Thoughts on the “Lean Out” Facebook Rant

May 8, 2019

Well! Maybe I don’t actually need to churn out content anymore! You all did an amazing job teasing out some of the nuances of the #facebookmomrant in the comments section of Monday’s post. And I love that different people saw different angles.

I purposely left my initial note vague because I did feel a bit conflicted.

On the one hand, yes — having 3 kids feels very challenging at times, especially during those sleep deprived baby/pumping days. She probably does feel genuinely overwhelmed by everything, and she has every right to feel that way. I know I did at times, even with lots of help. But . . .

I do agree with those of you who felt that her rant was a little over the top. She comes from a place of privilege (just like me, I acknowledge that!) and I actually took issue with some fo the specifics she mentioned.

Here are a few.

Buying birthday gifts? Takes literally 1 minute to order a gift online.

Breastfeed for a year? That one is also up to you (though I do wish there was less societal pressure around this!).

Maintain a Pinterest-worthy house? HA! We have categorically rejected that around here and seem to be doing fine.

Taking her kids to doctor’s appointments? She’s married to a pediatrician! Is there no way he can help with this!? (I am intrigued as to how this task fell under her purview!)

Going out with your spouse 1-2x/month? Is that really such a hardship?

I guess her tone sounded a bit too martyr-like for my taste, and that didn’t really resonate. She is married to a practicing physician, and while pediatrics is not necessarily the most highly compensated field, it likely places them at a firm advantage relative to . . . most other people, really. I googled her husband, and he is a private practice pediatrician who also seems to have a quasi-executive role, which likely comes with some tangible extra benefits. They do live in a high-cost area (outside of Boston), which is their choice. Statistically, their family is better off than most people in the US and we won’t even get started on the rest of the world.

I get that there are frustrating social pressures (some more visible online, others in real life) and that there is uneven judgement of women, which is unfair. It’s clear that the ‘mental load’ continues to fall disproportionately to women, which needs to change. And of course I agree that there are larger societal issues that need to improve, like maternity leaves and affordable childcare. But I don’t really think it’s her (or my) demographic that needs the most focus.

And finally, her conclusion was “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to lean OUT.” So meaning — work less? Transition to SAHM? Be responsible for even MORE of the childcare/family responsibilities with less income to outsource or pay for the dog’s expensive surgery (which she mentioned being concerned about)? Does she think that she will be able to create that Pinterest-worthy house while her baby naps?

I don’t know. That part didn’t make any sense to me and was really what made me annoyed by the rant in the first place.

So, those are my thoughts.

In other news, it’s Wednesday and my call week will be over in approximately 1.5 hrs. It was not a super-busy one and for that I am grateful. I very much cheated on my Instagram ban this week (#oops – watching/reading, not posting, but still). I can’t decide if I want to come to terms with the idea that I just need to marinate in mostly-meaningless content to self-soothe when on call, or get tough and really work on finding another means to escape/relax during those times.

morning scene collecting my thoughts with my BoBW mug on the side



  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns May 8, 2019 at 8:36 am

    That facebook post was a bit much, in my opinion. I can relate to the heart of her message – feeling overwhelmed in this stage of life. I only have one child but the balancing act is definitely challenging at times. But I also recognize that we also have privilege and have it so much easier than so many others in our country/world, and I try to keep that in mind. I think we all have a right to feel overwhelmed at times, but I would never share those thoughts on a facebook post – those thoughts are better shared with your husband or girlfriends. One thing I think about when I read that post is – does she have any friends struggling with infertility? There are a lot of reasons I don’t post venting posts like that, but one of the big reason is that I have close friends with fertility struggles and it feels like pouring acid in their wound to complain/vent about the challenges of parenting…

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 8, 2019 at 9:08 am

      That’s a very good point.

  • Reply Hannah Nixon May 8, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Two things:

    1. Thank you for this! I totally agree with you on all points. When I read the post, I did feel like “ok, yes there are definitely times where I feel all of this and it’s so much to juggle” but agree wholeheartedly that so much of the frustrating points in her post mean that she has CHOICES in so many areas of her life. I am a CPA and my husband is a NICU/PICU respiratory clinical coordinator so we live a perfectly comfortable life (outside of DC so also have the perspective of living in a high-cost area). Everyone absolutely deserves to feel that their frustrations and stresses are valid, but seeming to paint these issues with such a broad stroke as if these particular stresses are what every mom/working mom experiences is very short-sighted.

