College Move In Day

IMG_1637Behind The Scenes

Instead of basking on the beach in early August, I was scurrying around from store to store, washing, packing and becoming acquainted with space saver vacuum bags – it felt like nesting! The last time I nested I was waiting for an arrival and this time a departure loomed ahead.

Though it seems counterintuitive, preparing for the send off reverberated memories of being a new mother. I remember going through the motions of buying cute little onesies, folding them neatly and thinking I had it all together when I was paralyzed with fear. How would I know how to handle a newborn? Would I have what it takes? For some strange reason, many of those feelings were reoccurring. Have we prepared her for the challenges ahead? Overtaken with worry for how move in day and the college year would turn out I got sucked into the vortex of dorm shopping. The last time I encountered so many unnecessary items was when I had my daughter – remember the bumpers you have to take off the crib and the comforter you never use. Dorm shopping is not so different. I let the insanity take off, scrutinizing the merits of a backrest versus throw pillows and the best under bed storage system.

All the while, tears would flow sporadically. I’d like to say the last few weeks have been glorious with my daughter as we bonded and shared the love but since I’m as truthful as a two year old – it’s been rough. We’ve butted heads over the impracticality of a duvet versus a comforter, disputed the merits of purchasing a planner and bickered over what should stay and what should go. My daughter did her own dance of avoidance by interrupting this process for friend send offs including her own, creating a museum quality photo collage and wrangling with a last minute Staples order  – all taking precedence over packing.

I steamed like a well boiled kettle all the while wondering how we would make it there in one piece and dreading the “goodbye.” I worried that we squandered this special time bickering over nonsense. I took a stand that I would not cry when saying goodbye, well at least not in front of her. Somewhere between the search for twin xl sheets and laughing at a mix up at the Staples copy center we found the time to laugh.

I’d read all the empty nest articles streaming on social media and I was sure I would cry all the way home. Well, life can be surprising! We practically pulled an all nighter packing and the next morning was chaotic resulting in a space management tour de force to get everything in the car. I then spent over four hours with a Sterilite bin on my lap eating peanut M&Ms. We settled into a hotel and the next morning began our journey. It was hard work but all was well and despite a reoccurring dream that I would return with most of the items we spent hours packing she had plenty of space in the room. The day of dread was fun. We laughed and organized and the entire family worked as a team. The energy was positive, current students were great and new students seemed so eager – I couldn’t help it but I was bursting with excitement for her. A new beginning with so many possibilities I was flooded with emotion, despite some tears most of it was pure happiness.

 

As The Nest Empties…

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One of my favorite illustrations created by my daughter, Alena when she was in grammar school.

My eldest will be going to college this fall. It’s been a year filled with highs and lows and now that the decision has been made I feel a little bit of a letdown. While I’m thrilled with my daughter’s accomplishments, I have that “Sunday night” feeling the kind I had when I was a child after watching Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” – airing every Sunday night I knew the weekend was over and school was on the horizon. It’s that kind of sunken feeling you experience in the pit of your stomach. I often feel the same way right after Christmas when the anticipation is over and you wonder if you really enjoyed the opening of the gifts, the food or the company.

As a mom, we acclimate to the fact that our offspring is usually heading in the other direction and that’s a good thing. Hallmark events like the first day of school are seared in my mind. I can still remember my daughter’s first day of nursery school and the first time I was able to sneak out and she didn’t even notice. First days, whether it was kindergarten, elementary school, middle school or high school, always presented new problems and opportunities. I was a cheerleader for all the good and not so good conundrums but I always knew she’d be home some time later in the day. While I believe she is up to the task, I wonder if I am and I know the answer to that. I’m going to miss that “later” time where even if we fight we reconnect and she lets me in on what she wants to share. We’ve moved on from hot cocoa to tea but we always seem to be huddled together sometime in the evening during the school week discussing this or that. I know that I will be a smaller part of the equation in the future and though I hate to admit it I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Our relationship gave me a taste of what a mother-daughter relationship is like, since my mother died young I celebrated most of my milestones without her. My daughter and I have waded murky waters together and many times I thought, “Oh this is what it’s like having a mom help you buy a prom dress!” From my own experience, I know how important it is to be self-sufficient and in some way leaving home is the only way kids today can reap those benefits. I learned early on that when all else fails, I could lean on myself and my daughter needs to find that strength inside of her.

