The Loh Life

Lean Sideways, Part 1: Leaning in, taking a whiff, leaning out

Sandra Tsing Loh on "leaning in."

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about those two buzzed-about Working Warrioresses—  By that, I mean Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, with her new book “Lean In,” and Marissa Meyer, the Yahoo CEO who is sending her telecommuters back to the office.  The fact that I am only thinking of them NOW, about two months after everyone else, is a measure of the fact that I am NOT a leading executive of Facebook or Yahoo.

No, my peers are working moms—many of whom are writers or other creative professionals.  We are old and established enough to have, well, the best and worst of several worlds.  Many of us have fairly heavy workloads, but our schedules are fluid and we work from home, meaning we ALSO have the ability to cram our days full with one-on-one care for our families.

So, let’s say we are leaning sideways.  A typical email thread goes, “OMG—we should blog about the whole Lean In controversy!”  “I’m just so mad!”  “Yes, we should!”  “Carolyn would be perfect to start off, due to that thing she wrote on Slate!”  “That’s right—Carolyn!  Hello?"

Unfortunately, Carolyn doesn’t reappear until a week later, as her son fell off the jungle gym and had to have stitches, at which point all she can rant on and on about is a distinctly non-sexy topic like health insurance.

This is not to say some of my friends don’t TRY to “lean in.”  My friend Lori was a hard-charging TV news producer for 14 years before having a son at 40, at which point she happily took time off to bake pies and smell the Mustela Baby Cream.  Now her son is eight and she’s going back to work, but to hear her tell it newsrooms have shrunk.  “One person is now doing what six people used to!” she says.  She’s rewriting everyone’s stuff, at MIDNIGHT, to match the pay she used to have, everything’s going digital now ANYWAY, it’s all about TWENTY-year-olds sitting around like chimpanzees doing Google searches, so she finds what’s she is leaning INTO is just a hideous morass.

“So I’m leaning OUT,” she says.  She’s taking a leave to help her grandparents with their dogs and their gardening.  But ironically, as they live in Santa Barbara on two acres bought several decades ago, if she keeps them together she’ll inherit more than she could ever make at the jobs currently open to her, so why not?  Instead of “lean in,” she can “sleep in.”

Of course, there are advantages to just throwing in the towel and saying you HAVE to be in the office.  That’s what I find when a couple of us lean-arounders start trying to actually get a job done—on time.

Next week: Yahoo!  Not!


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