Okay, I am trying. I am really trying. I read Lean In, and I am listening to all of the commentary and discussion about Sheryl Sandberg with Sheryl Sandberg, even near Sheryl Sandberg. I am weighing her experiences against mine to see what fits for me and what doesn't. I am talking to my female colleagues and friends to see what their point of view is. I am trying not to swallow any of the arguments whole or joining the raging bandwagon of women attacking Ms. Sandberg. "Oh, her life is so different from mine." "Oh sure, I could lead a huge company if I had billions." "Who couldn't do what she does with six nannies?" Please note, that most of these people actually have no idea what kind of childcare Ms. Sandberg even has or what her workday is life. And yet the whining, the self-flagellation, anger, guilt, thoughts of missed opportunities go on.
Just when I thought it was safe to start reading about women and business again, another country is heard from. Susan Patton, an executive coach, human resources consultant, blogger and Princeton grad, declared in an open letter to the Daily Princetonian on Friday, "Find a husband before you graduate... Men regularly marry women who are younger and less intelligent... ultimately it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn't as smart as you."
So are these my choices -- running a multibillion dollar company as a mother, a technology genius and making it look easy? Or, should I make sure I tell my daughter who is starting college in the fall to make sure she concentrates on her marital studies versus exploring the breadth of exciting offerings at her chosen university? Isn't there a spectrum? Isn't there a place in the middle that each woman can find on her own? Can't I suggest to my daughter some hybrid that changes as she changes, as she learns and grows? In my experience as a mother for almost 18 years and a working woman for more than 25, that is probably a bit more realistic.
We aren't all Sheryl Sandberg (however you define that) and maybe most female professionals never will be. Maybe she is one in a, I don't know, a... thousand, million, billion? And maybe the young women of today aren't all preparing to stay-at-home OR work 80 hours a week. But why isn't the discussion more about each woman finding her own path? We don't have to get mad at Ms. Sandberg or Ms. Patton. We each can take little pieces or even big pieces of their models. Or we can ignore them altogether. That is the beauty of having choices.
Let's not fall into the trap that one size fits all. Let's get real, most of us have been more than one size during our lives, literally and figuratively. I suggest we give our daughters, our friends, our peers more places to enter the conversation about choices without proscribing that we each pick from a rigid set of multiple choice answers. Isn't that what this is all supposed to be about anyway?