‘Lean In’ and the Work-Life Balance: That Happened


ColumnLean In” continues to divide women on issues related to work, privilege and balance. Is my decision to go freelance leaning in or leaning out?

Sheryl Sandberg and the Lean In brand have suffered a few blows recently.

Sandberg threw her big name behind Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a congressional candidate who has a consistent record of voting against women’s rights.

Then there’s the Makers Conference. What started as a documentary about the history of women’s equality is now its own fancy-schmancy entity — and Sandberg is at the center of the controversy. Makers’ three-day (invite-only) conference where she and other powerhouses plan to “reset the agenda for women in the workplace in the 21st century” is under fire for its obvious elitism.

But, I mean, Chelsea Handler will be there, so at least it should be a good time.

With this renewed interest in — albeit criticism, of “Lean In” — I’m looking at my own recent choice to leave my full-time job and go out on my own and wondering: Which way am I leaning?

Some might say the decision to leave a career where I was on the team of strategic decision-makers for a company is leaning out. But, I am building my own business, which is a definite lean in. I’m incorporating, you guys!

That said, the path to Libby, Inc. may not impress Sandberg. I spent a lot of time chasing the dream job until I realized that the magical ‘90s office (with work-life balance built into the culture in the form of a ping pong table and a keg) didn’t exist anymore — if it ever did.

I have quit 13 full-time jobs since graduating from college. Yet I have managed to advance in my field and learn new things. In fact, I have learned enough stuff to feel good about my ability to make a living working for myself. That brings me to work-life balance — or, the lean.

I’m working way more hours than I did as a full-time employee and I’m making less money. But, I went to yoga this morning, regularly wear yoga pants all day and take breaks to cuddle with my dog.

I work from home nearly every day, and if you know anything about the weather in Chicago this winter, this is a perk that cannot be underestimated. And I’d say this to the queen of working from the office, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer: I can prove that I get more done out of an office.

While I’m not Makers Conference invite privileged, I don’t take it for granted that even thinking about work-life balance is a privilege. I’m extremely lucky to have a choice in how I make a living, and to have had access to an education that enabled me to get the jobs that have taken me this far.

My goal isn’t to lean in or lean out. My goal is to stay centered and recognize that balance and success are intertwined, not different sides of a coin.

Related on EcoSalon

Feminism According to Sheryl Sandberg: That Happened

Marissa Mayer: Put on Your Big Girl Pants and Get to Work

I Was Told There Would be Beer: That Happened

The Freelancer’s Dilemma: Should You Work for Free?

Image: Giorgio Montersino

That Happened is Libby Lowe’s weekly column for EcoSalon analyzing media, news and pop culture through a feminist lens. Keep in touch with Libby @LibbyLowe.