Too little too late: Sheryl Sandberg apologizes for Lean In

Now that Sheryl Sandberg is a single mom, she has announced, in a post on Facebook, that it’s understandable that single moms do not Lean In.

I am infuriated.

First of all, why is Sandberg telling women they should all work? The whole point of feminism was so women could have choices instead of having someone tell them what to do with their life.

So we have choices. Women can decide they don’t want to work. Women can decide they want to have kids and have a cushy job. Women can decide they want to be a single mom and have two full-time nannies. Sandberg doesn’t talk about any of this.

For Sandberg, mothers have two choices: Have a spouse and lean in. Or be single and don’t lean in.

I have a supportive spouse and I don’t want to lean in. What about me?

Also, before I was with a spouse and staying home with kids, I was a single parent.

You know what? Being a single parent sucked, but I was making a lot of money and I had two nannies and a house manager, and I have to say my life as a single mom was way easier than my life is right now. Because leaning in is so much easier than staying home with kids.

What Sandberg is really saying, with her most recent backtracking, is that it’s hard to be a parent. I don’t think she was really being a parent when she had a husband because all you have to do is trace her day-to-day whereabouts for a month to see that she was rarely home.

But Sandberg would never admit that she wasn’t parenting her kids when she was leaning in.

Why? Why can’t she tell us how many hours a week she was spending with her kids when she was leaning in? Why can’t she tell us why she is deciding to be with her kids now more than double the amount of time she used to be with the kids when she had a husband?

We have a really big problem here that the COO of Facebook wants to be a role model for women, and she is full of shit. But no one can call her out on it because Facebook owns the media.

I didn’t realize that until I wrote about her husband dying. When I wrote that post I got so many emails that requested confidentiality that said no one can say anything bad about her because Facebook controls the majority of traffic to media sites.

I can’t give you names but I can tell you that I have good sources. And you can do pretty cursory research to see this is not far-fetched.

People express so much outrage that Donald Trump can run around saying crazy stuff and he doesn’t ever have to explain himself. Who will pay for the wall? Seriously. How will we block all brown people from coming into the US? Amend the Constitution? He doesn’t answer these questions in any reasonable way. And people complain.

Yet Sheryl Sandberg does the same thing. She says she’s leaning in and doesn’t tell us how many hours a week she sees her kids, or how much childcare costs. She tells us she’s a single parent but she doesn’t tell us if she regrets missing time with her kids, or if she’s still working part-time or what?

Trump and Sandberg don’t need to give us details unless they want to affect change on a national level. Then they owe us more than platitudes.

But you hear tons of criticism about Trump’s platitudes and you hear nothing so much as even questioning Sandberg.

So it’s back to me being the only voice in media saying Sheryl Sandberg is a sham.

Here’s why: For the last two years she’s been shaming women for not leaning in. She tells us we have to justify not leaning in. Now she says it’s okay to not lean in if you are a single mom because it’s so hard to be a single mom.

But as far as I can tell, Sandberg thinks women with supportive, high-earning husbands should lean in. Sandberg doesn’t have any room in her manifesto for women who want to do something besides go to work every day.

So I’m making an announcement. I’m not leaning in because I want to be with my kids during the day. But something else, too. I want to garden. Every day. And I want to curl up on the sofa with my dog in my lap and read. I want to get good at cooking with rhubarb because we grow so much of it. I want to be home for the blackberries because they only come one week of every year.

I don’t want to lean in because I just don’t. I don’t want to have to give Sheryl a reason. Which is why I don’t give a crap what her reason is for not leaning in. I don’t think she needs to justify it. I don’t know why she’s obsessed with who should lean in and who shouldn’t. Each of us is capable of figuring it out for ourselves.

We don’t need a role model. We need a role. Each of us wants to feel like we found our spot, what’s right for us. And it’s not helping to have to justify our choices to anyone but ourselves.

203 replies
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  1. sheila z
    sheila z says:

    It would be really nice if rather than SS share with the world her epiphanies, that instead she’d create the type of environment that is conducive to women being able to choose the type of career they want based on what fits their lives at Facebook since she has the power to do so and then win all sorts of awards and share the best practices with other companies so we all have to shut up and learn something from it.

