The fact that I’m going to be a new mom in a matter of weeks still amazes me. It’s no so much cold feet about new motherhood, rather, that we’ve fought such a hard won battle to get to this point. With the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, I find myself on this unique precipice knowing that my life is about to be forever changed once our little one gets here… and that I’m ready for the challenge. I owe it all to my own mom.
My mom is not a CEO. She’s never climbed the corporate ladder. As Sandberg herself puts it, “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” So at first you might be wondering just how the concept of “leaning in” would apply to my mom. Here’s the truth, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my mom: motherhood is basically a full-time job on its own.
Leaning in is more than just trying to live this idea of “having it all” while juggling marriage, career and kids. Leaning in is about “encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do.”
For my mom, I saw this concept of leaning in in everything she did as she raised both me and my sister and I still see it – and more importantly, appreciate it – now as an adult. For my mom, family has always come first and while that might seem like that’s in direct contradiction to Sandberg’s notion of leaning in, it really isn’t. My mom made raising her two daughters and being a committed, engaged, supportive parent her priority.
My mom leaned into motherhood with gusto. She still does today, even with two adult daughters, one with a child of her own and the other with one on the way.
As a work-at-home professional, I wear many hats for many clients, companies and commitments. I worked the nine-to-five cycle for seven years and in 2011, I decided to walk away from everything I knew, from everything that felt safe and stable to make a go at forging a career that made sense to me, work that I found valuable and meaningful. And like every other scary moment in my life, my mom was there for me, cheering me on.
“Mom” will be just another hat I add to my ever-growing stack come June. I’ve struggled with personally relating to Sandberg’s message because I no longer have any ambitions of climbing that corporate ladder, of becoming the next CEO of a major company. But that doesn’t make what I do: be it freelance work, working from home, or even volunteer work – any less valid, worthy or ambitious.
Creating a life that stays true to my values, passions and talents is leaning in. I have my mom to thank for raising me with that confidence, raising me to pursue what matters to me with gusto. The work I do now, in all its varieties, really does matter to me. I feel like I’m making positive impacts in my communities and in my personal life. And the incredible thing is, if I really do believe in something, my mom has always been there to support me too.
I know I can never be 100% ready for motherhood before my son gets here in June. I know it’s going to be overwhelming and stressful and at times challenging, especially as I try to add this newest hat to my already towering stack of hats balanced precariously on my head. But I’m not about to run away from the challenge. I’m ready to take motherhood head on because it matters to me, because I believe in it. I’m so grateful to know that I’ll have my mom to support me in this next chapter of my life, too.
But I’m even more grateful that my mom has shown me the power and beauty of leaning into motherhood and knowing that not only can it be done, but it can be done with grace, dignity and strength. I can’t think of a better role model for this next phase in my life than my own mother.
Thank you, Mom – for believing in me, leaning into motherhood and showing me what it really means to be a confident, strong woman and mom.
I love you.
We’re celebrating Mother’s Day by celebrating leaning in to motherhood, and by recognizing the extraordinary women that are our own mothers. We hope that it will inspire you to thank your own mother, or the mother who most inspires you. Find more letters and stories about leaning into motherhood here. And, of course, find your own Lean In inspiration at LeanIn.org.