Dear Sheryl Sandberg,
I do sometimes hate you. Not for your success in the business world, not for your success in the book-writing world; neither for your immense wealth, nor for your resources and opportunities.
You say, “I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6:00, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids.”
I hate your use of the word interestingly.
That word, interjected at that location, in that sentence, bristles with innuendo.
It tells me that you believe one of two things: that working women have the power to, yet rarely take advantage of the opportunity to eat dinner with their kids; or that once they have kids, working women are likely to fall into a pattern of family-work imbalance.
Interestingly enough, I look at the same clock that you do and find that my short hand moves much faster than yours. When I get home at 6:00 p.m. I have to contend with one kid at softball practice, the other at theater rehearsal and a dinner I have to quickly prepare for the staggered arrivals. Weekday family dinners are hasty and hurried and no matter how much I “lean in” to my family life, that’s not going to change.
Lean in, you say, but like the famed tower in Italy, which has an “unintended tilt” due to an inadequate foundation, let’s be aware that leaning in could have unclear consequences, if the family foundation were not strong enough to support that angle of ambition.
You clarify that the choices we make must bolster that foundation. Marry wisely, you recommend, and negotiate the equitable distribution of household duties, just like you have done. Or, outsource those pesky details of childcare, laundry and cumin-grinding, just like you do.
You tell us to model our behavior after yours.
I do admire your success. I respect your sage counsel in telling us to reach for our own opportunities. Mostly, I am grateful that you have forced a national dialog about the limited liability of kids within the powered auto-focus of conference rooms.
But I beg to differ from you.
I’m not sure that if I were to retread my tires, I would avoid the same potholes you did, even knowing the benefits you’ve reaped.
It is an interestingly unassailable fact that there is only one Sheryl Sandberg, and try as I might, I cannot have her fortune or her fate.
I cannot be you.