What “Leaning In” Has Taught Me About How I'm Raising My Daughter
Wow…I don’t remember the last time a book got as much buzz and criticism as Sheryl Sandberg’s, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”. I have heard and seen almost everything about the book, and now I am finally reading it.
Sandberg references the importance of picking the right partner in order to achieve the type of family responsibility-sharing that is vital to leaning in. I don’t like that this angle leaves single moms out of the conversation, but I also recognize that Sandberg herself is not a single mom, so perhaps that is not her conversation to have.
I, however, AM a single mom, living on an extremely tight budget and pondering drastic changes in my own career landscape. From where I am standing right now, I can’t tell you if I am leaning in, leaning out, or jumping up and down. But what I can tell you is that “Leaning In” has made me very aware of the way I have been raising my 2-year-old daughter.
I have a little girl whose favorite color is blue (despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that I built a wardrobe filled with pink), whose favorite character is Buzz Lightyear, who wears little boy underwear featuring the entire cast of Toy Story, and who prefers Diego over Dora - any day.
But this same child has also has a strong affinity for the Disney princesses, and playing with makeup (pretend and real), and rocking and shushing her baby doll for hours on end. She also is super-sensitive and hyper-aware of other people’s feelings, and is the first to offer a hug or a helping hand. Now I know some parents are concerned about exposing little girls to hyper-feminine toys that reinforce some of the more traditional female stereotypes, and that thought certainly crossed my feminist mom mind.
But I dismissed it for the same reason I dismissed restricting her decision to be Buzz Lightyear for Halloween. I think dismissing anything typically male is just as restrictive as dismissing something typically female. I am not trying to raise my daughter to be like a boy, I am trying to raise her realize her full potential and embrace a wide range of personality traits that will help her succeed – some more traditionally seen as male, some traditionally seen as female.
I truly want my daughter to feel free to be whoever she wants to be, and I believe my job is to create a safe and supportive environment for her to do so in. And this doesn’t stop at her choice in toys. We were at the playground a couple months ago and the only other kids were two young boys, probably around 6 or 7-years-old, but lucky for Ellie, they were on the swings. She was enjoying going up and down the slide over and over again, without any competition or waiting in line.
At one point, the boys came running up behind her and stepped over her, to get to the monkey bars. My initial instinct was to scoop her up and move her to the smaller slide, but the boys were aware of her enough to avoid squashing her fingers as she climbed up the steps, so I sat back to see how she managed.The first time they ran up the stairs and hopped over her, she batted her eyelashes quickly, shuttered a bit, and was clearly a little intimidated.
The second time they did it she looked up at the two of them and yelled, “HEY! KIDS! I’M PLAYING HERE!!!” The mom of the two boys looked at me and said, “Good for her!”
I, of course, beamed.
And this past weekend, Ellie and I were at the playground again, this time with many more kids and parents. Ellie wanted to climb up one side of the steps, and have me climb up the other, and then have us meet at the slide, and go down together. I know this is what she wanted to take place, because she shouted the instructions to me, while pointing her finger and directing the entire routine. If I stepped out of line, she let me know it.
At one point, I stopped to check my cell phone and she shouted, “No Mommy! Put your phone away and climb up those stairs!”
I laughed and looked at her and said, “Someday Monkey, you are going to be the boss of something…and it is going to be amazing.”