My husband and I returned from a trip to San Diego Monday evening to find a large package beside our front door. It was from a friend who visited us recently and said the setting at our “family compound” required a hammock. As we talked about the hammock, I envisioned hours spent under the shade of an enormous oak tree with beverage in one hand and frivolous novel in the other enjoying the warm Florida breezes.
The setting is Sarasota, Florida. My husband, son, his wife, her parents and two young grandchildren moved from three houses in the area into our two-acre compound last fall. We have enjoyed time around our new fire pit, afternoons on our dock, impromptu dinners, a Christmas Eve remote boat parade and all the other times in between. I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive.
At the same time, however, my husband and I are fully renovating the house we chose to inhabit. That includes hiring workers to rip out kitchen walls, flooring and cabinets, re-roof, create a new entrance and remodel two bathrooms. In addition, I am starting our new business venture with friends Doris and Lisa. I am sharing childcare and transportation responsibilities with the other grandmother, and I am checking on my mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, in an assisted living facility on the other side of our pond.
My husband’s professional board activities require travel for both of us, and he is teaching part-time at a law school 40 miles away as he, our son and two partners keep an elder-law practice going in Sarasota.
In the midst of tremendous upheaval, is a thread of discussion surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which has been a recurring theme in the last few months. Our friend Gregory, father of two young adult daughters, began the discussions. Each time he said “Lean In,” he did so. Each time he said “Lean out,” he leaned backward. The discussions have continued with a variety of groups and settings.
In these discussions, we have considered Sandberg’s ideas that women often impede their success as they remain silent or decline challenging assignments. Comments have ranged from, “Yes, I have seen myself do that,” to “My daughter would never do anything like that.” The fact that this father was referring to his eight-year-old did not convince me.
We questioned Sandberg’s ability to assess fully the challenges of motherhood for women who do not share her wealth, and we talked about times in which we did or did not “sit at the table” when we had something important to say.
In the “Lean In Circle” my friends and I now host online, we have talked about when we leaned in and leaned out and how this changed our lives for the better or worse.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about how women should behave if they want to be successful, why they are not more successful, how they can be more effective leaders, how they can have it all, how they can balance their lives, how they can be healthier and how they can support one another to do all of this. Few seem to have clear answers.
I have reflected on these topics, and I have considered how my decisions and actions affected me and those around me. I have enjoyed and energetically contributed to the discussions, and I have my own ideas, which I will be happy to share. I look forward to more discussion and even more action. That seems to be the missing element.
For today, however, the hammock looks awfully appealing.