Women leaders, like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, have many moms questioning their decision to forgo the power career and start a family. Indeed, to outsiders, starting a work-at-home business in the spare bedroom or a nook in the kitchen seems like a compromise compared to the corner office with a view. And yet more and more overachieving women are opting to do just that, shun the corporate world in favor of staying home with a family and start a work-at-home business or find a flexible part-time arrangement.
A recent survey of women who graduated from elite universities found that even these overachieving women are “leaning back”. The study found that married mothers who graduate from elite institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and their peers are significantly less likely than graduates from less selective institutions to hold a full-time job (see the infographic below). It’s tempting to blame motherhood for the eagerness to leave the corporate world behind, but that’s not what it’s about at all (or at least, family is only part of the story).
What this whole idea of leaning in misses is that it isn’t always about achieving power and not everyone defines success by a leadership title. While I cannot speak for the countless other moms who opted out of the corporate rat race, I can say that for me, it’s about creating a quality of life for myself. It’s about creating joy, cultivating friendships, pursuing interests, living live and (yes) caring for a family. Leaning back is about pursuing my creative passions, ones that neither advance my ‘career’, nor increase my leadership position.
Why This Woman Is Leaning Back Instead of Leaning In
Success Requires Sacrifice — On my way to law school (a journey that ended before it even began), I quickly realized that the personal lives of successful lawyers sucked. It’s not just about the personal sacrifice you make in the name of career advancement (although many a Type-A have sacrificed their relationships, their health, their leisure life on their way up the ladder). It’s the sacrifice you make on behalf of those around you, missing soccer games, date nights and cherished 50th birthday parties.
Many Other Things Fuel Me — Personally, my life is about so much more than work. The good old 9 to 5 is just a fraction of your day (unless you turn it into a 6 to 11 or worse). The rest of the time I enjoy reading, walking, cooking, baking, visiting with friends, hanging out with my daughter, gardening (brand new hobby) and planning our next holiday (and by planning, I mean listening to what my husband has planned because he’s way better at it than I am).
Life is Far Too Short — Since turning the big 4-0, time has shifted for me. It seems like we just barely start a new year (and get used to writing a new date) and then we’re looking at a new one (I am currently mentally somewhere back in April or May). As they say, time is the great equalizer — everyone has the same 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for however many years we are given to enjoy it. I plan on using it wisely.
People Matter the Most — I became an entrepreneur many years before my daughter came along when it was just my husband and I enjoying what we now know were the golden years of our freedom. What that taught me and what I know now that I am a parent is that the freedom and flexibility to be there for the people we love matters the most. It’s not just about being there for them when they need us to solve a crisis. It’s about being there for the mundane stuff — the coffee chats, the games nights, the wild road trips.
How about you, dear readers? Why do you lean back (or lean in for that matter)? What do you think of the infographic?
Courtesy of: MBAPrograms.org