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Sheryl Sandberg Rephrases 'Lean In' Message To Recognize Single Mom Strength

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg made a confession before Mother's Day. In a post she shared, naturally on Facebook, she acknowledged how hard it is for single moms to lean in. Sandberg's husband died unexpectedly about a year ago. And she reflected on what that loss has meant for her home and work life. As a fellow mom, Lori Gottlieb gets how challenging that can be.

LORI GOTTLIEB: On the surface, Sheryl Sandberg and I don't seem to have a lot in common. She runs a company. I run nothing. She's worth more than $1 billion? I'm worth - well, not even close. She wears gorgeous outfits and has perfectly coiffed hair. I wear sweatpants. But when I read Sandberg's Facebook post, it felt like she was speaking directly to me, a single mom with a 10-year-old son, when she acknowledged not just how hard it can be to lean in when you're on your own, but that we single moms have been doing it for a long time.

With no partner to lean on, we lean into daily life in exactly the way Sandberg suggests in her book. We take on challenges we aren't sure we're ready for like walking into a meeting while the school nurse's phone number flashes on our caller ID. And we aren't shy about the negotiable for what we want, especially if that involves soliciting child care from a neighbor so that we can use a trip to the supermarket as an excuse to spend some quality time alone.

This is especially true of decision-making, which can be hard without a partner to back you up. Sandberg writes that now she often asks herself - what would Dave do if he were here? - referring to her deceased husband. I hear you, sister. Earlier today, I made decisions about insurance, summer camp, a work offer and whether potatoes count as veggies for dinner. I tried not to look like a deer caught in headlights when my son said that a classmate used a five-letter word that starts with a D and ends with an O - hint, it's found in sex shops nationwide - and he wanted me to tell him what it meant. Let me to say that I, too, wondered what Dave would do.

But before all of this, I leaned not just in, but over the stove to make breakfast and over the washing machine to toss in laundry. I leaned in the way most moms lean in, only without a partner. So like Sandberg, I don't know what Dave would do. But I do know that we single moms prove every day that we can figure it out.

WERTHEIMER: Lori Gottlieb is a contributing editor for The Atlantic and a psychotherapist in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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