    Instead, she has this White Hat thing going on and we’re supposed to go along with how rough it is for her and her many billions of dollars. But since we know FB controls media and Congress is going to be taking a look under their covers, we then also know that this is yet another way for FB to try to maintain their relevance. I’m not falling for it.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I commented that I was surprised FB oked her saying what she said, and now I think I understand the FB angle of world domination a bit more. If SS is going to now brand her ‘women empowerment’ platform as that of the leader of all single (poorer) women of the world/USA (which is a growing demographic) that just can’t get on the ladder, or lean in more, she is controlling the narrative to the people in position that will one day control the funds that are distributed as public assistance to said women. I know many wealthy people that earned a majority of their funds through government contracts. If Sheryl is about success, and success through numbers, then it’s actually not at all surprising that she identified this as her next conquest. She’s just priming those who listen to her for what she will do next and creating a voice to support her agenda. I don’t think she actually gives a shit about the women in the USA, as per the language she uses to attempt to project empathy.
      This further makes sense in the world of Zuckerberg Inc. who are also trying to influence women and children through the leader’s wife’s side projects and school initiatives.
      All of this to say, I have ethical issues when the elite class decides that ‘they know best’ for all and they wager their power and influence through controlled media to push what they want, which also happens to further enrich the few at the top. This is what Zuck Inc. is doing and Sheryl is just falling in line by pretending that her personal life is something it’s not and writing about it.

  2. Lois
    Lois says:

    i adore you. But, hey. Who pays for the health insurance? Does the farmer make enough money to provide coverage for the whole family? Leaning in is primarily an elitist white people problem perhaps? i don’t know. What do you say? Feminism was accused of that in the 70s– being for white women becasue women of color have ALWAYS worked.

  3. Kym Fortescue
    Kym Fortescue says:

    This post totally misrepresents what Sheryl Sandberg’s position is and is so incredibly internally inconsistent and hypocritical it’s laughable. It starts by stressing that women have choices, but then proceeds by the end to attack and question Sheryl Sandberg’s. So much more judgment than Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, which is directed at women who want to progress their careers and have children. Indeed, in “Lean In” Sheryl writes of the “Mummy Wars” where she encourages women not to judge other womens’ choices. Work, focus on your career, whatever. What works for you isn’t the only way. She makes that point. Now that her husband has passed, she is acknowledging that she may not have considered the options available for single mothers. What she is doing is recognising that she has learnt through experience another perspective. That shows growth and maturity. I don’t think it’s something that deserves being the target of this bitter tirade.

  4. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    One hundred percent agreed I read her book Lean In naively thinking it would give me more incite into being a better woman/leader/voice in the workplace & all I got was her glorifying herself & her privileged life. Good luck to her but she does have any idea of the majority of women’s reality so need to no her place & not comment on it. I didn’t finish the book through sheer frustration & confusion on what she was actually trying to get across outside of promoting herself. THANKYOU for writing this article.

  5. Carol Marquez
    Carol Marquez says:

    You hit my hot button with this Lean In BS and I’m so glad there are others that have not drank the cool-aid. I heard Sheryl give this Lean In speech at an annual Women in Tech conference (before the book came out) and left feeling personally insulted. Why was there an assumption all women ‘check-out’ when they get pregnant? She probably needed to have a serious talk with her recruiter, but instead came across as the only way to be a success as a women was to never be without your laptop or smart phone. Fast forward 3 years where I had a new SVP toss the Lean In book toward me as a Christmas gift saying I could use it. What? I was working 18 hour days (and had been for over a year) and still had my position eliminated 3 months later. It’s one thing hearing an assuming message coming from a woman that needs to understand the responsibility of a position of influence, but when a man uses it (thinking it’s OK because a woman said it ), it’s like a slap in the face.

  6. Erin
    Erin says:


  7. Erin
    Erin says:

    I’ve had time to read through (most) of the comments now and I see a lot of people saying Penelope is angry at Sheryl or wondering why P is attacking S.

    Sheryl has made a life and a living off of her philosophy of Leaning In. And who she is as a person is synonymous with her Leaning In philosophy. I will admit I am not a SS expert but I get the impression she is not particularly forthcoming with her personal life. So her brand is one dimensional. She’s just “Sheryl, the Leaning In Lady.”

    Penelope is about honesty above all else. When people pretend to have perfectly put together lives, she calls bullshit on it because perfection is impossible and pretending you’re perfect, when you’re in a position of power, just alienates people who look up to you.