It’s still bittersweet to know that when we drop her off at school in the fall, this is one time where the return trip will not be a few hours later. Perhaps, I will cry all the way home or bite my lips. I’ll probably do both. Parenting has been the hardest job I’ve ever had and sometimes I’ve aced the assignment and other times I’ve failed miserably but the job was still mine. This is the first time where I feel some part of the job is fading away. While there will always be another weekend to assuage “Sunday night” feelings or next year’s Christmas to erase post-Christmas blues, I know I have to sink my teeth into the fact that this drop off is somewhat permanent and like many of life’s milestone a time to celebrate and a time to say goodbye – Kleenex in hand!

Once Upon A Prom

small_526926484Observations From Prom Sidelines

Somewhere between tuxedos and tiaras, the prom has become a cesspool of treachery. Who’s to blame for the veiled drama this evening of pomp and circumstance delivers? Perhaps Disney is to blame for some of this throwback sensibility by feeding, these graduates didn’t grow up with “Frozen,” young girls a steady diet of fantasy by way of a handsome Prince saving the day. The prerequisite ball, adoring fans and the final kiss have been imbedded in the minds of, otherwise intelligent, girls on the cusp of college and many wonderful things. Reality TV may also be to blame by parading female contestants vying for the same man via the “The Bachelor,” it so makes me pine for “The Dating Game.” “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” have lowered the bar so low there is no bar, except everywhere on that show. Lest we compare the “Rose Ceremony” to the “Promposal” – don’t get me started.

Speaking of entertainment, current day prom is rife with conundrums such as finding the “right date” and then a “group.” The group, for those not versed in prom vernacular, are candidates who go through a sorting process and form a cohesive unit who then proceed to carry on the festivities after the prom. That’s if you’re not kicked out of your group before the shining event. The post-festivities include another party, because the prom in and of itself, does not deliver enough grief. The after party carries even more import than the prom itself and must include some sort of regal transportation for 50, magic carpets excluded, and a fantasy castle by way of a Hampton’s house.

For the “right date” rules of friendship do not apply, which means that you can lose a best friend since middle school for the right to snag a prince. All of this mishap and maneuvering can obliterate what you spent your high school years building like friendship and a sense of community. Yet, it’s so worth it in the end as you glide across the ballroom snag your shoe on your dress, fall on your date and realize you’ve spent so much time in the restroom that you’ve missed the chariot to the castle and now that you’re face to face with your date you realize you he’s no Prince and from the way he’s looking at you – your Princess days are numbered.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ricklibrarian/526926484/”>ricklibrarian</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

Words Hold Power

Libri, books (Explore)Encourage Your Children To Read!

Once again New York Times writer Frank Bruni has waxed- poetic about an issue that always provokes my ire. His latest op-ed laments the decline in reading among children recently reported by Common Sense Media. Since I’ve been on this good earth for five decades, I grew up “computerless” and in a time when there were fewer than 10 television channels and nary a video game. Recreation consisted of going outside and reading. I had wonderful role models who valued books and right from the beginning it was love at first sight. I remember my mother reading Dr. Seuss’, “Are You My Mother” which I read to my own children and have on my bookcase today. I sometimes pick it up and I can still feel a soulful connection to the little bird’s search for his mother. As a child, the joy, suspense and exhilaration of his journey touched me. I wanted more and never looked back.

