Sheryl Sandberg's new book Lean In has generated a lot of conversation about women's success in the business environment, but I've yet to hear anyone talk about the way women's approach to work changes when they become mothers. Sandberg has probably experienced for herself that becoming a mother is the fastest way to discover just how valuable your time, energy and money are. Motherhood has a way waking a sleeping giant within most women.
It's not just about being a work out-of-the-home or being a stay-at-home mom. The question becomes, "How will I use my time and energy to add meaning and happiness to the world for myself and my children?" In an instant, doing what you love and desire gets prioritized to the top of the list, right along with making sure your kids eat dinner.
After giving birth to a son with Down syndrome, I quickly learned that it would be impossible to work outside the home and be available for the appointments necessary for my son's well-being. I couldn't be in two places at once. Quickly, my mind started churning to discover how I could make money from home, doing what I loved. Having already been a freelance writer, I started blogging—initially for free, but eventually for pay. I chose to write about issues near and dear to my heart. I hoped that my voice was informative for readers and by my writing I could make the world better for my child and other children like him.
Moms all around the nation are working to add purpose and value in ways that were not apparent to them before they discovered the great importance of their energy, time, money and meaning.
I talk to mothers every day who have decided that they can add value to their family's lives and to the world around them by doing work that excites them. They may not be COOs of huge corporations, but from within they are leaning in. I've sat with a pastry chef who teaches gardening to the kids in her daughter's school after she teaches adults to make croissants at her culinary school. One mom is a chocolate maker who turned her hobby into a business. I talked with a poet, who also makes handbags, who uses the experience of being a mother to inspire her creative nature. And I also spoke to a writer who discovered that the empty nest was a great place to nurture in herself what she'd nurtured in two boys over the past 20 years.
Motherhood is the best career move because moms, whether they visit it or not, discover a place inside that is extraordinarily creative, resourceful and productive. With not much time and divided attention, moms are doing the impossible. They are doing what they love to share with the ones they love and beyond, with hope that their work will make the world a better place.
I believe Sandberg's Lean In has it half right. The truth is, leaning in from within is the unique glory of motherhood. Moms all around the nation are working to add purpose and value in ways that were not apparent to them before they discovered the great importance of their energy, time, money and meaning. These women are making every little bit count, because when the work they do is complete, the work they do with their children and families is just beginning.