    The problem I think Penelope has with Leaning In is that it’s impossible to sustain it. It doesn’t work and someone ends up suffering. But she can’t attack the philosophy without attacking Sheryl because Sheryl doesn’t give us a separation of her life story outside of her narrative of “Sheryl the Lean In Lady.”

    If Penelope is angry, I believe it’s because when people are lied to about how the world works, they make bad choices that end up ruining their lives. If she’s angry, it’s because she cares. If she’s angry, it’s because she wants to speak up on behalf of all the women who are belittled and devalued for choosing roles that make them unimportant and invisible in the eyes of corporate America.

    Penelope doesn’t pretend to be perfect. She lays everything out on the table and let’s the light shine on the good and the bad. Penelope does her best to do good and is willing to make mistakes in the process. We learn so much from Penelope not because she’s successful, but because she strives to tell the truth, especially when it’s a hard truth.

  8. Julia Aidar
    Julia Aidar says:

    I really do not get why it is so hard to get P’s criticism. She is not saying women should or should not work (what she does often say however, is what you should do to achieve results x and y). She says if you work 100 hours, your life will be one thing. If you work 20, there is another picture. And she says here women are not at the top mostly because they do not want to, and they are entitled not to want to.

    On the other hand, SS wrote a book where she states that the issue with the lack of women in leadership is that women don’t have the right attitude.

    BUT, she has never had to think twice about her option to lean in (until now). Never has she had to consider that taking a project would entail not being able to pick up kids from daycare and therefore paying for a nanny (would the project pay compensate for that?). Never has she had to wonder whether spending a week on a work trip would be an issue with her husband’s schedule and possibly with their marriage. Never did she worry her mom or sister or mother in law or neighbor would just get fed up with her crazy schedule and needy kids and stop being available to babysit. Or at least, if she had those moments, she always felt like the right choice was to lean in and thought other women should be doing it more. Well, it seems women in general beg to differ.

    Anyone can come up with a hundred situations that 99% of working women with families have bitten their nails and lost promotions over, and yet Sheryl needed to (so unfortunately) lose her husband to acknowledge that women do not refrain from leaning in because they don’t know how to lean in, but because they so very often just cannot. As someone said above, will we hear another apology if she becomes poor?

    And you know what is more amazing? Even for the top of toppest woman in the world (really, except for head of state one can hardly get any higher than that), a billion dollars does not buy enough nannies nor enough time when one does not have a good spouse. An unavailable/too busy spouse could already prevent the whole leaning in thing, let alone a dead one. So in the end, her message really was that if you have a great husband, a great salary and do not mind being away from your kids most of the time, then you should lean in. I just think those people were already doing it.

  9. Emily
    Emily says:

    I must say, this is disappointing to read. Particularly the blind agreement to this post’s “us or her” and “it doesn’t apply to me, so her point’s not valid” views. Personal feelings aside, I think it’s important to understand that many important ideas and perspectives aren’t meant for everyone. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be heard and seriously considered.

    If people feel shamed by her view, then that’s a pretty strong reflection of their own insecurities and their own perception about their priorities. Sandberg was speaking to women who wanted to climb higher in their careers (executive level, C-suite) but were holding themselves back because of insecurity or accepting a particular “role” that’s put on them by society or the culture of their companies. Everyone has their own interpretation, but my point is that she never set out for her message to apply to every woman in every situation with the same motivations.

    If her message isn’t useful to you because you have a different view and don’t want to “lean in,” then that’s fine. But, it’s a big jump (and rather bold) to call her a sham or assert that there’s anything dishonest in her message just because you have a different opinion.

    Even in her Facebook post, all she said about the book was that she didn’t spend enough time focusing on single mothers and now she has a new understanding of what single mothers experience. Nowhere in there is she backtracking her point or apologizing for Lean In. She’s apologizing that she didn’t explore the experience of single mothers in it. Big difference.

    You get an emotional response by writing this way, I get that. Taking a stance against a popular opinion (or person) by attacking it with emotion and personal stories gives off a sense of authority and builds rapport, I get that too. But if you’re going to attack someone, or an idea, then I’d hope that you’d take on the challenge of basing your argument in truth rather than twisting words or presenting opinion as fact. Otherwise, this is tabloid writing. I know that’s what usually works nowadays, and rants are rants, but based on your reputation and the other content you’ve written (overall, I’m a fan of the blog) this one was disappointing to read.

