Monday, September 9, 2013

Leaning in, full throttle

I would have had a perfect score on my motorcycle driving test if it hadn't been for the part where you're asked to perform a "sudden stop". I was so focused on the goal of performing this stop that I let back on the throttle well before my mark. I braked too soon and lost points.

"Don't put on the brakes. Accelerate." Sheryl Sandberg
I'm reading Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In and I just finished Chapter 7, “Don't Leave Before You Leave.” It's all about women putting the brakes on their careers long before children are even a glimmer in their eyes, deciding not to take promotions and pursue demanding positions in anticipation of maybe someday becoming a parent.

From the driving test anecdote above, you've probably gathered that I think ahead- sometimes to a fault. And Sheryl Sandberg clearly states in Chapter 7, "When it comes to integrating career and family, planning too far in advance can close doors rather than open them." This concept makes sense to me. But I know I'm a planner and for now, I'm choosing to work with this tendency instead of against it:

I am pursuing my career with wild abandon because I know I would like to someday be a parent.

Now, I'm reluctant to talk about this because I’m sure it’s frustrating for parents to hear a non-parent talking about parenting. Also it's personal. I'm fighting this trepidation because I haven't heard anyone of my generation discussing this subject and this is a conversation that I want to have with my fellow museum professionals.

For me, being a parent will likely involve dialing back my career for a few years. I'll want to have reached a certain level in my career before I focus on children so I can more easily pick up where I left off. It's also important for me to co-parent in an equitable way so I want to be able to financially support my partner as well as my kids if need be. It may seem a little extreme, but I'm saving up now. I don't want anything or anyone to limit my or my family's options. That said, I acknowledge my privilege as a middle-class individual for whom having a career or a family are both choices.

Oh but you're still young, you might say, What if you change your mind? And you're right, that might happen- I change my mind about stuff all the time. But if when I'm older and have decided not to have children, I'll be reveling in my career and have a whole lot of money saved up. Maybe I'll buy a second home in Paris. Or maybe just some nice things at Whole Foods.

As someone who is excited about the prospect of parenting one day, I'm putting my tendency to plan ahead to work for me. I know I’ll be tapping on the brakes at some point but instead of focusing on that now, I’ll do my best to lay the groundwork for a future in which I can choose how I want to have a career and a family, however that ends up playing out in my life, regardless of my gender.