Lean in? We’re too busy leaning on…

MLU coverSheryl Sandberg has ruffled feathers and sparked conversations with her new book Lean In. Blogger and author of Mums Like Us Laura Kemp debates which way women really lean.

BritMums have been given 5 copies to give away to our readers, the first five comments left below are winners!

Lean In.

That’s the concept created by Facebook boss Sheryl Sandberg in her new book which advocates female empowerment in the workplace.

It’s a kind of “if you can’t beat them, join them” manifesto; if you can’t change the world, find a way to get what you want. Which is highly commendable if you live the life Sheryl leads. And good on her.

But what about the rest of us who spend less time leaning in but leaning on other people?

Not to mention demanding our toilet-training offspring “lean over”?

I don’t want to criticise her for having millions in the bank and an army of staff who manage the school run, do the shopping, take the dog to the vet and clean the loo. That’s too predictable and too simple an analysis. Sheryl’s boardroom sisters are a marvel for their grit and determination. And for carrying off those bright orange radiation boiler suits to protect yourself against the most noxious of substances – that of guilt.

The main problem for me is the vast majority of mums can’t relate to Lean In on a practical level – if your child breaks an arm at school, I’m guessing most women would drop everything and would want to be there for them. Why should we be told to act more like men when the “it’s a man’s world” idea is cited as the reason holding us back?

Lean In is helpful because it highlights the working mum debate again, an issue which we feel day-in day-out when we’re simultaneously cooking tea, answering emails and making a last-minute dress-up costume for school, the theme of which is usually “something designed to flummox mum rather than easy-peasy pyjamas”.

But it isn’t actually all that controversial.

More brave would be a social manifesto; I don’t think women need to lean in any more than we’re doing – we’ll end up toppling over if we do. Changing our attitudes is not what needs to change.

In fact, we need everyone else to lean in – society to normalise men helping more with child-rearing and housework; employers to be more flexible so women can work remotely where possible, allowing us not to work 9-5 but to get the job done by the deadline however we manage it; and the Government to sort out more affordable childcare. Furthermore, motherhood needs to be valued more highly than it is – how many social problems are blamed on absent parenting? Society should yield more to what we’re doing rather than tell us, as Sheryl does, to use our feminine wiles to get even.

This lady’s not for leaning.

Laura Kemp, a mum and author, has written Mums Like Us, published by Arrow; the ridiculous story of an ordinary mum who becomes an international heroine after she sets up a weekly support group for bedraggled kindred spirits to embrace ‘good enough’ parenting rather than the pursuit of perfection.

Available to pre-order at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mums-Like-Us-Laura-Kemp/dp/0099574586

Follow her on Twitter @laurajanekemp
Her blog Laura Kemp
You can ‘like’ Mums Like Us on Facebook
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5 Responses to Lean in? We’re too busy leaning on…

  1. Chene Koscielny 25 March 2013 at 15:13 #

    Couldn’t agree more. We need more mothers speaking up about how hard it is to get the balance right – forcing social change, rather than multi-millionnaires making it sounds like a walk in the park if only we were a little bit more like them.

    I blogged about this over the weekend.

  2. Kate Davis-Holmes 25 March 2013 at 16:51 #

    Well said!

  3. Nadine Hill, Juggle Mum 27 March 2013 at 14:22 #

    Wow- I’m one of the first five to comment!! Great!!

    I’d be interested to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book to see what strategies she has for working mums, but from reading the jacket, it seems like her angle is about women tackling their own anxieties and preconceptions that stop them reaching for the top.

    I think it is unfair to assume that because she is a successful woman that she has an army of help there to do her school run for her etc, she may or may not do her own daily grind, like the rest of us, but to decide that ‘it’s alright for her, she doesn’t have to cope with what I have to cope with’ is doing all women a disservice.

    There should be more support of women and mothers generally. We do the most important job in the world, which is undervalued in many corporate or commercial settings where inflexible working practices make it difficult for mums to work and be ‘hands on’.

    I agree with Laura, motherhood should be more highly valued than it is, but maybe instead of so quickly judging how others do it and deciding that because they are multi-millionaires, they must have it easy, we should more highly value ourselves. Everyone has problems, even multi-millionaires.

  4. Emma James 01 April 2013 at 08:46 #

    I’ve seen various articles about this book in the press lately both for and against and I’d be interested to read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In for myself so I can make an informed opinion.

    I know from where I stand, most of us have to Lean In, in varying degrees according to our gender and situation in life. If you don’t strive to Lean In, at least to a degree, you’ll be Leant On disproportionately.

  5. Elliotandme 01 April 2013 at 10:24 #

    Well said Laura! I think balancing parenting and work is a constant struggle, but one that is largely done through necessity rather than choice, so making it easier for both parents would be better – and reducing the cost of childcare should be job #1!