  10. Caitlin Timothy
    Caitlin Timothy says:

    “We don’t need a role model. We need a role. Each of us wants to feel like we found our spot, what’s right for us. And it’s not helping to have to justify our choices to anyone but ourselves.”

    That’s so practical. It’s so interesting that of course you can’t have a company or a nation or whatever without having people play different (important) roles. But I think there’s something wrong with talking about roles. It’s not PC or something. I think people are afraid that if you talk about roles then it follows that certain categories of people will have to fill certain roles, and then there will be less options for people…

  11. jessica
    jessica says:

    When I read Ms. Sandburg’s comments last week I was actually shocked. Here we have the COO of Facebook (!) sounding completely uneducated and ignorant. This does nothing for women. I’m surprised they let her post it, to be honest. And then it had me wondering just how she actually got so far, and now after reflecting I’m inclined to believe it was by stepping on the other women she speaks of on their way to Leaning Up the ladder, due to her sheer shameless display of lack of empathy. She probably just shoved them right off.
    Go Sheryl, Go, but Go for yourself and be proud of that.

    • Maria
      Maria says:

      Penelope, when I read this, I cannot help to think how difficult must be for you to stay at home. So difficult that you are writing an article to justify yourself. I dont think the article is about lean in or not, it is about you justifying why you dont lean in.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Did we read the same Facebook post on Mother’s Day? Because I did not react this way at all. Perhaps thinking about it, a portion of the message showed how she *was* ignorant on the topic, but she isn’t anymore.

      “We need to rethink our public and corporate workforce policies and broaden our understanding of what a family is and looks like. We need to build a world where families are embraced and supported and loved no matter how they fit together. We need to understand that it takes a community to raise children and that so many of our single mothers need and deserve a much more supportive community than we give them. We owe it to them and to their children to do better. We must do more as leaders, as coworkers, as neighbors, and as friends.”

      Sounds like someone who wants to help others, not stomp all over them.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        I commented that I was surprised FB oked her saying what she said, and now I think I understand the FB angle of world domination a bit more. If SS is going to now brand her ‘women empowerment’ platform as that of the leader of all single (poorer) women of the world/USA (which is a growing demographic) that just can’t get on the ladder, or lean in more, she is controlling the narrative to the people in position that will one day control the funds that are distributed as public assistance to said women. I know many wealthy people that earned a majority of their funds through government contracts. If Sheryl is about success, and success through numbers, then it’s actually not at all surprising that she identified this as her next conquest. She’s just priming those who listen to her for what she will do next and creating a voice to support her agenda. I don’t think she actually gives a shit about the women in the USA, as per the language she uses to attempt to project empathy.
        This further makes sense in the world of Zuckerberg Inc. who are also trying to influence women and children through the leader’s wife’s side projects and school initiatives.
        All of this to say, I have ethical issues when the elite class decides that ‘they know best’ for all and they wager their power and influence through controlled media to push what they want, which also happens to further enrich the few at the top. This is what Zuck Inc. is doing and Sheryl is just falling in line by pretending that her personal life is something it’s not and writing about it.
        The bigger picture of this type of open letter is not at all about her personal feelings/failings/growth.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I guess I don’t see what the big deal is, or why SS creates such controversy. Maybe because I don’t care what she has to say? But, I have seen you make the same arguments she made about better paid maternity leave, isn’t that something you agree with her on? Wouldn’t that help mothers?

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            You know, I’ve been contemplating my thoughts on this for a while and I haven’t come to a firm decision on what I think works for society at large. I don’t think one person as powerful as she, in the tech and political scene should be trying to angle herself as the promoter and doer of poor single mothers. She has a lot on her plate with FB and children. I would view it differently if she left FB and was with her children and decided being a public do-gooder was her new side job. I, personally, would be more willing to listen to someone in that sort of position. Perhaps she will leave FB, but I doubt it and I only care because I think she is trying to exert controlled influence. The advantages in Europe (where I have lived) seem to aid in a ‘balanced’ life, if your life needs to be balanced further by outside forces such as government policy. On the other hand as for following P’s arguments of increased government policy and support, I find this inadvertently decreases support of the family unit as a whole. It’s a tricky issue and I really want to narrow down what I actually think more before responding further about Mat leave and the such. It’s a slippery slope. As for SS, I don’t think her intentions are in the right place as far as her comments and motives and the fact that she is so powerful is why I care. It would be different if she wasn’t working where she is, wasn’t doing what she does, surrounded by people trying to influence her same target all in the name of women’s rights. I’ve followed Zuckerberg’s education initiatives, Gates Common Core fiasco, and it is insane how quickly the likes can just enforce policy and initiatives when and if they want by lining pockets. That is another discussion but it’s connected to the same group.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


