So I finished Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and my book club will be reading it in a few weeks, so I’ll have a chance to pour through it again. There was a lot to digest, and I certainly appreciated Sandberg’s candor, personal stories and overarching message of supporting women to reach greater heights.
I know there are many beating her up in the media, but I viewed her book more as a story to inspire, rather than a prescription to solve all of the multiple issues we must address to truly create a country that values, supports and advocates for women leaders.
We need policies. We need better childcare options. We need equal pay. We need male advocates. We need mentors. We need drive and determination. And yes, we need to make sacrifices too.
I cannot tackle all of those items by myself. But I gave myself a pat on the back as I read Sandberg’s chapter titled, “Make Your Partner a Real Partner.”
Her message, of course, was centered around the sentiment that who you marry can have a huge impact on your career success. Will this person help you “lean in” and support your career? Will he share the childrearing duties? Will he fold the laundry and give the kids a bath?
She cites a 2009 survey that reveals only 9 percent of people in dual-earner marriages said they shared housework, child care and breadwinning evenly. That sounds a little pathetic to me. No wonder our divorce rate is so high in this country. In fact, the woman does 40 percent more child care and about 30 percent more housework than the husband.
She goes on to write that when mothers care for their children, it’s “parenting,” but when fathers care for their children, the government deems it a “child care arrangement.” Some men say they are heading home to “babysit” or cite spending time with their kids as a “hobby.”
I must have hit the jackpot then when I married my husband. We are equals, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do to help carry our family. In fact, he does more laundry than I do most weeks. He makes the kids’ lunches. We take turns making meals and shopping. Household chores are divided, and raising our kids is a full-time gig for both of us. We look at our schedules weekly and strategize together on who will do what, and we try to respect that every once in a while, we need to carve out some personal time to decompress.
In some ways, I was surprised that he took to this parenting and household management style so easily given he was raised in a very traditional home where mom managed the house and dad headed to work.
But I think my husband always knew I was different than his mom. He knew going in that our lifestyle and choices would be a shift from his upbringing.
Now that we have our own family, one of our main goals is to raise kids – we have two sons and a daughter – that see marriage as a partnership. My sons will learn how to cook, clean and support the household. My daughter will learn how to chip in as well, and see that mom and dad will take on any task to support the family. Mom can head off to work every day, and that is OK. Dad can have summers off with the kids, and that’s OK too.
I’m hoping some day when my kids find their own life partners, those partners will come back and thank me and my husband for raising individuals who are supportive and respectful of their significant others. I want them to value faith, family and hard work. I want them to appreciate their talents and follow their passions, and support and respect their partners to do the same.
I haven’t had to “train” my husband to be a good partner, to share the work, to parent our kids. He just gets it.
The chapter reveals some pretty interesting stats – and illustrates when men and women share the responsibilities of breadwinning and domestic duties – divorce rates drop and sex increases. Whoohooo!
So I think Sandberg is onto something. Choosing your life partner is one of the biggest factors in making or breaking your career. And I’m confident that the generations moving up will get this – if nothing else, my own kids will because they will see this commitment and respect modeled every day.