I had the great privilege of attending the kick-off of 26th Annual Jewish Book Festival the other evening. While I always enjoy showcasing Shades of Gray, the main speaker was Adele Sandberg, Sheryl Sandberg’s (Lean In) mother. At first, I admit, I questioned how much Sheryl’s mother could actually contribute to a discussion of her daughter’s book, but then I decided that behind every strong woman, a great mother is somewhat responsible. Granted, this may be my own ancillary pat of the back as I take distinct pride in my growing children daily or perhaps, because on days when I feel accomplished and fulfilled, I wonder what my mother would think. (Ironically, I felt the urge to write this today; the 33rd anniversary of my mother’s passing.)
Another admission, I relinquish on questionable terms, falls under the heading of what Lean In would have to do with a woman like me. Prior to Mrs. Sandberg’s talk; I hadn’t even read Lean In; assuming its audience was best suited for the business world. I stand corrected. Clearly, the book speaks of gender stereotypes, how woman need to take a stand globally and eradicate the term bossy from female description. “Don’t call your daughters’ bossy; say ‘my daughter has executive leadership skills,’ ” explained Mrs. Sandberg while talking about her own daughter and granddaughter. She then went on to talk about how we need to respect each other’s choices and stop having resentment or guilt. My ears perked. Does this mean that my choice to leave teaching and stay home with my young children is finally acceptable even in the eyes of women who seem to be able to do it all; achieve success in the workplace and have a family?
I enjoyed listening to Sheryl’s brilliant mother from beginning to end. I immediately bought a copy of Lean In for myself and plan to give one to every young woman I know. My recent desire to re-enter the workforce is officially reinvigorated. My favorite question of the evening though centered around Adele and Sheryl’s mother-daughter relationship, because as I said; I believe a good parent is at the base of every successful child. Mrs. Sandberg shared a story from when Sheryl and her siblings were as young as five, seven and nine, when she mounted an article on the refrigerator about how to raise happy children. The article, amongst other things, claimed that we should never do for our children what they are capable of doing for themselves. That day she ceased getting her children ready for school in the morning and they began their journeys to independence. This, she explained to her youngsters, was being done, because she wanted them to be happy. Incredible! Isn’t that all we ever want for our children? I suddenly felt as though I missed the boat. For years I had been telling myself that among other chores, the elaborate breakfasts I make each morning before school is because I enjoy doing it. Do I? I examined my reasons and found myself rationalizing. The thrill for me definitely stemmed from the satisfaction of knowing they have had at least one nourishing meal in what could be a rushed and harried day. Then it occurred to me that perhaps it was more due to my own issues regarding not having a well mother to do for me all those years. I unintentionally provid my children with what I thought I missed. And there you have it; my mother, even with deteriorating health, managed to be a great mom. I wonder if she read the same article as Adele. I wonder if she ever defined me as bossy. I think not. Today, I can feel her leaning in.