    2. As I analyze my own phone usage, I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on your own. I have gone back and forth on Instagram. I found I absolutely was just mindlessly scrolling through facebook but with Instagram, I really do enjoy the content that I see. I think this is absolutely due to the fact that I feel a little more in control over what shows up in my feed on Instagram. I am constantly unfollowing people if I don’t connect with their content or I feel like it’s “wasting space” in my feed and mental space.

  • Reply Erica May 8, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Posts like this rant are part of a vicious cycle. Clearly the author has imbibed the idea that women have to do everything while looking perfect and that it is incredibly hard. She didn’t imagine it; there are real pressures on women and certainly being the best at everything simultaneously is no small order.

    BUT a lot of the pressure comes from posts just like this one! Look at the picture of the author and her family at the top of the Romper article – it’s hardly a casual snapshot. This family is attractive and well-groomed and they even have matching outfits – but somehow that isn’t enough. And the internet is *full* of people who are, by most measures, successful and competent and attractive, with nice homes and well-behaved kids, talking about how they are actually supposed to be even more perfect.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 8, 2019 at 10:11 am

      YES good point!

  • Reply Parita May 8, 2019 at 9:56 am

    To be honest, I found the post amusing. Some of it did hit home, but again, like you said, a lot of us come to the table with privilege so things like having help (family or otherwise) and outsourcing definitely turn that table in our favor. I couldn’t help but think of those who are holding it together, working two jobs (or more) and doing their very best to get through the day. Their ‘rant’ would look so different. Also, I think a good twist on this would be to negate each of those feelings and focus on the positives and how we’re all doing our very best. Yes, motherhood is hard (for everyone in different ways), but like everything else in life, when you only focus on that kind of stuff, that’s all you’ll see!

  • Reply Ana May 8, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Was I the only one that thought it was supposed to be over-the-top in a tongue-in-cheek kinda way? I thought it was mildly amusing but nothing earth shattering and its a pretty typical vent. And as you mentioned, the “leaning out” to me was more about the things that are 100% optional (like the Pinterest-worthy decor) that I have already embraced leaning WAY WAY WAY out from!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 8, 2019 at 11:44 am

      It’s very possible that I misinterpreted it but I took it the Sandberg way!

  • Reply Erica Sparky May 8, 2019 at 10:32 am

    I agree with a lot of what you said. As I was reading it, I was thinking of a NYT Opinion article that came out over the weekend about unequal parenting responsibilities.
    Have you seen it?

    So while I agree that society’s expectations on working mothers are higher than for working fathers (read: the strong majority of fathers), so much of the things that the mom in question is complaining about are choices that she makes that are important to her. And similarly, the men in the NYT article are talking about the extra things that moms do that are choices and not necessary for her family. For instance, I choose to be on the school’s improvement team, make food for teacher potlucks, participate in all the teacher appreciation events, etc, because that makes me happy. It’s definitely not for my kids! I choose to keep a tidy house because I like things being tidy – it’s for me not the kids. I could go on.

    These types of articles come out, everyone jumps on board, and then in a few months there will be another one saying the same thing.

    As far as phone / instagram usage … is it the fact that it’s technology that’s bothering you? Or that it’s passive? I honestly feel like being on IG and watching stories is just as relaxing and legitimate as watching a TV show, and since I only watch a tiny handful of those I don’t mind so much. I do need to give myself better limits on it – I only watch TV after the kids go to bed but I find myself watching IG stories while I’m sitting in the playroom with the kids.

  • Reply Emily May 8, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    I’m the BOBW listener that left the comment about this FB rant on Instagram so I appreciate you posting about it! It’s also interesting to hear a different perspective on this than I had (in a good way!). I totally agree that some of these rants are ridiculous – her pediatrician husband can certainly help with kid checkups! LOL.

