Lots of opinions on a recent book — Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” — from various women inside and out of the feminist movement and I would like to add my own here; my own thoughts and my own experience.
I did not go to Smith or Harvard or Princeton but I have had a wonderful experience in the “work” world. And I would like to add my own thoughts about the word “work” here. I believe what women want — when they have a choice — is the opportunity to do something that is challenging and exciting; being with colleagues, feelings of rewards for accomplishing on one’s own. If it is in the “work” world, so be it, but it is not about the work, per se.
I have come to this opinion out of my own experience. First: growing up with a Mother who was smart, multi-talented and energetic. She was an incredible housewife; she could cook, bake, garden, fix electrical appliances, nurse, sew, make clothes and draperies, bake lemon meringue pies better than an gourmet bakery, yet when it was necessary for her to open a small store to help with family finances, she not only did it, but she loved it! The idea was that she would do this until she and my father had enough money for him to leave his job. But, when the time came for her to go back home and be a “housewife” again, she quietly told me one day, “I love working!”
And she never went back.
What she meant was that she loved talking to customers and vendors; working alongside my father. And being challenged every day; i.e. how could they improve the business? etc. My parents were great partners in business and my mother never lost her appeal to my father; she could be sexy in an apron standing behind a counter!
As for me, I married when I was very young and financially, never needed to “work” outside my home. I loved being a wife and mother and had no desire to do anything else. But life has a way of taking you places you never expect to go. So, ultimately, I returned to school to get a Master’s degree in Social Work.
I have never gone back.
My reason was different than my Mother’s, I had two very sick children with severe congenital heart problems, who had three surgeries and eventually, died. But, like my Mother, I loved being challenged and still do!!! I still love my home, my orchid plants, new recipes, friends and family for dinner, Thanksgiving and Passover, but I would die on the vine if I didn’t look forward to each day when I can come up with a new idea for my thirteen year-old organization, the Sister-to-Sister Foundation.
I believe Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem opened some doors making it easier for many of us to think large, like my forming the Sister to Sister organization, which focuses on heart disease prevention for women. I look forward each day to thinking about what I can do to reach more women world-wide.
Without them, I may not have seen the world this way. Much is possible!
My mom was the one who quietly told me how much fun she had in meeting new people, trying new ideas; she never went back. It was not about the “work”; it was about the opportunity to challenge oneself.
Mrs. Pollin- I was so touched by this piece and by the experiences you shared – yours and your mother’s. I agree 100% that the definition of work is too sometimes too narrow, and that women value a broad range of challenges, not all of which occur in the traditionally defined work place. Sandberg’s book is thougtht provoking, but I think also too narrow. While some women devote themselves to “succeeding” in the traditional male defined working world, others get equal satisfaction and make equal contributions in other ways. It takes all kinds!