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Lean In, Lean Out -- Stop Telling Me Which Way to Lean

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, has its merits, and the most important one may be the great debate that has stirred up at water coolers around the country. For every woman who wants to lean in, there's one that wants to lean out, and thus the latest iteration of the mommy wars continues.

Earlier this week, The New York Times published an article about Sara Uttech, a woman, mother, and employee, who is not so much concerned with "leaning in," as trying to have a good balance in her life. The snarky tone of the article insinuates that Sandberg is off-base by telling women to lean in, because according to a survey by the Families and Work Institute not everyone wants more responsibility. For working women that percentage is at 37.

What the article failed to grasp, however, is that the very acts they laud by Ms. Uttech, such as asking to work from home on Fridays, are actions that Sandberg would suggest. Not only that, had Uttech's female supervisors not leaned in, they may not have been amenable to her request for a flexible work schedule.

But we're not keeping score, right? Right?

In fact, we're doing do the opposite. We're going to leave it up to you to decide what is right for your legal career and the other parts of your life. Novel idea, huh? No one is telling you that you have to lean in, Sandberg is simply stating that if you want more, here's how you can get more. So first off, let's stop assuming that you have to lean in and let's reframe the question as should I lean in?

Here are three tips for determining whether you should, or want, to lean in

1. Examine Your Economic Situation

The first thing you should do is look at your financial reality. Do you have to work? According to Pew Research, women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40% of households and 63% are single mothers. If you are the primary, or sole, breadwinner for your family, chances are you have to work and you want to make enough to support your family. Maybe you have big student loans you still have to pay off. Or maybe you want to make more than you'll ever need. What do you want? It's your call.

2. Define Your Personal Goals

What do you want out of your career? Do you want to lead? Make partner as soon as possible? Are you happy in your current position? What are your goals? Only you can determine this. By rallying women to lean in, Sandberg isn't saying that you have to, she's merely saying not to let thoughts of insecurity hold you back. So ask yourself. Do you want that promotion? If not, what's holding you back?

3. Find Peace of Mind

Once you've looked at your financial situation and personal goals, see if you could find a middle ground where needs from both categories are filled. Pen and paper are your friends -- make a list or a Venn diagram if it will help you.

Only you can determine what is right for you based on what you need and want. Don't worry about what other people say about which way you should lean, lean where you want to.

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