Working Moms - The Value of Leaning-In, Out or Sideways
Insight

The Value of Leaning-In, Out or Sideways

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A recent NY Times article showcased why millennial moms are choosing to lean sideways rather than lean in. According to the research, millennial moms (ages 18 to early 30s) are struggling to see a direct path forward. The ongoing battle of equal pay, limited leave, and increasing job demands, feels more like a struggle than a viable option.

As a woman who proudly identifies as a working mom, my reaction to the article was one of deep understanding and empathy for the choices millennial moms are facing today. It also lit the fire of responsibility within to serve as a new type of role model. While Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, and Marisa Mayer are at the forefront of the lean-in movement, they do not represent the general masses struggling to find their authentic selves in the midst of the growing expectations and mounting criticisms that working moms face each day.

At the crux of this struggle is a belief that the measure of who we are as career women, and as moms, is measured against the standards of others. It doesn’t help that media paint the canvas of our world as either bleak or perfectly balanced. These extreme views can leave a woman feeling drained or fleetingly inspired. What we need is more working moms achieving success in their own way and with a brutal honesty that marks a new kind of movement, the movement towards our inner measure of value and worth as the fuel for success.

Here are five key lessons I have learned in my journey:

1. NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR PUTTING YOUR FAMILY FIRST.

When you make a decision to put your family’s priorities first, own it. Do not overcompensate by placing an extra burden on yourself. Taking a couple of hours to attend a school event does not mean you have to work 10x harder or longer to show your commitment to the team. At BeyondCurious, my commitment is never questioned. When choices like this come my way, I feel supported rather than ostracized. It’s not only because of our company culture, but the results and contributions I bring to bear each day.

If your colleagues are critical of this time away, the likelihood is there are other perceived or real issues they are not communicating to you. Whether to address this is another choice you need to make. Ultimately, it comes down to the culture and values you and your company hold.

2. CREATE YOUR OWN RITUALS.

Being a busy working mom means that time is measured in degrees of quality, not quantity. One of the best ways to transform a simple moment into a memorable one is through rituals. Whether it is having a date night, cooking dinner, or creating your own “never-to-miss” calendar event, these traditions will be the moments that strengthen your bond. The beauty of rituals is they are remarkably personal even when they are similar to others. It’s not about originality or creativity, it’s in the simple act of just doing it.

In the business world, we obsess about putting our customers first. But, when it comes to our families, we often overlook this basic need. The amazing part of rituals is how little time it takes to codify them. All it takes is consistency and an unyielding commitment to make it happen. It truly goes a long way and the collective joy and anticipation of a ritual is priceless.

3. TEACH YOUR CHILD THE VALUE OF YOUR TIME.

When I go shopping with my daughter, I often remind her about the value of a dollar and how it relates to the time I invest. She understands that every purchase we make whether it is rent, food, or a toy, equates to a number of hours away from her. She not only recognizes the sacrifices I make to support our family, but she also understands that every hour we spend together is invaluable.

Unlike the business world where we put a dollar value for every hour we work, the opportunity cost to being a parent is irreversible. I cannot give a refund or do more to make up for an unmet expectation. Instead, I have to maximize each moment. This is not to say that every hour has to be entertaining or engaging. The beauty of parenthood as the art of ‘just being’ is often enough. When I spend time with my daughter, she knows it is our time and that is a gift no amount of money can buy.

4. MAKE YOUR TIME AT WORK MATTER.

Part of the reason I am so driven to help make my company great is to ensure that the time away from my family is meaningful. While I could look at what I do each day as a series of activities and tasks that drive to a larger goal, it would be an empty existence. What fuels my passion and energy to keep going is the underlying belief in a purpose-driven life.

Purpose is a subjective word. It could mean living a life of greater good. It could mean changing the world and the people in it. Or, it could simply mean living a life beyond the surface and being honest with the WHY behind it all.

For me, it is about being vulnerable, continuously growing, and making an impact. I often share with my daughter the details of my job. The constant problem solving, overcoming unexpected challenges, helping clients transform their businesses and even themselves. By sharing these details, it helps me to articulate the sacrifices I am making to be away from her as something of meaning to me. She may still be too young to understand the meaning of it all, but when I come home each day, hearing the words “how was work today, mom?” lets me know she is listening.

5. IT’S NOT ABOUT HAVING IT ALL.

By definition, having it all means you have nothing more to gain. The beauty of the journey is not having all the answers, but continuously learning and celebrating the new chapter each day brings. What I do seek is an acceptance of my whole self and the choices I make each day. There will be days when I question the hours away from my family and the opportunity cost of being a career woman. But, much like the business world, when the value outweighs the price, then the cost becomes minimized.

As I reflect on these lessons, I realize that it’s not about leaning in, out, or sideways. It’s about making every hour and every day worthwhile. It’s about being mindful, vulnerable, and staying true to one’s self. There will always be detractors and people telling you how it should be. Just listen to your inner voice and ask yourself, “is the time away from my family worth it?” If the answer is no, then challenge yourself to make it so or choose to opt out or sideways. Just do what is right for you.

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