I Think I’m Leaning In

Don’t look now, but I think I’m leaning in.

I was a workaholic in my 20s; I burned out quickly, and then I walked away from the management track and have kept my career at arm’s length ever since. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve always worked full-time. I just decided, somewhere along the line, that management equaled pointless stress…and somehow, that morphed into the notion that “career” was a dirty word.

Until lately.

Becoming the mother of a daughter (as I did last year) makes you a feminist, fast. It was only a few years ago that I said something on Facebook about “not considering myself a feminist,” to which a female friend replied, “Why not?”

“It sounds too militant,” I said. It felt like a term for my mother’s generation. In the 21st century, I could just be a smart, strong woman — I didn’t need a special, antiquated label for it. 

Like I said: Becoming a mother to a daughter changed all that. Now it pisses me off that men earn more than women, that the U.S. lags behind Europe in offering state-sponsored daycare, and that my daughter is going grow up in a culture saturated with media telling her she has to look a certain way in order to be worthwhile. Now I call myself a feminist because it turns out, the fight is far from over; it’s embarassing that it took me this long to figure that out.

So I’m leaning in — because I’m ready to make some serious money. I’ve argued in the past that real power comes not from money but from compassion; well, I’m changing my tune. Power comes from both. I intend to break the glass ceiling and pull my daughter through to reach the sky.

I used to be our family’s primary breadwinner, once upon a time, but the recession changed that; now, we have the same cliched discussion as so many families about how my salary is barely enough to justify paying for daycare. As I’ve written before, I could never see myself as a stay-at-home mom, but I think something has been holding me back, psychologically, from rebuilding my career as aggressively as possible — and that’s a fear of swinging back too far in the other direction… of becoming a workaholic once again. If I really commit to my career, will I become too serious? Too stressed? Will there be enough room for art in my life?

I don’t have patience for these questions anymore. I will find a way to thrive professionally while also being Me, and I will do it because I want my daughter to know it can be done. 

If you liked this post, you might also like: The Secret Message of the Feminist Housewife.

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