In the flurry of media coverage and blogs on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book for getting ahead in the corporate world, Lean In, one blog from Women’s Media Center immediately caught my attention. The blog post was Leaning In Can Get You Laid Out, written by author and social media strategist Courtney E. Martin.
The basic premise was that “leaning in” when your body is saying “lean out” can literally knock you off your feet and put you down for a very long count.
The timing of both Sandberg’s book and Martin’s response came at a critical time for me. I had just returned from South By Southwest. I needed to write a work summary and a blog on my take away. I had transactions to complete, deadlines to meet, and a content summit presentation to prepare for. I had the desire to lean fully in and yet my body was saying something else…lean out!
I am not one that is inclined to lean out. When I commit, I am full in. When my son was born in 2000, I worked until the day he was born. After my all natural delivery by a midwife, I had planned to have baby and work both beside me after 48 hours. I was working on a startup so taking time off was not an option. I was also working from home, so this seemed very doable. A serious Strep B infection resulted in us being laid up in the hospital for over a week instead.
A few weeks ago, I was experiencing my body telling me in very profound ways to take a break. If I didn’t take a few weeks off, no matter how inconvenient that may be, I would end up laid out. The Martin piece resonated with me in a way it may not have, if I had not been experiencing the consequences of not listening to my own body sooner. Martin writes of a “generation of young women aching into their own choices, painfully aware of the ways in which our own mothers leaned so far in that they compromised their own health. They refused to embrace the wisdom of, not just temporal, but physical limitations. Our mothers took care of business and us, while refusing to take care of themselves; the message was in the modeling; nurture everybody…except yourself.”
I bought totally into this model. Nurture everyone but myself. The truth is we can’t always have it all. Life in general and in particular as a parent with a demanding career is a series of choices, balancing, and prioritizing. This goes not just for moms but for dads as well. A friend recently asked me if we must make career sacrifices to be a good parent. The truth is, not always, but sometimes we do. The work-life balance is the biggest challenge we face in our careers and sometimes leads to difficult decisions that don’t have easy or one size fits all solutions.
For now, I have listened to my body and I am taking three weeks off to focus on my health and rejuvenation. My SXSW post will eventually come, albeit very untimely. Deadlines will be pushed back, adjustments made, but I know I need this time to lean out and heal. I am listening to my body.