{My Decision to Lean Out}

Why I Chose to Lean Out |

Many of you know the notion of ‘Leaning In’ made popular by the book written by Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Essentially, Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, describes why there aren’t as many women in power positions as we would expect in this day and age. She provides real-life examples from her own personal experiences, as well as other women in executive positions, as a road map of sorts for women to work towards climbing the corporate ladder to the top, with the end goal to be at the highest level one would like to reach. I’m a fan of the book, the message, and the lessons learned, but I’m choosing to the do the opposite. I’m going to Lean Out and I’m going to tell you why…

When I became pregnant with Waverly I made a decision to take a new position at the paycheck place. It was a harder job, in a new division, with a ton of executive level exposure. With the position I ended up working longer hours, more was expected of me, and I was challenged more than I have ever been in my professional career. You may be thinking “Why in the world would you do that right before you were going out on maternity leave?” To be honest with you, I have no idea. I was bored, I wanted more, I didn’t know how pregnancy and subsequently being a mother would drastically change my life. Even during the pregnancy I fed off of the high of receiving praise from my COO, kudos from my SVP, and my name listed on executive-level memos. It was hard work, but I was proud of myself and the fact that I had set myself up for a promotion upon my return from maternity leave. Looking back, I think I was scared of what would happen when I became a mother. Would I still want to work? Would I be able to work as much? Would people still value my work? So I kicked as much tail as I could during my pregnancy just to prove {mostly to myself} that I could do it all. I still think it was a GOOD decision and one I encourage others to make.

Then, I had Waverly. My world was turned upside down. I battled with Postpartum Depression, being a new mother, a wife and a mother, my husband traveling for work leaving me alone with our daughter, my family being hundreds of miles away, and everything else that comes with being a new mother. The thought of returning to work made me sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to miss a minute with Waverly. I didn’t want to leave her with someone else. I didn’t care about my work any longer. I just wanted to be a mom.

So, when I returned to work, 4 short months later, I was surprised at how well I readjusted. I got into a routine, WE got into a routine. I jumped back in, feet first. I was back at the grind, being the superstar again. I was aiming to change the world, be the top dog, get that promotion I had been vying for, do it all. Be an awesome mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, and full-time employee. Add value every single place that I could. It didn’t seem so terrible while I was doing it. But, it wasn’t realistic.

I ignored the gnawing pang in my stomach each time I left the house to head to work. I ignored the longing I felt for my daughter while sitting at my desk, in meetings, on conference calls. I ignored the disdain I felt for the work I was assigned. I ignored the fact that I had been absent from work for 6 months and we were still discussing the same issues/topics/idiocracies. Until I couldn’t ignore any of it any longer. I hit a breaking point.

I wasn’t fully recovered from my postpartum depression, because I will never fully recover. It’s something that will always be with me. I wasn’t being a good wife, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, or even mother for that matter. I was just barely keeping my head above water. I was sinking, and I was sinking fast. I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was miserable. I hated my job. I hated the work I was doing. I resented my husband. I was irritated someone else was spending 10+ hours a day with my daughter. I was pissed. Just pissed. And I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, until now.

The idea of leaning-in just isn’t for everyone. It certainly isn’t for me, not right now. It’s a great idea in theory, if are you fortunate enough to have a full-time nanny, huge support system, and an ivy-league education. But for me, a normal woman, I’m not certain being extraordinary in every facet of my life is possible, or healthy, at this time. In fact, I’m doing the opposite. I’m leaning out.

I’m extremely lucky. The paycheck place has agreed to let me lean out for the time being. They get it. They understand that at this point in my life, with a new baby, new house 70 miles from the office, a husband doing extremely well in his job {which also means a heavy travel schedule}, I can’t be the woman I once was. Maybe I can, but I don’t want to. Not right now. They are allowing me to begin a PT schedule with a lesser, but not insignificant, role. I’ve decided to focus on my family. I’ve decided to focus on being an extraordinary mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. And if I can do those things, and still be partially involved professionally, I think that’s a big win.

I don’t like the notion that women are made to feel bad, or a lesser employee/human, because they want to be with their children. I’m concerned that while we’ve worked so hard to “do it all” we are really doing a disservice to ourselves, our families, and the companies for which we are employed. I applaud those who are doing it all – kudos to you! But for me, having VP of something insignificant in the grand scheme of things, etched on my epitaph, doesn’t appeal to me at this time.

Perhaps I’ll lean back in later. Heck I could lean back in within a few months time. I don’t really know right now. But what I do know, is that this is right decision for my family, my sanity, and quite honestly for the paycheck place. I won’t lie to you, it’s a hard pill to swallow. The overachiever in me is screaming for me to abort mission. But, I have to tell her to shut up, we can move mountains in a few years. Right now, right in this moment, I want to spend my days focusing on my Waverly, my Andrew, and Megan {that’s me}. Because THOSE PEOPLE, THAT, is what really matters right now…to me at least.

Hugs and Love from

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2 thoughts on “{My Decision to Lean Out}”

  1. Yessss! love that you did the same thing Kim. And also love that you are still doing extremely well in your career. With our husbands working hard hours {and away from the home} it would be impossible for us to both chase the top spot without sacrificing raising our children. In the end, the nanny would end up raising our children, right? I don’t believe that’s what either of us want. Kudos to you my friend!! xoxo

  2. I did the same thing. I went to an 80% schedule when I became a Mom and have been working remotely most of the time since we moved. Has it affected my ability to get promoted? Sure. But, it’s been the best decision for my sanity and for our family. Todd works tons of hours, so I am flying solo most of the time. It’s just too hard to do it all. I actually think Sheryl Sandberg is pretty obnoxious…it’s nice that she has the support system that she has, but that’s not realistic for everyone. And, I’m with you…I don’t WANT to miss out on parenting, either.

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