Leaning in, leaning back, overwork and gender

Interesting article.

And just as work has expanded to require employees’ round-the-clock attention, being a good mom has also started requiring ubiquity. Things were different in my own childhood, but today, parenting has become a full-time job: it requires attendance at an unending stream of birthday parties, school meetings, class performances, and soccer games, along with the procurement of tutors, classes, and enrichment activities, the arranging of play dates, the making of organic lunches, and the supervising of elaborate, labor-intensive homework projects than cannot be completed without extensive adult supervision.
Oh yes: By incredible coincidence, parenting was discovered to require the near-constant attention of at least one able-bodied adult at just about the same time women began to pour into the workforce in large numbers. Sorry ’bout that, girls!

We need to fight for our right to lean out, and we need to do it together, girls. If we’re going to fight the culture of workplace ubiquity, and the parallel and equally-pernicious culture of intensive parenting, we need to do it together — and we need to bring our husbands and boyfriends and male colleagues along, too. They need to lean out in solidarity, for their own sake as well as ours.
Women of the world, recline!

3 thoughts on “Leaning in, leaning back, overwork and gender

  1. Yes, yes, yes–play dates. When my kids were little I just threw them out of the house with their bikes and they arranged their own play.

    But even then there was social pressure, particularly the expectation that parents (i.e. mothers) would be involved at school and ‘help’ i.e. do kids’ homework. I wouldn’t. I believe in commodification. We fund schools and pay teachers (either directly or indirectly through taxes) to do the job–no reason why we should be involved in any way. If you pay a plumber to unplug the toilet there’s no expectation that you should help scoop out the poop. If you pay the school (either directly or indirectly through taxes) there is no reason why you should be involved in any way–including ‘help’ with homework.

  2. I think the author missed a big part of Lean In, because a lot of what she says, (i.e. that men aren’t expected to contribute to childcare) is addressed in the book. Asking our partners to step up at home (and choosing partners who will step up at home) is one of the points Sandberg makes. Sandberg also spent a fair number of pages questioning the type of parenting expected in contemporary media, as one that not only takes too much out of parents, but sets kids up for failure as they don’t learn how to entertain and care for themselves as much as kids in previous generations were expected to.

    I think there’s a fair amount to criticize about Lean In: it’s very classist and corporate-oriented, it fails to see multiple models of success and it’s a bit blind to intersectionality. As a childfree woman, I found myself unable to relate to much of the narrative that assumed that the reader would be having children. Nevertheless, I still recommend it, and I think that the author of this article either didn’t actually read it or missed a fair amount of the message.

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