It’s Not About Leaning In, It’s About Leaning On
I have three daughters under the age of six, am happily married and recently launched my own company after 12 years at a global public relations firm. People often ask me, how do you do it all?
It’s simple. I, along with my husband, friends and family, manicurist and spin instructor, babysitters and petsitters, fellow moms at school, moms at ballet, moms at soccer, neighbors, colleagues and the people that help me with my groceries at Publix, can truly do it all.
You see, while I am a strong believer in principles in the book “Lean In,” I’ve found it is more about leaning on that makes all the difference in being a successful career mom. Here are three reasons moms should be leaning on:
First, you can’t be good at everything.
I hope I’m not the first one to tell you this. Why spend time on something you’re bad at when someone else can help you and do it better? Countless management handbooks talk about the importance of hiring people that complement your skill set vs. hiring people exactly like you. It’s the same across all facets of life. You’re in charge of your daughter’s Valentine’s Day party at school, but you’re a terrible cook? Pick up the cookies or have another mom bake. People won’t judge. You have to write a speech for your best friend’s birthday party, but the creative juices aren’t flowing? Ask your freelance writer friend if she can help you out.
Second, you can’t be in 10 places at once.
Perhaps technology will help us with this disadvantage down the road, but for now, it’s one place at a time. If your mother-in-law has been asking about picking up the kids from soccer practice, let her! You’re included in a big meeting out of town for three days and always drive your kids to school? Ask one of your children’s friend’s parents to lend a hand. It isn't a weakness to ask for help—it’s seen as a strength.
Finally, there are things moms just don’t like to do. Admit it.
I hate doing laundry. I mean, I really, really hate it. For me, it’s worth it to spend money on a housekeeper once a week who does the laundry for the household, folds it, and puts it away. Not only does the help keep me from doing something I disdain, it gives me the time back to spend with my kids, catch up with my husband or finish an important memo. I call that value-add.
In the popular series, “Odd Mom Out,” one of the UES mom-bots tells her friend to “staff up,” a comment that is supposed to appall the audience. Not me. The return on investment for outsourcing the things you aren't good at, don’t have the time for, or just plain hate to do, will show up in spades.
Clearly, not everyone can afford full-time help and we don’t all have a cadre of best friends with nothing much to do living down the street, but the point is to lean on your community. Over time, we women have somehow gotten the crazy idea that to do it all means we have to do it all by ourselves.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to accept help, and when there is an opportunity for you to use your skills or you have some spare time or you’re just dying to be at the field trip to the history museum—don’t hesitate to help others.
They say behind every successful man is a powerful woman. I say, behind every successful woman is an entire village of support that keeps her going.