But I am trying to lean.
Your writing is really hitting me in the space that I’m in today, so thank you. Last week, when I told my therapist that I was finding so much joy through writing- that I had started a Substack and was pursuing publication, she asked me if I was perhaps doing too much? (Then, she mom guilted me by saying how my kids were only going to be around for so much longer...)
I was enraged by her comments and still am- I think our therapy relationship has run it’s course or rather plummeted off the cliffs-which isn’t great as I could probably use therapy.
Her comments were totally off base and steeped in patriarchy but the question about doing too much is sitting with me. I don’t know if anyone read last week’s Culture Study where Anne interviewed Laurel Braitman, but when Anne spoke about high achievement being a response to trauma, it kind of blew my brain up. I also loved that she said, she still works incredibly hard just for different reasons.
Katie, I love that you are so honest about the vacillation…the desire to grow something, to be validated and also…the questioning of what it’s all for, and if it’s too much or the right thing sometimes. I am with you and I am grateful.
Sandberg herself admitted, after she lost her husband, that "leaning in" was a lot harder to do as a single parent. :) (I much prefer "Option B," the book she wrote with Adam Grant about grief and dealing with the curveballs that life throws us.)
This is exactly what I needed to read today! I started back at work after maternity leave part-time, with the intention of slowly building new routines and habits that are sustainable. Even though I'm only back 3 days a week the mom-guilt is real. I feel terrible about how much I like being at work because I should want to be at home, and then when I'm home I feel terrible about not doing enough at work. Figuring it all out is a journey!
Love this new perspective on leaning in whatever direction you need to! Great writing and great read!
Great article. Thank you Katie.
This reminds me a little of the 4 hour work week. (Maybe ironic given those hours you work) It reminds me of the chapter about rest and building that rest into our daily lives.
Tim F recommends an approach of taking regular breaks through the day. A day off every now and then, a week off every quarter and a two week break in the summer. Then also if you can do it an extended mini retirement.
I wonder if that’s what you’re missing. A break that allows you to recharge and go again before you hit the burnout wall.
I worry too that I’m close to that wall. When I feel that way I know I need to step away but don’t always do so and my productively tanks.
Oof, this one hit hard. I've been reading your newsletter for years now but this one resonated with me differently than most. Thank you for it.
Long time reader, first time commenter here to say thank you for all that you do, and for this.
Thank you for sharing this perspective shift, Katie. I like your approach to simply lean, neither in nor out. It’s a good way to practice being gentle with ourselves.
I'm actually taking Friday off and heading to the national park for a long weekend this week. It's as if I knew what your assignment would be! ;) Thanks for another thought-provoking post Katie and I hope you make peace with the choices you'll make in the next months while you juggle work, home, friends, and personal time. As for books that quickly drew me in /and/ challenged me as a reader, I found Zadie Smith's White Teeth particularly challenging (and fun in parts). In the end it wasn't quite my cup of tea, but it could be yours. Another excellent book I read recently was Richard Powers' The Overstory which is beautifully written and keeps you glued to the pages—I gave it a rare 5 stars on Goodreads! Also worth mentioning, the classic On Writing Well by William Zinsser was a powerful reminder of what it means to call myself a writer. Hope you find something good to read. :)
Over the decades I completely leaned in (in the traditional sense) and then completely leaned out (walked away). At this point in my life some would say by living in a small town on an island and working at a ʻjobʻ that seems like a weird step in my trajectory, I leaned out. Others look at the engagement I have, through that work and through my community projects, as leaning in but differently (and folks still wonder at how much I do). Leaning towards the light says it all for me. Some days I have to walk through the darkness but the light is the reason for it. I trust my choices a lot more now. And admire those of you I see doing that at an age when I believed it was either/or.
I love the idea of choosing in each instance how to lean, versus choosing an overarching philosophy of leaning one way or the other. I also really like thinking of life in phases--just because one phase is about leaning a little more one way doesn't mean that's the final decision for a whole life.
I'm also glad to hear that you feel Leaning In hasn't aged well - to be honest, from my vantage point in Silicon Valley, it seems the core ideas still hold sway. I think we're still pretty into girlbosses around here, unfortunately, still idolizing the hustle and preferring our female entrepreneurs pictured on magazine covers and in crisp magenta suites. But I do appreciate the countervailing trends you mentioned, and I only wish that instead of "quiet quitting" we could be looking toward structural changes like 30-hour work weeks. Well, a girl can dream.