Why I Leaned Out and Skipped BlogHer

– Posted in: Blogging, Bright Side of Life, Elfie, Family, Growing Up, Me Time, Parenting, Personal Insanity, Sappy Tammy, Women's Issues, Writing

I’ve never been to BlogHer. I didn’t go this year for numerous reasons. For one, I’ve lived through two Illinois summers and suffered through multiple visits that always seemed to coincide with a heatwave, and lately I’m against torturing myself if I can help it. For two (I know that’s wrong, but does anyone know how you follow up “for one”?), it’s a bloody expensive trip. And for three . . . well, I’ll get to that.

I have, however, been reading some of the BlogHer ’13 highlights, and one that stands out is the keynote from Sheryl Sandberg. You know Sandberg — she’s the Facebook COO who wrote Lean In and got about a million women pissed at her for sounding sort of, well, condescending. Anyway, one of her big takeaways from the BlogHer appearance was how we describe girls as “bossy” instead of “having executive leadership skills.” I’ve never been a big fan of how we reserve bossy for girls (think about it — ever hear anyone call a boy “bossy”?), so I’m all for getting rid of the term. Let’s just hope everyone doesn’t go home and use this as an excuse to spawn a whole generation of people who think they’re Mariah Carey and won’t enter a dressing room unless it’s the perfect temperature and appropriately stocked with kittens.

From what I understand, Sandberg’s speech was quite inspiring. She apparently cleared up the misconception that her “damn the torpedoes/get to the top” message was meant for all women in all situations, not just the corporate world (I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she wasn’t just tweaking the message to, ahem, smooth things over and sell more books). More importantly, she talked about society’s perception of women in leadership positions. Newsflash: we don’t support them. And her contention is that we’d all be so much better off with more women leading us — leaning in to take those positions of power (I don’t disagree).

But here’s my problem: I don’t want to lean in. I’m in total support of all my sistas who are doin’ it. I want to live in a world where people like Hillary Clinton, Michele Obama, Samantha Power, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Andrea Mitchell, Wendy Davis — just to name a few off the top of my head — are the norm, not the anomaly. But at this point in my life, I’m happy to do a little leaning out.

I’m all for pursuing dreams and finding work — paid or otherwise — that makes you feel passionate and fulfilled. The older I get, the more I realize that people need to find their “happy place” almost as much as they need oxygen. Lose your joy and you wither on the vine like a grape without sunshine.

For me, writing is my joy. But it’s not alone.

My kids are 9 and 10. When I was “young” and pictured having children, I didn’t see myself with babies. I saw myself with 9-ish-year-olds — taking trips, having “real” discussions, telling jokes. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for. This is the time when I can teach them how to make macaroni and cheese (from a box — don’t judge). This is the time when we can throw parties that they’ll actually remember. This is the time when we can watch shows and movies that make the whole family laugh or cry (and not make my husband and me slowly die on the inside…).

In nine years, when my daughter is pulling out of our driveway on her way to college (if we can afford it), I’ll still be able to write the great American novel. There will still be plenty of sick people for my husband to take care of at the hospital. And, most likely, there will still be the BlogHer Convention. But there will never, ever be another time when our kids are 9 and 10. And there will never, ever be another time when our daughter dresses up like this:

Why I'm Happy Leaning Out

See, this is the second year that Elfie has gone to a weeklong program put on by the Missoula Children’s Theater. I — no joke — scheduled summer around it. May sound like a crazy thing to do, but this is a kid who, three years ago, basically had a panic attack because she had to give a class presentation. This year, she talked about Missoula for months. And now she wants to “do more plays.”

It just so happened that BlogHer fell on the same weekend as Elfie’s play. And yeah, I could’ve skipped it. She would’ve survived. But the thing is, I didn’t want to miss it.

Because in the next few years, I’m going to miss SO much. She and her brother will be hanging out with their friends, having conversations I won’t hear, and making macaroni and cheese all by themselves.

That’s not to say I won’t keep working on my blog and my writing — it’s what I love. I may hit BlogHer next year. And who knows — I may even become a giant leader in the blogging world, thus leaning in unwittingly.

