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May 18, 2016 / Molly Moseley

Leaning out is as hard as leaning in

Sheryl Sandberg (2016, January 13). [Facebook update]

Professional women across the globe have found inspiration in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In since its 2013 release. The book, which tackles a multitude of issues that women face as they grow their careers, encourages them to speak up, be confident and take charge. In essence, it proposes that women should lean into their professions as much as possible in order to break stereotypes and glass ceilings (how achievable that is for working moms, we explore here).

Sandberg, however, has recently admitted that parts of her best-selling book are incorrect. In a Mother’s Day Facebook post, she addressed one of the most common criticisms of Lean In — that the concept is extremely difficult for single moms.

After losing her husband tragically and unexpectedly a year ago, Sandberg experienced firsthand the challenges of being a professional and single parent. And she didn’t just lose her spouse and the father of her children, she also lost her core support system. Sandberg realized many other women face this challenge every day — most without her financial security — and she became concerned.

“I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home,” Sandberg wrote.

After being thrust into single motherhood, it became clear it’s impossible to lean in constantly. There are times when you have to lean out for yourself and for your family. When your most precious resource is time, the toughest skill you will ever master is how to properly spend it in order to achieve the things that matter most to you. After all, there are only 24 hours in the day.

Depending on the support and resources you have available, there will be times throughout your career when you’ll be able to lean in more. There is no shame, however, in recognizing that it’s time to lean out. Here are some ideas for navigating your lean so your ship is always sailing smoothly:

1. Engage your family relationships.
Sit down with your kids or significant other, ask them about their day, week or month. What are they excited about and what’s bugging them? Can you help or do they just need someone to talk to?

2. Check your career. 
What have you been enjoying? What is dragging you down? Where do you want to be in six months, a year and 5 years? Think about what you can do to get there.

3. Set a bed time and stick to it.
Quality sleep is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, plus it will help you be a better professional and parent.

4. Don’t bring your phone to bed. 
Gasp! Remember, old-school alarm clocks? You can get one for about $10. Yes, you can keep your phone in the bedroom in case of an emergency, but don’t have it within arm’s reach where it will tempt you to check email and peruse the internet all night long.

5. Learn to say no.
Stop feeling obliged to always say yes. Don’t volunteer for things you’re merely mildly interested in. Forget the PTA. Forgo the fifth kids’ birthday party this month. Inject free time into your schedule.

6. Make time for friends.
Personal relationships require nurturing. Make time to hang out with friends, even if it’s once a month. Your heart will be happy.

7. Ask for help. 
It takes a village. Remember, people love to feel useful and often will happily lend a hand, if you ask.

8. Outsource. 
If you have the means, hire a cleaner or a lawn service to free up your free time for more productive or enjoyable activities. If you don’t, consider ways to open funds, such as cutting cable or brown-bagging lunch.

What other things do you do to navigate your lean? Please share!