    I interpreted it as more tongue in cheek versus “my life is truly so incredibly difficult, praise me for the martyrdom I suffer through.” I thought she was mocking societal expectations and the expectations moms put on ourselves often as a result of that. I also assumed she meant leaning out as in I’m done conforming to all these damn expectations, it’s just too hard! But if it is referring to her job, then that does seem to be silly response to trying to carry less of the mental load. Work is the one place I can eat a hot, uninterrupted meal of my choice and go to the bathroom alone whenever I want! I’m not giving that up!

    A few things she highlighted that hit a nerve with me:
    – I hate the inherent pressures of being a woman and a mom in the workplace. It feels like we do have to show we can do our job just as well, if not better than any man, even if we are sleep-deprived, lactating, or trying to work from home with sick kids dripping all over us. Because aren’t women just as good as men? Aren’t we great at multi-tasking? Don’t we need to show that we deserve to be promoted to powerful positions with lots of responsibility? But honestly…that’s exhausting with my 1 and 3 year old. Most days I’m just trying to survive at work, rather than shine and be a rockstar gunning for a promotion.
    – Yes I know, working out is so important. I will feel better, look better, be healthier, etc. But with what little free time I can eke out, I’m just tired. I want to sleep. I don’t want judgment or guilt for that.
    – Family vacations are incredible and great and wonderful – must prioritize these! They’re sooooo worth it. Everyone will bond, the children will learn, it’ll be amazing. Except it’s also expensive and exhausting and not at all relaxing with 2 toddlers. I don’t want to hear parents talk about how great and easy it is to bring their triplet toddlers to Europe 3x a year and the more you do it, the more used to it they will be, and it’ll all be fine.
    – Make time for regular girls nights out – another extremely critical must-do item. HA. Luckily all my girlfriends are working moms of babies and toddlers who have zero time for this. Do occasional playdates (someone is always sick!) and nightly group texts while we wait for our toddlers to fall asleep so we can sneak out of their room count?
    – Have me time to take care of myself and indulge in hobbies. Um no. When there’s “free” time, my priorities are to hang out with the husband, catch up on work, or sleep. I’m not prioritizing facials, pedicures, and learning a new skill just for funsies.

    I have a wonderful partner that shoulders his fair share of the mental load but even then I find it hard to juggle more than I already do. At this point, I don’t want to work out, meditate regularly, have interesting hobbies, dress like a fashionista, aggressively climb the corporate ladder, and take exotic vacations with my family bc my kids deserve more than the same 3 local parks every weekend. And I don’t need to be told that these things are super important and I am really hurting myself / my family / my marriage if I don’t do these things.

  • Reply Shelly May 8, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    At first glance I didn’t mind the rant and related to some of that for sure. On the one hand it is just a way to release some stress but as some other commenters have already said – it doesn’t help either. One of the things that I LOVE about BOBW is the approach regarding those of us that have enough resources that we have the privilege of choices. And that you never take that for granted. I don’t have the same financial resources but I do have enough that I can and do make choices for my family.
    The hardest part is feeling judged for the choices we make. I really wish we could just stop judging each other! That it is ok to do things differently and one approach is not better than another. As I have aged I care much less about what people think but it has taken a long time to get there.

  • Reply Marthe May 8, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Hi, thanks for this post and all the comments, such a joy to read. I just had the third rainy wednesday afternoon which is my “mom-day” to be with / take care of our four kids during the workweek. I work (FFS, excuse me) occasionally from our home office on weekend days, for which I feel guilty (why, I don’t know). In the wednesday afternoons, our youngest takes a three hour nap, so I cannot leave the house. When he woke up, it rained. I am not always creative enough to come up with fun indoor activities that are interesting for a 1 – 6 age range. I work free lance and have a client for which I can work more. I’m very much inclined to Lean IN on wednesday afternoons 🙂 so probably will arrange extra childcare (which costs me half an hour of “salary”) soon. Sans guilt!!

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam May 8, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    I am going to vote for self-soothing with Instagram if you want while on call. I mean, why not? If you just accept it maybe you won’t feel bad about it, and then all the negatives are gone!