But I want to see as many plays as I can. And be there as often as possible to strain the macaroni since the pot is still too hot and heavy for them to handle alone. Because I know this — the day is coming when I’ll walk in the door and the macaroni will already be made.

And on that day, I don’t want to find myself feeling lean on memories.

31 Comments… add one

Lily from It's A Dome Life August 4, 2013, 1:20 pm

I can relate to this. I don’t know which way I am leaning any more. Probably sideways!
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Tammy August 4, 2013, 2:00 pm

Exactly! I think horizontal is more accurate. As in “laying down on any available surface.”

K.M. OSullivan August 4, 2013, 1:34 pm

Lean in, lean out, move forward, reach back. It seems women are meant to be contortionists just to prove we support all women. Wouldn’t it be nice if women gave each other the benefit of the doubt and would just assume we actually used our CHOICE to choose what works for us AND that we did so while being fully aware of the options and obstacles and that we are aware we have made trade-offs? Yes, we have patriarchal roadblocks we must tear down, but being on the other side of the ‘glass ceiling’ isn’t the only way to do that. I think feminism has come to a place where we are no longer waiting for some brave woman to ‘lean in’ and forge a path for us to follow. We make our own way and we aren’t looking for approval…even from other women.

Nice post, Tammy. Next year I’ll see you at BlogHer though, right? 😉
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Tammy August 4, 2013, 2:03 pm

Well said! But you always say it so well. And if you’re at BlogHer, I’d love to be there.

Nina August 5, 2013, 8:12 pm

Great post and I really love what Kelly said!
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Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:19 pm

Thanks Nina! Me too.

vanita August 4, 2013, 4:02 pm

you’re darn right darlin’. Enjoy them now while you can, cause the years will pass in a blink of an eye. I remember my oldest daughter’s kindergarten graduation like it was yesterday, but this september, she begins her senior year in high school. we’ve been spending a lot of this summer college hunting, learning about financial aid and scholarships and all that jazz. And my younger teen who will be in the 10th grade this year, has no time to watch movies with me on a sunday because her friends need her to be on the phone. thankfully i have the preschoolers, but they have no bloody attention span man. you are an awesome mom. have the best moments ever.
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Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:21 pm

Thanks my friend. It’s freaky how stuff like kindergarden graduation sticks in your head and feels so fresh but also a lifetime away. Time is a bitch.

Sili August 4, 2013, 4:34 pm

Love it! So true! I was asked about my definition of success recently and it led to a blog (that I haven’t yet published) on the subject. Our image of success is different these days and I love that it can be different. I love the option of leaning in (haven’t read the book, am I an anomaly?) or leaning out.

I love having a choice and being able to support yours.

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Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:23 pm

Make sure you let me know when you finish your post. And no, you’re not an anomaly. I think most people have heard more about the book than actually read it.

Well said about having choices.

rachel August 4, 2013, 4:51 pm

Amen Sista! I’m feeling you too girl!
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Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:24 pm

As always!;)

Ginger August 4, 2013, 6:30 pm

You know how much I love you right? Two words I hate that people use to describe my kids are “bossy” (number 1) and “shy” (number 2). My oldest is definitely a leader and wants to do whatever job allows her to make people follow the rules. (still unclear as to whose rules…possibly her own version and understanding of the rules that exist). My youngest has anxiety and is extremely cautious with strangers or anyone in fact. She hates crowds and takes her time warming up to any situation. When strangers say she is “shy” I just say, “No, she is careful”. While in my head I call my oldest Miss. BossyMcbosserson….I call her outloud, a helper and a leader. Oldest starts full day school in two weeks….I am besides myself in what to do. This time is precious and your children will be better for it.

Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:26 pm

You know, I actually thought of your girls when I first read the “bossy” thing. I know how hard you try not to label them. And I know — the school thing is so hard. I’ll cry a few tears for you in solidarity.

Kathy August 4, 2013, 7:18 pm

You brought tears to my eyes with the poignancy of how fleeting the time is with your kids. Again, as always I admire you and your priorities. Wonderfully written entry and more children should be so fortunate as to have parents sort of dreading when their kids can make their own mac & cheese.

Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:27 pm

Thanks Kath! You’re the best.

Amy August 4, 2013, 9:10 pm

I can totally relate. I can barely manage to blog at all lately for these reasons. Great post!
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Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:28 pm

Thanks Amy! I know. Time, time, time…

Alexandra August 4, 2013, 10:33 pm

Beautiful. To see someone peaceful and not struggling with their decision, is a beautiful moment. Thank you.

Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:30 pm

Thank you my friend. We all make our decisions for our own reasons. Yours was a good one — she raised you to be the person who “went.” xo

Cheryl S. August 5, 2013, 7:08 am

Dammit, Tammy! Why do I put on mascara? Why? That one didn’t even have a disclaimer.

Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:30 pm

Sorry! Okay, next time, mascara warning.

Kelly Phillips August 5, 2013, 8:12 am

I was at the BlogHer presentation and I think your example of scheduling summer around your daughter’s theater is a perfect example of leaning in. I didn’t get that prior to listening to her speech and reading her book, but the message is really clear when you stop listening to the media and start listening to her. Leaning in doesn’t just happen in the boardroom. Sheryl used an example of a mom fighting for her child to have a better teacher as a non-corporate lean in. Leaning in is about stepping up and taking a seat at whatever table is important to you- be it the PTO or the Executive Board Room. You’re leaning in to give your kids the best you can give them. She does mention in the book that leaning in is for outside the corporate world too. I guess that’s not controversial enough for the media.
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Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:37 pm

Totally agree that the media finds whatever they can to “stir it up” as much as possible. How else will we all notice it, right? I’m glad to hear that she talked so much about women from all different backgrounds who’ve made all types of choices using this way of thinking. I do still reserve a tiny bit of skepticism that she made a bit of a miscalculation when it came to the original message. Which wouldn’t be completely unreasonable — she was writing from a corporate perspective. But I wonder if some of this is reworking the messaging to do damage control, sell more books, and get more people involved in her organization.

Andrea August 6, 2013, 11:26 am

This is so good. I have the same outlook as you – even if I run out of time to write the Greatest American Novel, my kids will remember that I was at the bus stop every day. When my friends were all looking for jobs when their kids went to kindergarten, I felt left out. Then I realized that being a parent IS my job.
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Tammy August 7, 2013, 1:38 pm

I LOVE that! You said it perfectly.

Lindy August 7, 2013, 11:20 pm

Great discussion! There are times when I beat myself up for not being a good architect. Especially owning a business, the consensus seems to be that you need to sacrifice the rest of your life to succeed. I’ve heard the analogy that a business is like a baby and you have to pull all-nighters and nurture it until you nearly go crazy. But even though I “love” my career, I think it’s pretty dumb analogy. Are you kidding? No job could ever compare to my kids. And even though I feel constantly short on time for work AND time for kids, I try to strike a balance and err on the side of sacrificing my business in favor of being there for my children. It’s not easy as a single mom without another money-earner in the family, but it’s a powerful choice to make. And I’m quite sure in the long run I won’t regret blowing off work today so we could go to the beach…

Tammy August 8, 2013, 12:02 am

Yeah, I don’t know about you, but the memories that stick in my mind are not of the countless hours I sit behind this computer. Those all sort of meld together. Now the trips to the beach, those are a different story…

It’s just so hard. You want to do everything well, right? Incidentally, you’re a total stud. I’m so worn out just trying to handle what I currently handle. I would seriously have a nervous breakdown if it were just me doing it all.

Maxabella August 8, 2013, 1:36 am

I’m leaning out, or at least staying vertical. I think this silly ‘have it all’ business has reached it’s zenith. Can we all just go back to being us again now, please? x
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Tammy August 8, 2013, 12:26 pm

You said it Max.

Kate February 15, 2014, 8:17 am

If she’s really interested in theatre in a few years, check out Kalamazoo College. They have a great financial aid department and give every student scholarships to make it affordable. And it’s in the top 20 of theatre programs in the country.

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