To Lean or Not to Lean – Calculating the Price

Image representing Sheryl Sandberg as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

My Way was Frank Sinatra’s theme song. The singer was the quintessential man’s man, who lived his life to the max, full out, few limits. Sheryl Sandberg‘s  new book, Lean In, is stirring controversy by suggesting that women too can have it that way if they can counteract their impulse to back off and lean in instead.

Remember the movie, “What Women Want?”  Helen Hunt was trying to climb the corporate ladder and Mel Gibson was determined to undermine her.  It was an interesting treatment of a question that probably has as many answers as there are women to answer them. The question really shouldn’t be what do women want, but:  What do you as a woman want?

And really isn’t that the point. Each woman  should be fully able to choose. If that means 70-80 hour weeks and corporate success, that should be fine.  If that means a different balance of work and family, that should be equally fine.  The choice should be there.  And each woman should get to make her own, decide if or how far to lean, for some really good reasons.

I have come to love the incredibly flawed character, Mr. Gold, in Once Upon a Time. He always reminds us, “Magic comes with a Price.” I would like to modify that just a bit for this occasion to “Life comes with a Price.”

Time at work takes time from home but can bring advancement.  Price: Missing out on kid time, spouse time, or personal time. Time at home keeps the home fires burning, but too much time away from work leaves questions of commitment. Price: Impacts on promotion or prestige. The choices that are made have costs and the women who make them, and their families, are the ones who pay them.  So they have to do it their way.

Can there be a balance? To be able to lean far the counterbalancing weight of family can need to be well calibrated. Can we have it all:  Great marriages, well-adjusted high-achieving children, supercharged careers? Lean too far, too long, and you can lose equilibrium, tip over, lose friends, alienate family.

Or does it have to be all or nothing? Can you just lean at a 10 degree angle or must it be 45? Can leaning have a throttle and adjust to the occasion? I think that may depend on the woman, her family, and the company.  And again the answers probably vary…this is not a one size fits all question.  Leaning in might be a lot like walking a high wire, striking a balance may be the key, and contingent on multiple factors that sometimes change.

I haven’t worked in the corporate world, rather in non-profits, but the culture in my last agency supported educational opportunities and gave people opportunities for advancement.  Working in that world was one of the choices I made. It fit for me. But I know my choice came with a price, at times, for my family.

And also with payments. Looking back I know it was the right choice.  I did not make a corporate salary though I did rise to the top of my agency and I was recognized in my field. More important to me, I got to do meaningful work, develop programs that still continue, and experience fulfillment and achievement. My work was a calling. On balance I think it made me a better person, a better mother, and a better wife.

All our choices have trade offs. The trade off on the bigger life choices comes in hunks of our lives. What are they worth to you? What can you trade them for without regret? What do you need to get back for them to feel the trade was worth it?

So to lean or not to lean, that is the question. Only you can answer it for yourself. Weigh it out, pluses and minuses, count the costs, calculate the price. When in doubt remember some calculations may be right for your head but not your heart. Trust yourself. Then chart your course, and do it your way. I know you can. You know how to calculate priceless.

About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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