On rainy days, I would huddle under the table with “Heidi.” Though I haven’t picked that book up in years, I loved the relationship she had with her grandfather. I can still taste the warm, oozing cheese sandwiches he made her. Literature connected me to children like me, who lost a parent. I was no Scout Finch growing up, a tomboy and fearless, but I found a soul mate in Scout one of “To Kill A Mockingbird’s” great characters. I admired her tenacity and belief in justice. On those same pages, I fell for the mysterious Boo Radley, friending Boo should be a prerequisite for all children so they learn not to judge others too harshly. Atticus Finch became my hero and since Gregory Peck played him in the movie, he still is.

I cried when Francie Nolan lost her flawed but beloved father. Betty Smith made the streets of Brooklyn come alive in “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” In the English countryside, I worried about the ever curious Pip, who graced the pages of one of the Dickens best works of fiction, “Great Expectations.” As he grew, I became empathetic for his pining for Estella. To top that off, I feel I wouldn’t be the same without an introduction to Miss Havisham, the quintessential jilted lover, who refused to move on. As an eleven-year-old I was fascinated by the cobwebs and rotting bridal cake. I spent countless days wondering if Heathcliff was going to marry Catherine in “Wuthering Heights” and fretting over Jane Eyre and Rochester’s hidden wife in the attic.

From these pages, I learned about myself and spent time pondering each characters’ flaws and feelings. This is what children are missing if they’ve never whiled away an afternoon with a great book. It is terrifying that the reading rates are sloping downward. It’s like being undernourished. Reading makes us human, confirmed by studies that have indicated that reading makes children more empathetic, while many of the connections kids have today are dehumanizing. Though the digital world offers up many positives, much of what kids are engaging in have no intrinsic value and can be summed up as shameless self-promotion. Great books are timeless and though times have changed, there will never be a time when kindness, compassion and empathy are not necessary ingredients to living a good life.

All is not lost, I thank J.K. Rowling for bringing Harry Potter into the world, although her books appeal to everyone they are especially wonderful for boys, who need more books to relate to. Words still hold the power for change and it only takes one good book to get hooked. Parents should not raise a white flag on this issue! Read, read, read and encourage your children to do the same!

 

A Mother’s Day Wish

get-attachment-164.aspxIf I Could See You Again…

If I could see you again, I would agree that red doesn’t go with purple as you often said, and that life is for the living. I’d also thank you for teaching me the beauty of creating – experiencing the joy of taking a blank piece of paper and painting it with your thoughts or color. I’d thank you for showing me how to experience life beyond your means, to break through the barriers of money and class to defy convention. I’d thank you for introducing me to the value of education, not because it’s right but because knowledge is power. The kind of power that can help you pay the bills but also the kind of power that cannot be taken away. I’d thank you for valuing books, the stories, the words and the thoughts behind great minds. I’d also thank you for never allowing a silly thing like money hinder you from being the most elegant woman in the room. I’d thank you for understanding what true taste is. I’d thank you for not allowing that love of beauty or impeccable taste prevent you from being empathetic, the kind of empathy that would seek out someone in need and offer help without acknowledgement or fanfare.

If we could walk side by side one more time, I’d thank you for showing me that there are no limits to one’s creativity. When shopping wasn’t an option, you learned to sew. I’d thank you for my one-of-a-kind communion dress dotted with daisies, that I may not have appreciated back then among the veils and glitter – but I now realize was truly a fashion statement and a wink to conventionality. I’d thank you for teaching me resourcefulness and that talent resides in all of us. If we could sit down for a cup of tea, I would thank you, a woman born in 1925, for raising a feminist and for warning my sister and me to build careers and be able to rely on ourselves. This was one lesson learned the hard way for you, a young widow without the opportunity to pursue an education. If I could see you again, I would tell you that you taught me more in the short 11 years we shared on earth than many who’ve had a lifetime with their mothers.

If it were possible to see you again I would thank you for introducing me to art. Waking up to a table filled with paints, brushes and canvases showed me that a mother deserves time of her own to dream or pursue passions. If I had one more moment with you, I’d thank you for showing me what bravery is – the kind of bravery to stand face to face with your mortality and still worry about training bras and math homework. The type of bravery to endure sitting in a wheelchair with a beautiful robe on and lipstick and smile and tell us everything will be alright when you knew it wouldn’t be.

