My mother left a high powered career as an IBM executive to stay home with three kids, and she is one of the most amazing women I have ever known. (My grandmother, her mother, gets the number one spot on that list.) There was no Pinterest back then, but she still managed to knock it out of the park for every birthday and holiday. Board room or class room, my mom gives 110%. After reading Marcy Massura’s take on leaning in, I wanted to know what she thought of the idea. She fired off this quick email response to me, and it was so wonderful that I wanted to share it with everyone. So, with her permission, here are my mother’s thoughts on leaning in.
Here’s my view on this. Like you, in my early twenties, I was strictly focused on career and I mean strictly. Like many women I later decided I wanted children and planned on being a working mom. I didn’t know how much my life would change until the first moment I held my baby girl in my arms. At that moment, I felt for the first time in my life that I knew what was important to me. Becoming a mom put my life in perspective. Work was still important but it certainly wasn’t enough to make my life complete. I was shocked to realize that I’d been wrong, work was just a part of my life and not the most important part.
Mimi and Pa were both career people and I too was fortunate to have a supportive family that taught me I could do anything and do it well. Not only do I still believe I can do anything, I think I can do it better than most. (I hope you have learned that from me.)
OK, back to the work/career thing. I never felt that I could not succeed or achieve any level because I’m a woman. I was fortunate to work for a company that allowed me to take a year off after you were born and again after Dean came along. I loved my time being home with you but eventually went back to work. Let me tell you it does take some juggling to make sure you don’t neglect work or home. There were nights when I’d get a call at 1:00 am because a bank system was down. I’d sit at the bottom of the stairs trying to solve the problem while making sure I didn’t wake you or Dean. Luckily Daddy wasn’t traveling at the time so we worked it out. Around the time Sean was born Daddy started traveling every week. Having done the traveling thing I knew he wasn’t doing it for fun, he would have rather been home watching the three of you learn and do new things. Then came the BIG decision, do I go back to work? We joked that since you out numbered us it would be hard. And it would have been hard if not impossible. Unlike Sandberg who can go to work and not worry about housework, getting kids to after school activities, what to do with the kids if you have to work late, etc. Like most moms I did have to think about that since I would have been doing most of it without Daddy being home to help.
But the truth is I didn’t want to leave you three. I didn’t want to hear about your lives, I want to be a part of them. I have never regretted my choice to stay home. I honestly believe it was the greatest blessing. I wouldn’t give back one second that I spent with you and your brothers. I don’t know that I would have ever said that about work even though I enjoy working, which is why I do it now.
The only hard part about leaving my job was worrying about what I would say when someone asked me what I did. It might sound silly but my job was a large part of my identity. It took a few years before I realized that my new job gave me a much better identity that I would have for the rest of my life. I became Liane’s Mom, Dean’s Mom, or Sean’s Mom and those are the best titles for me.
I love you,
I told y’all she was amazing. I think if you ask 100 different women about this, you’ll get 100 unique perspectives. Instead of focusing on “leaning in” and following someone else’s career path, choose your own definition of success, and rock it.