The great lean in/lean out debate

I’m restarting my blog after taking a year off for maternity leave. I’m so grateful to be a mom in Canada where we receive one year off versus women in the US who only have a few weeks to recover from childbirth and adjust to life with a baby. And in my case, adjusting to life with a busy daughter and all of her activities while raising an ever growing son.

So as I’m slowly starting to look at switching from singing “Baby Beluga” every day to working with organizations on improving their media relations skills, I find it interesting the debate circling around motherhood right now is whether to lean in or lean out. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is advocating more women need to Lean In to their careers, citing her own personal experience of climbing of the corporate ladder. The Globe and Mail has calculated she pays roughly $96,000 a year for the support team that allows her to dedicate so much time to her career – through nannies, daycare and other domestic help.

The media has dissected how many women are in CEO positions (not many), how many women with MBAs are working full-time 20 years after graduating (less than half) and why many women are leaving full-time jobs. While I’m not a follower of Sandberg’s approach, the discussions that have developed have been interesting. Feminists from the 1960s have said they never anticipated professional career women CHOOSING to be stay at home moms versus continuing the climb up the corporate ladder.

At the end of the day it is up to each individual woman to choose what works for her and her family. For some it’s leaning back, stepping away from the workforce while their children are young. For others it’s leaning in, getting help from others in the child caring department. And then there are those of us swaying in the wind – committed to our professions but also devoted to motherhood and all that comes with it.

I’m hoping the conversation results in organizations seriously looking at work-life balance, not just putting the words in their HR materials without any real concessions for working parents. I also hope it makes women realize the choice is personal and there is no right or wrong answer.

With that, I have returned to my blog. I am committed to updating it regularly, but how regularly depends on bedtime schedules and whether or not anyone has croup. Some days I may be leaning one way more than the other, but I’ll do my best to make sure I’m swaying towards who needs me the most.