If I could see you again, I’d thank you for not being perfect and for being okay with that. I’d thank you for losing your temper sometimes. I’d also thank you for bringing beauty into a house that needed it, whether you painted on the walls or decided on a blue and silver themed Christmas tree. If I could see you again, I’d thank you for throwing the best birthday party a ten-year-old girl could have and for showing me how ingenuity and creativity trumps anything store bought.

If we were to meet again, I’d tell you that I’m proud to be your daughter and I’m woeful we only had 11 short years but I’d tell you that you provided me with a lifetime of lessons. You taught me what life was about and what it wasn’t. For that I’m eternally grateful. For some of us our time on earth is short and others long, it’s what we do here that counts and for me every step I’ve taken is for you to be proud of the woman I’ve become.

If I could see you again, I’d wish you Happy Mother’s Day – the passage of time has taught me that life is a gift and I thank you for bringing me into this world and giving me the gift of life.

I Do Declare!

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Congratulations On Decision Day!

 

Today college students across the country are nailing down their college decision including my 17-year-old daughter. It’s hard to believe that the little girl I watched climb the bus stairs, she was so small she had to use her hands is now going off to college. I can still see her on that very first day of school – the Oshkosh denim jumper, embroidered Peter Pan collar, lace socks, Mary Janes and the bow. The bow said it all, a green grosgrain bow with a plastic art palette smack in the center.

I’m not sure how time has gone by so quickly. It really does seem like yesterday that she was off to kindergarten. The very first time she was away from home for an extended time. There have been so many moments between that time and now the end of 12th grade and though I have never been prouder of who my daughter has become – truth be told I have also changed and grown.

My daughter has taught me so much and many times I didn’t even realize it. I think many parents, if they take a step back, would realize how intuitive our charges are. Parenting isn’t easy when there are so many balls to juggle – I mean the self-imposed balls of ensuring your child is successful such as attending the “right” college, earning the “right” grades, having the “right” friends. While I may not have always subscribed to these tenets I am guilty of some of them.

Along the way, I was straightened out by that bow-toting, doe-eyed little girl. She set me straight with sports by telling me that “she wasn’t going to go anywhere near the soccer ball for she may get hurt.” She also scoffed at the de rigueur of soccer cleats. She came home from elementary school one day and told me she felt “invisible.” I knew she was quiet but I fretted and tried to arrange for play dates that ended horribly or worse yet with girls who found more in common with her baby brother. Why didn’t I trust her instinct? She wasn’t interested in sports – but I wasted my time worrying about who she would play with when everyone was on the soccer field? I worried about the invisible comment and observed girls who were more aggressive and seemed to attract followers. She was learning about who she was and being quiet does not mean you are signing up for a life of loneliness – in time she found the right friends.

I worried every time she mentioned that she wasn’t popular or smart. Again, she was observing the world around her. Popularity was a contest she decided not to pursue and she was always far smarter than she thought. A solid student, the top tier always felt far away – she felt bad about herself. She had to work through that and she worked hard and watched others fly through tests without studying and earning 100s. She slowly learned that everyone blooms at different times and that hard work paid off. She also realized that she possessed talents and skills that were unique to her.

I learned that I spent way too much time lecturing about what she needed to do to get into college when all along the things that make my daughter who she is were always present and sometimes I failed to see that. I suppose it’s a mother’s job to question but if I could go back in time I would see the positive in so many little comments or incidents that I worried about. I also learned that swooping in for the rescue deprived her of making her own assessments. Believe me she put me in my place many times for that one.

