Leaning in Two Directions

One day, I want to be a mogul. Not like a super rich or famous one. I just want to be working toward something bigger and better every day. And crushing it.

This all started a few months ago when I read Lean In. I was sort of floating in my career and was too lazy to make changes. Change is hard. But, as I voraciously turned the pages, I became outraged. I was angry at the world for continuing to reinforce the gender gap. I was angry at myself for falling into female workplace stereotypes. And I was angry at the guilt I felt anytime we didn't have a clean bathroom or a meal plan - as if the fate of our household rested on my shoulders alone.

I was angry about the accepted expectations that, as a woman, I would be apathetic about my work while counting down the days to motherhood. And since anger rarely elicits productive action on its own, I became empowered - boiling my anger into motivation. Motivation to create change, to propel myself forward into something I could challenge, conquer, and climb over to reach the next opportunity.

I became ravenous for openings to learn, to speak up, to create and to contribute. I started volunteering for everything, shaking hands with everyone, presenting my newfound confidence and generally leaning into my work life. And while I know this motivational fervor will push me even closer to moguldom (Mogulhood? Mogulness?) it's an incredibly exhausting place to be.

For me, such adamant leaning in has come with an equal and opposite leaning out of regular tasks I used to have time for. Doing laundry, for example. Or, dusting. Who has time for dusting?

Of course, Russ has always stepped up to the domestic responsibility plate. He pledges support for my ambitions while washing dishes or walking the dog or re-wiring our living room lights. He encourages my dreams with his helpfulness, his humor, and his insistence that we can have whatever life we want. Russ is a legit cheerleader.

But, Russ is leaning in too.

He's works all day and then comes home to continue perfecting his craft, striving to turn it from a hobby to a business. Russ spends hours after work leaning into furniture design, power tools, and business ownership materials. I rarely see him even sit down after his workday except to change into boots before heading toward the garage.

By the end of our normal work days, we're both tired, hungry, and aching to avoid chores. So, while we're encouraging each other, supporting our careers and chasing our next opportunities, who is balancing the household? What happens to the tasks we have to lean out of in order to lean in?

Is it possible to lean in two directions?

I'm not really sure, to be honest. Sometimes, I fear I actually will begin the countdown to motherhood and decide to lean out of everything else completely. Oftentimes, I worry we'll lean in too far - open a business, have a baby, keep our day jobs - and it will all topple from its precarious position atop our naiveté. There are certainly days it would be easier not to speak up, or accept a new project, or attempt anything at all (especially with power tools).

Russ and I have both had moment,s days even, of lean in failure. We've slammed tool and ignored blogs and run out of clean underwear and stepped in dog poo because neither of us has the time to pick it up every day. Sometimes, an entire day will feel like garbage and we go to bed broken and uncertain.

But, even on those days of failure, when it feels like it might all topple, I know we're leaning in the right direction because we're leaning against each other. We've watched each other break down and we take turns stepping up. We've learned that sometimes you need to walk away from a project to preserve your mental stability. We've realized it's okay to order pizza and watch Netflix instead of polishing off a to do list. And we've learned that no matter how far you lean in, no matter how precarious that balance may feel, you can never fail. If you're investing in the life you want to live, investing in yourself and in your community, then moguldom will never be far away.

Leaning In Together