Parenting, What's On Our Mind

Thanks Sheryl for recognising how hard it is to ‘lean in’ as a single mum

Carla McConnell by Carla McConnell
May 22nd, 2016

Since the death of  her husband Dave more than a year ago, Sheryl Sandberg has admitted it’s not always easy to ‘lean in’ as a single parent. Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, a call to arms for women to advance their own careers and how to deal with gender inequality in the corporate world.

In a Facebook post on Mother’s Day last week she wrote, “In Lean In, I emphasized how critical a loving and supportive partner can be for women both professionally and personally,” Sheryl wrote. “Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an un-supportive partner or no partner at all. They were right.”

“Before, I did not quite get it. I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home.”

Sheryl Sandberg husband Dave Goldberg who died in an accident just over a year ago

Sheryl Sandberg and her husband Dave Goldberg who died suddenly just over a year ago

I’m a single mum and I’ve made so many sacrifices in my work/life because of this. I’ve walked away from my daughter crying in childcare and before school care, and howled all the way to work only to endure knowing looks around the office because I’m the last in every day.

I’ve resigned from jobs because I couldn’t endure any more crying from my girls (or myself). I’ve had to find ways to tighten my budget further so I can be with my girls more.

When one of my girls are sick all night, I’m the one staying awake all night with them. Getting up for work after those nights I’m too exhausted to even remember my own name, let alone be productive at work.

I’ve had many conversations with other single mums about the reality of buying a house being something that’s completely off the agenda, and don’t talk to me about superannuation and retirement because if I think about it too long I’ll go into a self induced panic.

I understand that lots of families do it tough and make sacrifices in many different ways but when the care of your children is predominantly on just your shoulders, then it isn’t always about having the courage to ‘lean in’. My courage sometimes comes in not ‘leaning in’ and balancing the emotional well-being of my children against that of my career.

I constantly feel like I’m not giving anything 100%, and that financially we will always be treading water rather than moving forward. It can feel overwhelming when I dwell on it too much, but most of the time there’s too much to do, and not a lot of time to sit and think about.

Sheryl has faced backlash for her comments, for not realising the difficulties facing single mums when she published her book and for being in a much better financial situation than most single parents.

However, to Sheryl I say thank-you for being brave enough to acknowledge what a balance single parenting can be whether you are doing it alone, with an ex partner or have a stable financial position. The single mums I know are some of the most resourceful, brave, amazing people I know, because they ‘lean in’ to the challenge.