So, today my daughter made her big decision and guess what – I once again failed to see what was in front of my face. She decided to go to a much larger university than I ever dreamed she would go to and the internal alarm sounded off for me. I countered by asking her if she was really sure and fretted about the final decision. What I should have seen is that my daughter was not taking the path of least resistance; she wants to get out of her comfort zone for her own personal growth. I should have seen that she was fearless and that instead of opting to be a big fish in a small pond she craved something more – a larger experience filled with challenge, diversity and opportunity. I was now guilty of not seeing her. My daughter was never invisible; not being seen by others who are wrapped up in themselves does not mean you are not there. Right now, I’ve never been more proud and I see more clearly than ever – that it’s time for me to get out of the way and wave goodbye!

Don’t Want To Raise Mean Girls: Don’t Be Mean Women

small_430162762Today marks the timeless movie Mean Girls 10th Anniversary. Why do I even know this when I can barely remember my own anniversary? Thanks to the internet this silly fact is stalking my computer and taking space in my cerebrum – and well I’ll admit I’m familiar with the movie. My daughter and I watched it at least 20 times the summer between eighth and ninth grade and many times after that.

What’s the appeal? Well, it is funny and the younger, untarnished Lindsay Lohan is wonderful and Tina Fey is on top of her game and hilarious. The major appeal is the truth behind all of the cliches and cliques. High school has not changed all that much, the social hierarchy is hard to climb and trying to figure out how you fit in can be insurmountable at 14. As for me, I attended an all girl high school sans drama and I have always been a little curious about what I missed out on. My daughter on the other hand is finishing up at a high achieving but pretty typical high school with a host of cliques and students that resemble some of the characters in the movie.

We watched and laughed and I believe that my daughter learned how to navigate the choppy waters of high school by harboring a little secret – that being part of a “select” group or clique sometimes means turning your back on authenticity. This secret was really culled by the passage of time and watching the parody of bad manners, narcissism, social climbing and peer pressure depicted in the movie – all in the name of fitting in.

Along my daughter’s high school journey she has lost and gained friends but has pretty much manned her own boat – she let go of trying to fit in or being part of any select group. For that I’m proud and though it’s made her life slightly harder she answers only to herself – not a higher being that serves as the axis of her world. Truth be told, I operate the same way. On the social front, I like to call myself “equal opportunity.” I enjoy all types of people and have friends at all stages of life.

Sad truth, is that I see a lot of this “clique mentality” among women and though I steer clear of it I just want to say that everything we do as mothers is simultaneously being observed by a very important set of eyes. Your daughter is watching your every move, so I implore don’t send messages about people and friendship that are insular. We owe our girls more than that.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/yoko69/430162762/”>Odenosuke</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

A Harried Mom Speaks Out On The College Process!

get-attachment-53.aspxIt’s been a long, hard year for those of us with high school seniors. I don’t want to pretend our journey can be compared to that of our forefathers arriving in America in steerage – but in many ways it’s felt like that. The emotions have been tumultuous and now that it’s almost over, I’ve developed a handy list of lessons culled primarily from my daughter’s college search. These are my observations and I welcome any comments and input from yours as well.

  • ‘Dream’ School

A school is an institution that can help your child reach his/her dreams. Remind your child that they are steering the way and they are the only ones that can make their dreams come true. Though some schools may open a few more doors, perseverance, grit, determination and hard work will be the final barometers for success. So eliminate this term from your college vernacular, if your child does not get into their “dream” school, their dreams can be realized somewhere else.

  • Brand Name

Ever since I vied for those Jordache jeans (I know I’m dating myself here), I’ve been acutely aware of the allure of the “brand name.” I’m also aware that those jeans never really fit and well I felt like I was walking in a straight jacket. An education should not be reduced to the shallow allusion of a “brand.” I’m sure many Admissions Officers are mortified by the tactics they are forced to use today to promote and build applications. Today college is a big business, so shop wisely and don’t shell out your hard earned money for a “name.” A “name” that may not offer your child the major they choose or best opportunities or options for them. Look, if Harvard comes knocking that’s fine but at an acceptance rate hovering at 5%, the majority of us wont’ be stocking up on Harvard sweatshirts.

