My wife offered a playful shove.
“Just do it!” she commanded.
Our daughter, 7, chimed in:
“Yeah, lean in, dad!”
My wife and I had been talking for a few minutes about an amazing opportunity that just happened to come my way. My family craft book, Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects, was doing so well in pre-orders that the publisher wanted to sign me up for a similar, yet-slightly-different book for next year. I was floored and excited and scared out of my mind. I could do crafts all day long, but this other subject, while I loved it, left me feeling more than a little unqualified.
I’m not ready. I don’t have the skills. Give me a year or so and I’ll get there.
But … now?
I turned to my daughter, Emme, who was edging closer and closer to the conversation.
“Do you even know what we’re talking about?” I asked her.
“Well, no,” she began, “But you should do it.”
“Lean In” talk has been high in our house. My wife, an amazing partner at her law firm, has taken a lead role in getting the firm on board with Sheryl Sandberg’s concept of leaning in, helping women to realize their potential and reach their goals.
It’s now becoming a phenomenon (there have been a lot of requests for raises in my wife’s office), one that helps us to put a name on the abstract qualities we are trying to instill in our daughter: Confidence. Hard work. Tenacity. Courage. The ability to speak up for one’s self.
It’s tough to raise a young girl in a society saturated by the notion that everything good about her revolves around her body or that certain roles are only for one gender or the other. Turn on any TV, look at any billboard, flip through any magazine, and there’s a product telling her A. she’s got a problem with her body, but B. fortunately there’s a product she can buy for it. How very convenient!
So we are all in on any initiative that would encourage, or at least provide an example to young girls to use their skills, their brains, their abilities. And to raise their voices for themselves when needed.
Standing there in the kitchen, talking about this potential new project, I think of the example my wife has set, taking on new roles, volunteering for extra work, doing what she could to land a coveted partnership — all while carving out much-needed family time. If an opportunity presented itself, she seemed to go for it and then work hard to meet its new demands.
And here I am, twisting my hands and stammering about a golden goose that’s looking for a place to drop an egg.
I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for nearly seven years now, having left a newspaper reporting job to stay home with our daughter. Along the way, I kept writing during nap time or after bed time. When Emme started school, I suddenly had a lot more time to work. Somehow, worlds collided and I managed to score a book deal that married my love of writing with my love for DIY crafts — a book about all the fun projects that Emme and I have done over the years. Honestly, it just never occurred to me to put those two areas of interest until a publisher contacted me with the idea. I seized it immediately and had the absolute time of my life writing the book with Emme and getting to share some of the joy we’ve created in our time together.
But this new opportunity … I wasn’t so sure.
Some example, I thought. Here I am trying to raise a confident young woman and suddenly the tables are turned. She doesn’t even know what the project is and she’s all in favor of it.
I leaned in because my 7-year-old daughter and my incredible wife told me to.
“You’re right. I’m in. In all the way.”
A wide smile broke across the kid’s face.
“Now that’s how you do it.”
I couldn’t help but smile, hoping this was a lesson she will keep close in the future and thinking about how incredibly wonderful it is to see this tiny flame ignite and grow and to think of a society in which girls won’t always need examples. Because they’ll be them.
Editor’s Note: We’re celebrating Mother’s Day by celebrating leaning in to motherhood, and by recognizing the extraordinary women that are our own mothers. We hope that it will inspire you to thank your own mother, or the mother who most inspires you. Find more letters and stories about leaning into motherhood here. And, of course, find your own Lean In inspiration at LeanIn.org.