            I think if she really means what she says, and as far as FB is involved, why don’t they lead that initiative and offer the MAT leave she is referring to, to their employees? It doesn’t need to be govt initiated if employers start doing it on their own, but it helps to have a partner involved. Europe has some good models in place that can be tailored here.

            I think the education discussion is relevant here, because it involves kids and their outcomes. People can do whatever initiatives they want with their money, but a bad idea will fail no matter how much money one “invests”. Like Zucks NJ experiment….lesson learned.

      • Tracy
        Tracy says:

        I agree Jessica, that statement is all about rebranding, tactical platitudes and political manoeuvring. I share your ethical issues with it all and agree there needs to be more questioning of it. Please don’t anyone buy it for a second.

        Just recently at a tech meetup I met a young woman who had just quit Facebook because she wanted better-work-life balance.

        In the UK, these big corporations do backflips to avoid paying taxes, Facebook paid £4327 in corporation tax in 2014, despite £35m in staff bonuses. That’s THIRTY-FIVE MILLION (hmmm wonder how much Saint Sheryl got?). Even my ity-bitty 2-person company paid double that in corporation tax that same year. That money goes to the social services supporting mothers and families in this country. Please someone explain to me how this is Sheryl ’embracing and supporting families’. IT IS SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS!

  12. JD
    JD says:

    I’ve been reading Penelope long enough to know that all women tech leaders bug the crap out of her. Just a matter of waiting for a specific reason to unleash the rant.

  13. Maria
    Maria says:

    This article is BS. No point in comparing Trump to Sandberg. is the crazy guy wins he impacts the nation. Whatever, Sheryl does will surely not affect us all as much.

  14. JNP
    JNP says:

    Sooo, I have been reading your blog for a while now and here is a bit of unsolicited insight, some observations, but basically my opinions. (See how I did that? Remember those words as you read on.)

    I am a fan of your writing. Your research and links to articles are interesting and you weave professional and personal information together artistically.

    I am not a fan of Lean In, I do not know the author personally, so I do not have an opinion on her. When a colleague gave me her book, I watched a few videos, because I do not have time to read things that I do not find value in, realized Lean In was not for me, and shelved the book. I do think the whole Lean In thing was attempt to help women navigate the corporate world from one women’s perspective. When certain people are happy and feel successful, they want to share that information with others, maybe to help them out a bit. Her privileged perspective was apparent to me. It did not fit what I needed, or what I believed. I moved on.

    I read your article when her husband died and I thought it was harsh, but I read it. It was headline catching and full of opinions and assumptions.

    So P, let’s face it, you do the same thing she does, don’t you? You find things that work for you, you get excited, you want to help others, and you express those ideas as if they were, beyond a doubt, fact. If people feel bad about themselves after reading something, isn’t that more about them then the content of the article?

    I am not naive, I understand strong words get hits. That is why sometimes I look past intentionally inflammatory titles to get to the facts.

    So my unsolicited advice, dig deeper about why she gets you fired up and tell us what you find. That would be interesting, I would read that!

    “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung

  15. Laura Danforth
    Laura Danforth says:

    “They don’t need Role Models, they need roles”. Penelope, your blog is amazing because it reminds me that I don’t have to follow the proscriptions for life that feel so narrowly written.

    In my experience, trying to follow these has made me miserable and unsuccessful. In “lean in” jobs, it was hard to stay authorized, to feel empowered. I could not hold strong boundaries. I constantly fell victim to needing to work extra hours (time boundary), to the work (staying in role or role boundary), and to the politics.

    Interestingly, every woman who came to speak about her success emphasized those boundaries (time & role). She was able to schedule time for her family, for herself, and for her work. In doing this, she felt authorized in her job, and controlled it instead of letting it control her.

