There’s been tons of talk about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” that’s somewhat grown into a mild modern feminist’s canon. Yet with all of this chatter, I do wonder if I’m doing “enough” with my career.

Before being a mom, my identity was infused with my role in the workplace. No, scratch that. My job was my identity. I was Melanie Coffee, the journalist.

Working mom

This is me Leaning In too far. Thankfully I’m better at not putting myself in these type of situations.

When I got married, I didn’t feel like it changed how I defined myself. I simply did the inevitable: Married my longtime best friend. Then came my first child and like I’ve said before that wasn’t an “adjustment” it rattled me to the core.

After my seven-month maternity leave, I worked part-time for four months, which I loved. I felt I had a foot in each world. The fun parts of the Stay At Home Mommysphere and the adult interaction/professional gratification of the workforce. Then I resumed working full time, which called for long work days and an unsustainable amount of stress that made me an irritable mama and a witchy wife. I was miserable.

Up jumped kid No. 2 and everything had to change. Again. This time, I’m trying to do the part-time thing, but I’m freelancing. Working for myself is liberating. I have much more control over my schedule, which is a crazy-good blessing.

There’s also many challenges. Because I’m working for myself, it can be hard for this Type-A to keep it at “part time.” After all, this is the “Melanie Coffee” brand I’m working on, why wouldn’t I give it my all? Why wouldn’t I “Lean In”?

The answer is in two pairs of deep brown eyes. I like volunteering to work in Logan’s classroom and taking leisurely strolls around the neighborhood with Ethan to hunt for roly polies. Or having a day with nothing on the agenda except play.

There’s times when I’ll stumble upon a great story, and I do feel myself “leaning back” so that I don’t have to hire the nanny for an extra day or hide in a locked bathroom while conducting an interview or stay up until 3 a.m. writing.

In my small moments of quiet, I admit that I wonder if I’m doing enough with my career. Should I have pushed myself to write a particular story? What about reaching out for more collaborations? Producing some of the videos on Chicago’s civil rights struggle or a father’s fight to feed his family?

Ugh, it’s enough to make me schpindle. And when that happens, I have to take a huge step back and ask myself the question that I always use to make big decisions “Which will I regret the least?”

I’m the kind of person who will always have regrets, but I don’t want them to keep me up at night. I would regret not taking impromptu picnics way, way more than I would telling most stories.

Yes, there are some stories that to me are worth the extra day of our nanny coming over or interviewing a source behind the locked bathroom door. And on those days I’ll Lean In.

On the other days, though, I’ll lean back and try to remind myself that that is more than enough.


Do you guys have these conflicting feelings? If so, how do you handle them?



Leaning In: As A Work At Home Mom, Am I Doing It? — 5 Comments

  1. Oh, I feel ya mama. I’m constantly fighting with myself on this topic. I haven’t found an answer yet. It’s all about balance & my teeter-totter is always lopsided.

  2. Have we met in another life? lol Your conflict of when to lean in and when to lean out truly resonates with me. I also have type A tendencies, which can turn simple tasks into detailed work that takes me hours to complete. I’m learning to find my place of solitude,stop and pray. Then, I am able to think clearly and eliminate unnecessary stress.

  3. I can’t wait to read the book- but I am on par with you. I equate my career successes with my identity. My husband doesn’t get it he just sees his job as a job. When I had my daughter I realized that there is so much more than career but I also don’t want to lose that part of my identity; it is a constant struggle. There is a lot pf pressure put on women to provide and also be a full-time parent. It is impossible to be viewed as doing it right – you have to do whatever keeps you in a happy enough state to be able to provide for and enjoy your family. lean in, lean back, do what ya gotta do.

  4. I wouldn’t think of it in terms of regret, but the following:
    Am I proud of myself?
    Is my husband proud of me?
    Are my kids proud of me?
    If you can answer yes to all the above questions, then you are rocking it sista!

    • Thanks lady! You bring up a good point. I like it, it’s like a systems check for your car. Lights work? Check. Enough oil? Check. Filters clean? Check. Except this is a systems check for yourself.

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