Best of Both Worlds podcast: Leaning in and leaning out

Best of Both World podcast with Laura Vanderkam

I’m a bit late with this post, but I was traveling to give a speech this morning. The good news is I could listen to the Best of Both Worlds podcast while driving down the Atlantic City Expressway! It really does make time in the car go faster.

Today’s episode of Best of Both Worlds covers various topics, but within the loose theme of “leaning in” or “leaning out.”

Sarah is very much “leaning in” these days with her new position as program director for her hospital’s residency program. She has a lot of great ideas for medical education, and she’s also now putting her own style of leadership on the program. For instance: There will be templates. If you know, every May, that you’ll need rooms and people for interviews, why not make the process automatic? Things are a little harried until June 1, when her clinical duties will downshift a bit to reflect her administrative position. So in the meantime, she’s doing two jobs. Good times!

I’m not in a particularly “lean in” moment myself. As I describe on the podcast, I’m currently thinking of my work in three parts: books, speeches, podcasts (Before Breakfast takes more time, being daily). I published two books in the last year, so I don’t have anything immediately on the horizon there. I’m giving a lot of speeches now in May/June, but that is seasonal and should stop for the summer. The podcasts now have their own template, so this is pretty straightforward. So I might just coast for a while until something else comes to me.

The bulk of our episode covers a Facebook rant from a few weeks ago listing the various social expectations that the author felt she — and all working mothers — needed to meet. Sarah and I understand some of the frustrations, though our general philosophy is to look for practical ways to solve pain points. And also to question where these expectations are coming from. Who is “society” anyway? Sometimes it’s unclear. Sometimes we wind up internalizing ideas that are choices, not expectations.

In the question section we discuss a listener who’s asking advice on how, exactly, to let some things go. She left her job when her son was 8 months old, because she didn’t feel it could work. Now she’s going back to work, and says she knows she’ll have to “lower her standards” (her words) in some areas. How can she do that, and conquer the fear that if one thing goes wrong, everything will fall apart?

This is a complicated question, in that there is a difference between garden-variety worries and true anxiety. In the case of anxiety, it’s probably worth seeking out help, and learning new ways to cope with catastrophic thinking. For the garden-variety sort, we suggested changing her language. She “lowered her standards” with her career when she took time out of the work force. So clearly she can do it, even if that’s probably not the way she viewed that decision. It’s just a question of challenging notions of what is a requirement in life and what doesn’t really matter. Instead of “lowering her standards” I suggested thinking of achieving a lot in the areas that matter, and then viewing the others as irrelevant. I don’t walk around feeling bad that I don’t speak Mandarin, even though it’s definitely a useful language for the people who do speak it. It’s just not something I’ve ever decided to expect of myself. To go a little closer to the issue, I would venture that most of us don’t walk around feeling bad, or feeling like we’ve completely lowered our standards, because we’re not homeschooling our kids*, unless we live in the subcultures where that is expected. It’s just not an expectation many people subscribe to. So whatever “standards” are giving you trouble, or are taking too much time, see if you can move these to the not-an-expectation category. It might help.

Please give it a listen! And as a administrative note: In the next month or so, BOBW will start to feature ads. We decided it needed to become a legitimate side hustle. Thanks for everyone’s feedback on that.

*I know some listeners/readers do homeschool their children, so if that’s you, think of a different expectation as an example!

34 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Leaning in and leaning out

  1. Hi Laura and Sarah. I was excited about this episode because I had a lot of thoughts about the “lean out” Facebook rant, too. Like you both, I wanted to encourage her to examine self-imposed expectations because you’re right! Messy buns and yoga pants can be fine and it’s okay to scale back on Pinterest, recycling, birthday parties, Santa Claus, weight loss, screen time, active social calendars, etc. You obviously feel that Friedberg has “talked herself into” all of these obligations. What I hear from her rant is someone who is dealing with significant anxiety and your discussion completely ignored this issue. Friedberg specifically talked about anxiety and the complexity of seeking care while working full time and having limited leave, which I assume was exhausted by her maternity leave and a child in daycare. When I read this, I wanted to encourage her to do everything she could to address the stress and anxiety she was obviously feeling. Laura, you observed that Friedberg may have some “inflexibility” with PTO, which is probably the case. Maybe professional ambition conflicts with the “solution” of just negotiating more PTO?