  16. Rob
    Rob says:

    Thank you for writing this; it needed to be done and it couldn’t have been done by anyone else.

  17. Diana
    Diana says:

    Great post, Penelope. I try to lean out as much as possible, and get hounded for it CONSTANTLY. I like my life the way it is. It’s nice to see someone sincerely advocate that it’s ok to do what makes you happy.

    Sheryl’s post made me angry, because she’s not even really apologizing. She’s calling for political change and using this half-assed apology to justify it. Why should we listen to her? The only thing we know for sure about Sheryl is that she doesn’t have the empathy or imagination to model other people.

  18. Becky winnick
    Becky winnick says:

    I am a big fan of your blog and read every post that comes out. But this one is surprising to me. It makes me actually wonder – have you read Lean In? Sandberg repeatedly states that she doesnt think *every* woman should work, and everyone needs to make their personal choices. The point of the book is to give useful information and support for those that do choose to Lean In. So I don’t know why you would say something like “Sandberg is telling all women they should work.”

  19. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    What feels disempowering about the post and consequential comments, is that men don’t do this (that I am aware of). There are many self-help books similar to Lean-In written by men, and men can choose to latch onto that doctrine or not, doesn’t matter because there are many other options. Like Altucher, Ferris and on and on. Do their fans get on diatribes like this?

    It feels like women are just not accepting of each other, at all, unless other women are doing exactly what they are doing. Why can’t women just do what they want and write a book about it? Why do we all have to do the same thing?

    Also this hyper-discussion about whether she is a good parent or not, who cares? Being a bad parent is an option, children end up lacking and the world goes on.

    Women should be allowed to be a bad employee, parent, spouse, friend, or ungrateful child. They should be allowed to give bad advice, they should be allowed to say, I told you so!, they should be allowed to make disparaging remarks about men. If they are criminals, drug addicts, or teen-aged parents they should get a second chance.

    Men do all these things, all the time, and it is just life. Women do the same and they get judged by other women about their womanhood. We are our own worst enemies.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I agree with you Jennifa. I don’t think it is too much to ask either. I was never into the whole mommy wars bs, and this seems like an extension of that.

      • Jennifa
        Jennifa says:

        Oh good! I hate conflict.

        So many commenters here have contributed beautiful well-balanced opinions, the response seems to have evened out overall. It was just the first rapid-fire 30 or so that were pretty damning!

  20. MK
    MK says:

    When I told people I was staying home with my newborn son rather than pursue my career, I got so much support. From my coworkers, from my clients, from my family. Everyone said, “Good for you–you won’t regret it!” Or, “I wish I could have done that!”

    I know there exist pockets of people who glorify careers & financial success–and accomplish much with their fire–but there are also people & places who understand that family comes first.

    For those of you who are people of the latter living among people of the former–take heart! You’re not wrongheaded; you’re just misplaced. It takes all sorts, you know…

    • Monica
      Monica says:

      Family doesn’t come second because one chooses to pursue her career. That is flawed thinking at its core.

  21. Alex
    Alex says:

    It’s a wonderful world to think of women in half of all executive positions. Things would be different! Though I don’t begrudge men the fairly good job they have been doing all these years “running things.” Not perfect, but neither are we! But it’s not like we women haven’t made our contributions. Women don’t need to be COO’s or to work for money to shape the world. Neither do men for that matter. I wish feminism did more to glorify the work of women then to glorify the work of men. That is where I see equality. Not in equal number of seats at the table.

  22. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    I have been a single mother since my daughter’s birth. I have done well for myself, however, I am not a Director, VP, or a CEO.

    I did not have physical help as relatives are not in my local area and could not have afforded maids and nannies. I did have some financial help. Unlike “golden princesses” that start out rich and attend Harvard, I am a regular princess that has worked her way to a six-figure income. I did it by finishing my undergraduate and graduate degrees at night. I have also driven my daughter to every soccer game, violin lesson, orchestra concert, choir festival until she got her driver’s license and drives herself now sometimes. I can get a new job. I cannot replace my daughter.

  23. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    I try to step back and think, what is going on with the have-it-all mother-plus-career notion.

    And I think it is all about high-status women needing to differentiate themselves from the herd.

