could relate to a lot of things discussed in the book.

Lean In

I am a content marketer now, but my last job was in the manufacturing sector. I decided to change my career path at 28. This meant that starting out as a fresher again. I earn much lesser than peers my age and some of my coworkers who are much younger than me. I would be lying if I said this doesn’t bother me. This was a risk I did not think much about, because I enjoy what I do, and I’m grateful that I am at a place where I could afford to take that risk in the first place.
My career is well on its way to climb the jungle gym and not a corporate ladder, and I hope it stays that way.

I am one of the many women who will not actively discuss their children at work. This is partially because of my anxiety that my priorities will be questioned. But also mostly because my co-workers are much younger, and I am sure they do not want to hear about how less babies sleep or how much babies pee (A LOT).
I don’t want anyone thinking I do any less at work, because talking about my child means I’m thinking about him rather than thinking about work. Irrational, right? Try telling that to my snoozing brain that’s overworked from thinking about all irrational scenarios.
I also compare my time to my colleagues (who stay at work late) and feel like I don’t measure up. I know I’m setting myself up for a disaster, but after reading the book I know that I’m not the only one engaging in this pointless exercise. Misery indeed loves company.

Sheryl Sandberg on women at top management
Source: Linkedin

Pick your poison

Despite having a great support system, I find parenting to be the hardest thing I’ve done so far. This might sound whiny and entitled. But ultimately parents are the ones picking up the tab, (at least in our case) so a great amount of my emotional energy is spent on making sure that I’m doing things the right way. The problem, however, is that there’s no one right way. There’s also no “done is better than perfect” when it comes to parenting. You aim for perfection, so that you can land near “done” at the very least.
As a working parent, it all boils down to which poison you pick or which battle you choose to fight or.. oh my god, this is becoming a bloody mess (pun intended). Always pick your poison wisely, no two poisons are the same, and what poison works for others might not work for you. PSA: I’m not being literal, please don’t pick up any poison.

Like Sheryl, I was naive enough to believe that because of the hard work of the previous generations, we are better off when it comes to women equality. Let me tell you about my reality check when travelling in the metro recently— a gentleman felt so entitled that he decided to travel in the women-only compartment despite the staff asking him to get off.

To talk is to empower

It helps to talk even if you think you’re not making a difference. Sadly, there are still a lot of people like the man in the metro even in the current generation. To talk is to empower. Till the time we have more and more women at the top management, it is our duty to keep talking and challenging the status quo, and in this I fully support the author.