  • Major is not a Minor Matter

Even though your child may have no idea what they want to major in, you should still talk about it. At this stage of the game, you know if your son or daughter will be heading off to major in Marine Biology. Students need to think about what courses they’ve enjoyed and been successful at. Seriously, there are so many resources such and career aptitude tests out there that can help chart a course. This could save tons of angst when your child discovers they want to be a Marine Biologist and guess what there is no program at his/her school. Students don’t have to pin down exactly what they want to do but just knowing that your child wants to keep their options open can provide insight into the type of institution they attend.

  • Curriculum 

Guess what seniors? College is school! I’m only stating the obvious because of all the inane comments I’ve ever heard this year – some buoyed by “senioritis.” I forced my daughter to review exactly what courses she would take at the four schools she’s still pondering. Then I had her look at the electives. Since she is considering art schools versus art majors within colleges, I felt strongly this is important. Yet, I can’t emphasize enough that this is important no matter what major your child decides to pursue. Many colleges have core curriculums; please make sure you consider that before signing up!

  • Following The Crowd

We’ve heard this before, “If everyone jumps off the bridge, will you follow?” I know it’s enticing but if you really have to – please make backup plans. What I mean here is try not to be sucked into the vortex of applying to the “It” school in your town. That is the school everyone wants to go to, even if all of your stats are stacked up in your favor. Schools are only going to accept a certain percentage of students from your high school. Many of my daughters’ peers were disappointed by rejections or waitlist status at these schools. It’s fine if the school is a good fit, but cast a wider net just in case.

I’d like to end this with a little advice to students. College is just a start. It’s just the beginning of plenty of hard work ahead. You are going to change, the world will change. Your decision may be spot on or you may transfer. What won’t change is your drive and ambition. Don’t be shy; seek out the best opportunities for “you!” Chase your dreams; look for a career you are passionate about. Don’t sell your soul for money. The way the world is operating today, there’s no such thing as a sure thing -  so find something you truly love and go after it with gusto.

 

 

 

Equal Pay Day

small_7677801114Call it what it is…an issue for the 2014 elections or a ‘feel good cause’ for Obama we should hang our heads in shame that it’s an issue at all in the U.S. in this day and age.

I just didn’t want the day to slip away without mentioning that today marks “Equal Pay Day.” The date symbolizes how far into the new year the average American woman needs to work to earn what the average American man did the previous year. Today President Obama signed an executive order banning federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation.

The president also signed a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race.

Obama is also urging the Senate to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act” which would impose new regulations on how companies pay employees in an effort to ensure women are not unfairly earning less than their male counterparts.

I’m posting my story here again…because not much has changed and seriously it is embarrassing which is what Obama stated today.

Lessons about inequality…the men’s room, getting tanked & a frog.

I graduated from college in 1985 and secured a position at a small public relations firm. It was a gateway job to a better position. After the acceptable 365 days of employment, I searched elsewhere. My salary was abysmally low and while most of my friends headed off to work in management programs at banks or investment firms my job was more like a Seinfeld episode.

My boss, Mr. K, was a fast talking public relations guy. If a client (had a dearth of those as well) called, we were directed to conduct an extensive search. If he was in the men’s room knocking was required.

Though I patted myself on the back for being a college graduate and I loved to write, I was clueless and there was no training program. The senior account executive showed me the ropes. Our major account was Pan Am. We arranged radio promotions across the country to increase airtime.

I enjoyed creating promotions and writing copy for on-air announcers. There was also press release writing and other responsibilities. I was exposed to different disciplines and the responsibility line was blurred.

Now for the Seinfeld part of the story. I also answered Mr. B’s phone, he had lots of famous friends. Mr. B, who was getting on in years, was a former Pan Am public relations executive. Pan Am asked us to house him. I was so green behind the ears, it took me a month to realize that Mr. B was inebriated pretty much every day. When he returned from lunch and attempted to sit, I worried he would miss his chair. He couldn’t get my name straight, and when he saw me in the elevator he had no clue who I was. For Christmas, he bought me a frog filled with bubble bath.

