Monday, April 22, 2013

Lean In, Lean Out, Lean Up, Lean Down

Lean In
The first week of work was hectic but exciting. (If you missed the news, Mama's gone "back to work.") I was gone all day Tuesday, and Henry clung to me on Wednesday like a baby monkey.

I missed him too, especially by the end of the day when I was stuck in city traffic. Just a few... more... blocks....

The truth is I enjoyed reentering the workplace. My new engagement is fascinating, and I got to listen to NPR during my commute.

But more relevant, I must admit to feeling proud, almost relieved, to be working again. My self-esteem is, for better or worse, inextricably tied up in my professional life. Although I have enjoyed being home with Henry, part of me (the part that probably needs to go to therapy) has felt like a lame-ass for not "working." 

(I'm going to use "work" to describe "work-outside-the-home" for the sake of brevity, but who are we kidding, really? Raising children is just as much work as anything I do at a desk, if not more.)

But I really didn't want to go back to work full-time. I would have been devastated to leave Henry to a full-time nanny, not to mention exhausted at the mere thought of everything I'd still have to do to "keep house" despite never being home. 

The realization made me agree even more with Lisa Belkin that many well educated women would not "opt out" if there were more viable, compelling opportunities to work flexibly or part-time. In reflecting on her 2003 article, "The Opt-Out Revolution," Belkin, in a March 2013 essay, concludes, "I confused being pulled toward home with being pushed away from work."

Indeed. There is a difference between working part-time and working part-time.

Lisa Mills runs a great website called Work At Home Mom Revolution with opportunities to make some money. But as I scrolled through the telemarketing and transcription jobs I realized something important.

I don't want simply to work. I want to advance my career

I despaired that I would only find an intellectually challenging, career-advancing or even career-maintaining opportunity in a full-time, 60-hour a week (or more) position. I was worried I'd have to "lean in" all the way, even if I wanted -- or needed -- to lean out sometimes.

In some ways, I was right. Flexible career opportunities are few and far between. Too often it's all or nothing. I had the great and rare privilege to be able to stay home for my son's newborn months and write, waiting to find that perfect part-time opportunity. It shouldn't have been so difficult.

Do you think we'll ever have a more parent-friendly work environment in this country?

Image courtesy of AdamR /