When Cheryl Sandberg published Lean In in 2013, she revitalized and refreshed the cultural conversation we have about mothers in the workforce. Even the valid criticism of the book and "lean in" philosophy (chief among them that "leaning in" largely speaks to already well-to-do women of corporate America) has opened up discussions about women's jobs, careers, opportunities, and the structure of employment itself. Many ambitious women, inspired by Sandberg's message, have taken up Lean In as a rallying cry to achieve, so I have questions for the mom who has accomplished so much in her career since having children. Because while I've read the book and the million think pieces left in its wake, I'm still continually gobsmacked when I encounter a mother who has achieved (or even maintained) professional advancement after parenthood. Because OMG how?
The birth of my first child didn't do much to alter my career one way or the other. I stayed at my job, doing what I was supposed to do basically as I always had, but I didn't lean in, largely because just getting back into the swing of things with a 3-month-old baby at home was challenging. After the birth of my second child almost three years later, I left the workforce completely. I leaned out. That didn't last terribly long, because here I am, working for the fine folks at Romper, penning these essays for your enjoyment, so I guess I leaned back in but in a completely different career.
Sometimes it feels like I started all over again, which isn't a bad thing and it isn't not an accomplishment. However, I'll admit that some days it's like, "What am I doing? Where am I going? How do I grow from here?" So when I see other moms who have managed to seize their career by the cajones, there is so much about all of that I want to know, including the following:
Are You A Witch?
No offense or anything, but I just can't see how one can do everything you have done and continue to do without the assistance of a Hogwarts education or some employment of the mystical arts. I think of everything you've managed and the only semi-reasonable explanation is witchcraft. (Other than some sort of Faustian bargain, but you don't strike me as the "sell your soul" type.)
Do You Have A Time Turner, TARDIS, Or DeLorean?
Something that enables you to bend the space-time continuum. Because girl — girl — I barely find the time to scavenge for clean underwear some days! How can you scrimp together to kick so much ass and take so many names? Can I borrow your time turner just for a hot second? I haven't found the time to poop in about a week, and things are getting super uncomfortable.
What Support Systems Have You Used?
It really and truly takes a village. I feel like we've gotten to a place where we all get that on some level, yes? And moms who are crushing their career must necessarily have an incredible village to help them. We're not doing anyone any favors by pretending that those who help us don't exist, neither for the people who deserve to be acknowledged (supportive partners, childcare workers, administrative assistants, domestic workers, etc.) to those who yearn to be in your shoes and labor under the impression that you literally do everything. So tell me about Team You and how you're able to take the lead and coordinate everything that needs to be coordinated. Maybe I can learn from this.
Has Your Employer Worked With You In Making All This A Little More Manageable?
In other words, what programs or policies does your boss or company have that make your life that teensy bit easier. Maybe I can talk to my company about how we can make that work?
Where Do You Find F*cks To Give Sometimes?
Because I am fresh out half the time. Seriously, do you go to a f*cks store? Or perhaps you have to toil away in a f*cks mine (risking f*ck lung disease, of course) to find them? Where is this mine? Do I have to borrow your TARDIS to get there?
Seriously, though, talk to me about maintaining motivation and not crumbling into despair before saying, "This is good enough."
Can You Mentor Me?
Pretty please? Not to put one more thing on your plate here, but I could really use your guidance because I'm pretty sure I want to be you when I grow up.
Do You Need A Hug?
Because holy crap this must be so, so, so exhausting and stressful and you deserve a warm, friendly, encouraging hug from an admiring friend. Then again, maybe I'm being presumptive. Maybe you find this all exhilarating and wonderful. Even in that case, you still deserve a hug. I'd totally be down for a celebratory hug of victory at the close of each very busy day if you need it.
Do You Need Someone To Tell Off People Who Do And Say Really Judgmental Things Regarding Your Choices?
Because I am so willing to be that someone for you. In my experience, strong women tend to attract a lot of people who are constantly trying to bring them down and I pretty much live to educate those people's ignorant asses (or at least knock them down a peg).
Are You Helping Other Working Parents On Your Way Up (When You Can)?
So I know you're not always in a position to empower others but, when you can, I hope you'll try. Because, as mentioned above, no one does this completely alone. Opportunities must be created before they are seized. Systemic changes encourage and foster those who have too long been ignored or intentionally held back. You're at the head of the path now, mama — shine in a way the allows others to follow you.
Do You Know How Amazing You Are?
Do you? Do you really? Because I can barely get my head around it and I have the benefit of perspective.
Keep up the good work, lady. Never forget you're astounding.