  • Reply Chelsea May 8, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    Now that I’ve thought about it, the thing I find so strange is how seriously people are taking her post. I mean, it’s not like this was a NYT opinion piece or book about modern motherhood or TED Talk or something. So far as I can tell, this was intended to be a post for her friends on her personal Facebook page, and it just happened to take on a life of its own. Since when do people owe it to society to make everything they post be “helpful” (since the main criticism seems to be that venting/complaining about stuff isn’t “helpful” to others)? Perhaps the biggest take away is to make sure one’s FB page is set to private so one doesn’t have to deal with zillions of people analyzing and commenting on what one wrote at one moment on one day. And I don’t mean this as a criticism of you, Sarah, or your post. More a criticism that it feels like every single thing we do these days is so public, even if it isn’t intended to be.

    FWIW, like Ana, I also took “lean out” to mean “I’m over it” whatever “it” was right now – not in the strict Cheryl Sandberg work sense.

  • Reply Katie May 8, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    I am a mom of a 2 year old and a 4 year old and work part time as a psychologist. I am half leaning-in and half leaning-out and I find it to be quite a struggle. I actually found the facebook post a bit depressing and it left me feeling a bit hopeless. I recognize the over the top nature of rant and do believe the author was being provocative on purpose, but I also think she presents a lot of good points about the expectations for women. There are some many expectations for what it means to be a good mom and even as I narrow down my own values it doesn’t mean I can’t hear the outside influence. For example, I have fully embraced the non-Pinterest nature of my home but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a little self-conscious when I host book club. I don’t have the flexibility of a full time stay at home mom nor am I able to earn the accolades of a full time employee but I still exist within both worlds, it is hard to know when to say no and when to say yes. In some ways I find this post validating (YES BEING A MOM IS HARD FOR ME TOO!!!) and then by the converse I almost feel silly for indulging in her pity party. What’s a girl to do?

  • Reply Sonia May 8, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    I thought Chelsea’s comment on Monday about whether you find the expectations real v. abstract is spot on. Honestly, I was taken aback by comments on your post on Monday that the viral post “point[ed] out some real problems about the expectations for white, middle-class working mothers.” (from a commentator, not you.) If it is true that these are expectations for white, middle-class working mothers, it seems like they have put those expectations on themselves and each other. I will gently say that that sentiment and follow up comments on structural v. individual issues, showed that it could be useful for some people to really step back and figure out which expectations are self imposed and can be managed individually and what is not. Exercise, pinterest-worthy anything, dates with your husband, suggesting you wear clothes and brush your hair, physically and emotionally caring for yourself, suggesting you not zone out of on your phone and be in the moment are not “structural” issues. I couldn’t help but wonder whether of the post was willing to admit that she found any joy in parenthood, her marriage, or her work.

    i apologize if this seems harsh, but as a professional woman of color, i was pretty put off by those comments on your last post – almost more than the FB post itself.

    • Reply Sonia May 8, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      I want to be clear that I am writing because I enjoy your blog quite a bit and know from your writing that you are kind and thoughtful.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 8, 2019 at 7:58 pm

        No worries – your comment was thoughtful and honest, too!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 8, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      That’s fair and I appreciate your thoughts!

  • Reply Angie May 9, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    I read the rant and I agree on some of it but the problem is when you focus on the negative too much it can cause problems and resentment in your marriage. I used to teach but stay home now and will go back in a few years. My husband travels often so work and we live halfway across the country from our families but we make it work. Yes I handle the household and school stuff but when my husband is here he handles sports and stuff and that gives me a break to just focus on one kid or get other stuff done. If I get frustrated I try to remember how lucky I am that I can stay home with my boys and not completely freak out about bills (still not shopping everyday or anything) and I can help in the school and focus on other stuff.

  • Reply Suzanne June 6, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    An interesting point at the end ” If women truly do want a little bit of both worlds, I suggest they stop forcing an occupation like medicine—which requires 24/7 commitment for obvious reasons—to bend to their desire to raise children, and instead explore occupations and jobs that they are interested in but which allow for flexibility, part-time, or remote work. “

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