    High-status women used to be chateleines; they ran the castle when hubby was out campaigning. High status women used to be arranging marriages. High-status women used to be entertaining the good and the great. All that stuff has kinda gone away, but high-status women still need to advertise they high status, darling.

    But the truth is, man or woman, high or low, the only significant thing most anyone will ever do is put children upon this earth.

  24. Scmods
    Scmods says:

    Women shouldn’t lean in, because then their cleavage is visible. Visible cleavage is rape.

  25. Christina
    Christina says:

    Love this post! I really struggled after having kids because I rationally wanted to lean in – I had worked so hard on my corporate career for so long – but emotionally my values had changed. I simply didn’t want the same things anymore and reading Sheryl’s book and posts didn’t inspire me – they left me feeling guilty.

  26. Monica
    Monica says:

    Lean In doesn’t discourage stay at home moms, it discourages the idea that women only go to school or work to find a Husband. It tells women that want to, to lean in early in their career so they have plenty of options when they have a family.

    Her book tells the story of a young girl that wouldn’t take on additional challenges in the workplace because she was preparing for her future as a housewife and she didn’t even have a boyfriend! Basically working just to get by until she found a husband that would “take care” of her. Little does she know that “taking care” of her also means controlling her in one way or another. This behavior by young women in the workforce is what creates unequal pay for women. Corporate America believes that most women in their late 20s will only be around for 5-10 years tops so why spend any extra resources to enhance their careers? This is the shift that needs to take place. Those who CHOOSE to advance their careers shouldn’t have to deal with the baggage of our counterparts who are only working to get by.

  27. Rob
    Rob says:

    It’s crazy the amount of hate you are receiving on Linkedin from this post. I really don’t like this era of society where having an opinion that differs from the masses is wrong. Hope it passes!

    Thanks for your posts; you are awesome!

  28. lahdeeda
    lahdeeda says:

    I know this is an older post but I’ve re-read it several times. I read your blog a lot, and always wonder what it is about it that draws me. It’s your ability to see through the bullshit and call out the truth about life as a woman – whether it’s women in the workforce or women who stay home or all the women in between. It drives me batshit crazy (my favorite phrase) when super career women post about motherhood and how to balance it when it’s not possible to be a super career women and balance parenting. And women? Shoot, you know what I’m striving for? A day job that pays enough to enable me to come home, forget about the drama of the day, hang with my kids, go on vacations, and live a life.

  29. Temeca Richardson
    Temeca Richardson says:

    What a great post. I wanted to say it was courageous, but in fact it doesn’t eve have to be that if you are simply speaking your truth and not allowing the perceived influence of any big name companies sway you from speaking that truth.

    I am actually reading her book (and have recommended it). It did cross my mind that what if you didn’t want to do it this way, but I didn’t challenge it much more than that, I must say even with a bit of shame.

    I’m going to finish the book, but with a new perspective on what she’s saying. Thank you for the enlightenment.


  30. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    People learn from their own life experiences and can only speak from a place that they understand. That was her perspective at the time, but now that she has become a single mother, she has a new perspective to share. I applaud her for speaking up about it nonetheless. It’s not fair for you to put her on this pedestal and expect her to cover everything and everyone. It’s as the saying goes “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. As another commenter said, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate where all this anger is stemming from. Just because the next person may have a different opinion than you doesn’t mean you have to tear them down. Be happy with your own life choices.

  31. Charlene
    Charlene says:

    I completely understand how the concept of leaning in could be a disaster and miracle rolled up into one. For one, women in the workforce could really learn a thing or two about how Sandberb thinks and how she successfully negotiated raises. To those women who want to use these lessons to earn more for their families, I say get the book….

    On the other hand…

    The concept of leaning how to “live in a man’s world” and consider success to act and behave like a man to earn raises will lead to more money, but I don’t know if a woman trying to be a man will cause respect among men, and gain that much long-term success. The truth is: I don’t think the trick is to live like a man, but rather understand a man, and counteract some annoyances. For instance, with O’Neill, if I was called a cheerleader, I would have said, “Damn straight. Now give me something to cheer about today. Also, if I see anything less than a law passed, I will send you back to your mistress with her sub-par cheers.”

    I am telling you… it would have worked.