After 365 days, I found a job at Revlon. A big company, better pay (though not great), no Mr. B, restroom knocking or a bubble bath bonus. I had made it big or did I?

Mr. K told me that I wouldn’t like it because I was accustomed to working in a small agency and I would have limited responsibilities.

After a week, I quit. This was very out of character for me but Mr. K was correct. The position was limited and very administrative which was not how it was sold to me. This was the clincher, when I quit I was actually congratulated.

My boss took me out for a farewell lunch and said, “I don’t blame you.” He then regaled, “There’s a woman down the hall from me that holds the same position that I do and makes significantly less money…plus she’s been here seven years longer.”

That was 23 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics women working full-time earn 77 cents for ever dollar men earn. However, the figure is closer to 91 cents when you take into account women work in lower-paying institutions and those who leave the workplace.

Among college graduates women one year out of college are paid, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers are paid according to research conducted by the American Association of University Women in 2009.

Things turned out well for me when Mr. K tipped me off about a marketing job at Pan Am and I was hired! I just want to go on record as saying I personally have nothing against frogs! Yet, I do take issue that we are still hoping to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act.”

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/7677801114/”>Leader Nancy Pelosi</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

‘Lean In:’ Great Dialogue But Just A Start

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I wasn’t expecting to like Sheryl Sandberg’s tome, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” chronicling the female paradigm of “not leaning in.” We’ve all seen it, if not been active participants of this female tendency. In my past life, I attended business meetings where I would avoid front and center. Girls do it every day as well, not raising their hands for fear of seeming too smart. Of course we aren’t all guilty of such behavior but many of us are and the behavior starts young.

Is it genetic? Men are risk takers, women play it safe? Tons of research has backed this up. Sandberg does a good job of playing these scenarios out in her book; she even shares how she called out female executives guilty of this behavior at a business meeting.

My first thoughts were that she was going to alienate me. I left a career to raise my children but not my zest for “what could have been.” I’m still fascinated by the trajectory of women’s lives and believe that despite all the raucous about  women in the workforce and collective finger pointing we seem to get a lot done. True but we are not “Movin’ On Up.”

Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, doesn’t stand alone but she doesn’t have much company among the top ranks in business. This is what moved her to write her book. She had me at the story of how large she was when she was pregnant and suggested parking for pregnant employees. Come on, if men were carrying humankind, wouldn’t they have their own parking? She encourages women to ask for what they need. Despite her Harvard provenance, Sandberg is relatable and comes across as genuine. She shares snippets of her life that are not all sugar coated. I enjoyed learning about her mother and grandmother. She admires her mother, who was a stay at home mom and champions her volunteer work.

I also feel that she doesn’t condemn those who have chosen to stay home to raise children. She doesn’t advocate for a one size fits all approach. She tells it like it is which is that often women hold back and create their own glass ceiling. At first glance, it seems as though women are once again being blamed for the problem. To her credit, she’s decided to do something about it. Truthfully, the book was an undertaking she didn’t need to add to her already impressive resume. She’s also started an online movement, allowing women and girls to share their stories. Her goal is to create a global community dedicated to encouraging women to lean in to their ambitions.

Women have heard this before but kudos to Sandberg for talking about it and encouraging dialogue. The whole “what would you do if you weren’t afraid” message she promotes via her online community is a good thing.

I personally feel that American women have spent a lot more time combatting each other than challenging their own internal dialogue or battling corporate America. Yet, I’m not optimistic that she will have more company at the top any time soon. I like Sandberg’s message and I love that more women and girls are challenging themselves but corporate America and government policies need to meet us half way. Small changes like workplace flexibility, daycare subsidies, maternity leave are lacking – and by the way should be considered family issues not just women’s issues.

I predict that the younger generation and women like relaunchers will set their sights on entrepreneurial options that provide leeway for family life and other personal needs.  The book is still a good read, especially for younger women; there are some great quotes and tips for the new graduate.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdlasica/4036278964/“>jdlasica</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/“>cc</a>

 

 

 

 

 

 

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