I read Lean In last year. It took me a while to finally do it, because I just wasn’t sure how I was going to respond. It went well overall… until it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong- there was a great deal that I agreed with. But I couldn’t get over the fact that the primary message was that as women, it is ultimately our responsibility to suck it up and “lean in” to the current corporate culture.
I know it’s not a question of either/or- it’s both/and. The way companies view mothers has to change, and the way we view work as a whole needs to change. But when she said that “careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder”, I couldn’t help but think to myself- I don’t want to climb either one.
I’m just going to be over here building my own fort.
It’s going to be the kind of place you don’t have to climb to get into. You can just come on in, and sit down, and play. We can construct this fort together, all of us. We don’t have to hustle to meet the world’s definition of success.
This fort is my own company.
In this fort, I can hire women who are highly skilled, highly intelligent and have a ton of heart. And they can work on their own time. And be with their kids. They don’t have to play by the rules over at the jungle gym. See, here in the fort, we play by a whole different set of rules.
We don’t have to leave our womanhood at the door to succeed. We don’t have to learn to have a firmer handshake or a more resolute gaze. We don’t have to pretend our mothering is a secondary priority. We can be ourselves, in all of our humanity.
Is there still hard work? Of course. Is there frustration, and tension? Yes. Is there struggle? Absolutely.
But it’s the kind that gives you a good, long, fulfilling sigh at the end of the day. Another day’s work. Babies comforted and nursed, happy clients served, meals made, diapers changed, video calls carried out with only a few glitches, important words written down, books read, deals made… all running together into one beautiful, redemptive portrait.
This is the future of work. The future is now.