  32. Essie
    Essie says:

    Sheryl Sandberg gave the commencement speech at my alma mater in 2011. It was her “lean in” pitch. I was so terribly uninspired. I like that you stated reasons beyond kids for not having the big job. Some of us want (need) some time to relax, be in nature, create, read, be with people… just to live

  33. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Amen, Penelope. How dare Sheryl lecture us… Majorly out of touch. BTW, we should all boycott FB after this whole thing. Thank you for standing up to her/ them. You rock!!!

  34. Teach By Type
    Teach By Type says:

    As a Mom of 3, with no local support and a husband at sea for half the year, I perceived Sheryl’s advice in the same way I assume a Mom in a low income bracket, and a minority, perceives your advice. Pie in the sky.

    When you advise all parents they can homeschool and support their family, might you be guilty of doing what Sheryl is guilty of doing?

    Your advice can successfully be applied to my life (both career and homeschooling). But I’m benefiting from the privileges that come with being white, attractive enough, and grew up in an upper middle-class family.

    I was able to build a successful career without a formal education, but if I were a member of a “protected” class, it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to do so.

    Your advice works for some, just as Sheryl’s works for some. And for other’s, it’s absurd to think they could do what you’re both suggesting is possible.


    • Julia
      Julia says:

      P has always said poverty would be a hindrance for homeschooling and that the tendency is for public school to convert increasingly into a safety network for the poor and this should recognized as its true purpose, instead of being seen as education centers.

  35. Anon
    Anon says:

    You missed the point of Sheryl’s lean in. We need people like Sheryl to lean in, we need women in power to change gender inequality issues, we need the government and corporate to give mothers a fair chance to make a living to support their kids. The fact is, marriages are unreliable, child support is unreliable, mothers are the most reliable carers and you NEED a decent job so you CAN AFFORD to work less to be with your kids, and to do that you have got to lean in.

  36. Bethany
    Bethany says:

    I’ve always noticed that Sheryl glosses over her values pretty quickly, but I’ve noticed it sounds something like this: Women need to lean in because the world needs more women leading at the top.

    I’ve always wished she’d explain that more. Why does the world need more women leading at the top? And if it’s good for the world, why do the women have to lean in so hard to do something so good for someone who is not them.

  37. harris497
    harris497 says:


    The newly evangelized often make the most fervent advocates. Let’s hope she does the right thing for working women (moms, etc) in the future. My2centsworth

  38. Mackintosh Rose
    Mackintosh Rose says:

    For my part, I get so annoyed that so many people act like it’s a choice to stay home with kids for all women. As part of a couple with tons of dental bills over the years, who didn’t think it was right to get out of paying these obligations, we will never even be able to afford a child.

  39. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I like to garden too, especially after work and before my family dinners. And I LOVE to read. I am a single mom and couldn’t give a sh*t about leaning in. Thanks for your post, happy to know I’m in good company.

  40. Bea Baker
    Bea Baker says:

    I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Sandberg speak several years ago while promoting her book. I asked her exactly what “Leaning In” would look like for an older, divorced, single mother like myself. She just gave a smug answer and then took the next question. I am sorry her husband passed away. But her money and status still protects her from truly understanding how difficult this is. I hope she writes an update to her book with specific policy recommendations to help single parents. Then she can take her show on the road because employers would listen to her. Let’s wait and see…..!

  41. Nita
    Nita says:

    Well, as far as this topic goes, I love working outside the home and being a homeschooling parent. We don’t use nanny’s that much, and flip flop our family schedule to be there for our kids. However, with challenges that arise when only 1 spouse is working outside the home, we found it prudent to have both of us working – even if only part-time. For my daughters, I’d like them to be working mothers like me, or at least have a business or job they work from home. Because, let’s face it, depending on having a spouse to bring in the income all the time isn’t realistic and leaves the family vulnerable if there is a health issue, divorce, or the husband gets laid off.


    I agree, Sheryl Sandberg is exploiting her luck to be at FB(could have been anyone else riding the wave) to write her first book and now she’s exploiting her husband’s death to write her second.

  43. DL
    DL says:

    *I’m not leaning in because I want to be with my kids during the day. But something else, too. I want to garden. Every day. And I want to curl up on the sofa with my dog in my lap and read. I want to get good at cooking with rhubarb because we grow so much of it. I want to be home for the blackberries because they only come one week of every year.*

    This is my favorite paragraph. For me, leaning in doesn’t allow for these pleasures and, simple as they are, they are so very important.

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