Forget Lean In. The real issue for women is being Leaned On.

I know many brilliant, principled, and beautiful women who were leaning in way before Sheryl Sandberg wrote her book.

Leading, being assertive, taking care of business, changing the world—yawn, yawn. These women have been doing it with one hand tied behind their backs. They don’t need a book on leadership to tell them how to carry even more of the load on their shoulders.Leaned On

What I’ve found is that the more women lean in—and the better they get at it—the more they get LEANED ON and have to deal with the incompetency and dependency of others around them.

It probably won’t surprise you that this mostly has to do with the men in their lives who don’t step up willingly or who wait for instructions on stuff that clearly needs to be done. “If I’ve got to tell him where the oatmeal is, how long to cook it and which bowl Callie will eat out of, I might as well do it myself.” And then comes the contempt. “I feel like I’ve got another kid.” And then the inevitable backlash from his side of the fence: “I feel like I’m married to the bitch from hell.” (Sound familiar?)

How did this happen? Socialization. Hardwiring. For starters, women are purportedly designed to be better at multitasking (a.k.a. multi-switiching). It’s like muscle memory; they’re just wired to take care of things. As for socialization, for women, it’s instilled early on that women are meant to keep the circle unbroken, and they get loaded up with guilt and anxiety if they don’t put others before themselves.

How to stop the madness

I could tell you to just let it all go and stop cleaning all of the messes up, stop cutting the crusts off of your kid’s sandwiches, stop making the dentist appointments. But you wouldn’t be able to do it. The brain is plastic, but not very elastic; you just can’t unlearn some things like effectiveness.

So what I’m going to suggest is that you don’t get hijacked by waiting on your significant other to be as mindful, conscientious and efficient as you. If you can stop this, you’ll stop investing in a lost cause that only breeds resentment and passive aggressiveness, both of which are much more painful for you than anybody else.

I recommend you acknowledge how and with whom you are unequally yoked. Realize that the idea of having it all is preposterous. An impossibility. A waste of time. And most importantly, it’s disrespectful to your partner because it means you’re continually asking him to be something he’s incapable of being.

Also, being caught in that blame game loop keeps you from looking at the rest of your life and acknowledging that you’re not so perfect either. When was the last time you got on your sexy lingerie and beckoned your man to the bedroom? I know what you’re going to say: “How could I after teaching my 11 year old how to diagram sentences, cleaning up the kitchen, and choosing a Medicare plan for my mom who doesn’t know how to turn on the computer.” Yes, I hear you. You’re getting things done, but you’re not giving very much juice to your relationship.

So here’s a prescription. Break free of the loop by thanking him for being an excellent provider or for always being able to get your kid to laugh after a long day or, as a last resort, for taking out the garbage.

By focusing on what he does provide—and not what he doesn’t—it just might provide the incentive for both of you to rekindle a more equal relationship, one that you can really lean into without worrying that you’re going to be leaned on too much.

I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with your experiences of trying to have it all. Tell me about it in the comments!

Be peace, be love,




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