    I get that you interpreted her “lean out” statement as wanting to scale back her career, but the substance of the Facebook post was largely not about work. As you pointed out, this isn’t an Atlantic article and she probably wasn’t thinking about definitions, but I think we can read her post more holistically than “she wants to work less.” In the Good Morning America piece she said that she wrote the post on a day when everything was going wrong–surely we’ve all been there. Regardless of whether she is actively trying to “break the glass ceiling,” she said on GMA that she likes her career and isn’t interested in the “just stay home” advice she’s gotten from some people. Sarah’s right that this woman has a lot of privilege but the sum total of our privileges doesn’t diminish the complexity of our priorities. On GMA she talked about the cost of housing, school, and the challenge of living on one income. And dismissing Friedberg as privileged seems to erase the multifaceted “need” that many people have for work–paying off student loans, owning a home, saving for retirement, health care, etc. Work isn’t exclusively about the best of both worlds…

    The area where I thought the two of you were the least empathetic was on breast feeding. For over a year, Sarah blogged and talked on the podcast about pumping, pumping goals, how she spent her time while pumping, how happy she was to stop pumping regularly, etc. It’s fine for that to be a self-imposed expectation but I was so surprised that you both dismissed the pressure Friedberg seems to be feeling to pump/nurse. Of course she isn’t required to pump but can we really says that nursing for 6-12 months isn’t strongly encouraged? This woman is married to a pediatrician (ahem AAP guidelines…) and he could be the person who has urged her to try! Maybe next door neighbor is active in La Leche League; maybe she has work friends who are actively pumping; or maybe she works with people who are unsympathetic and condescending about her “breaks” for pumping. You’re both right that it’s okay to stop pumping, especially if it’s causing so much stress, but frankly, I was so turned off by how eagerly you dismissed this issue.

    I usually find your practical approach really affirming and helpful but I was really disappointed in the way you both approached this episode.

    1. I had the same take on the rant. I thought she was talking about leaning out more from the multitude of child care/home expectations rather than work. And I agree that Sarah’s take on the breastfeeding piece was off putting given how much emphasis she put on it herself over the past year.

  2. I want to echo Robin’s comment. I usually love your balanced, practical approach but this episode felt overly dismissive and almost defensive? As a pediatrician myself I don’t find that makes it easier to get my children to their own doctor appointments and I certainly don’t find that my income combined with my husband allows me to just outsource all of my “pain points.” (No amount of shifting around the budget can account for all of my student loans). I also feel like the solution of “just have your husband do more” dismisses that he could be already doing a lot- there are many household tasks I didn’t see accounted for on her list. I sense that you both have really wonderful nannies that you feel confident leaving your children with and delegating many household duties to, but I have found that hard to find, with many false starts. While I agree you don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water a and quit work or feel put upon every time things get challenging, I feel like a rant on Facebook on a particularly tough day can be a pretty reasonable response to feeling stretched really thin.

  3. Ladies, PLEASE add ads! I don’t care and I certainly think you deserve to be paid for your had work. I love this podcast and if by listening to an ad I can help support your work, no big deal!

    1. I agree Margot, I was nodding as I heard them talking about adding ads! You both 100% deserve to be paid for your time and hard work and if by listening to ads within a podcast we can help you do this then go right ahead.

  4. I don’t want to pile on, but I too really felt the response was off here. I love your podcast and I love the different perspective you both bring to work life and home life and everything in between. But I also feel like I’ve spent years reading both of your blogs as you navigate and process and struggle through similar issues. Maybe not the exact ones, maybe not all at once. But I’ve commented to both of you before with word of support and tips.

    It’s great that you and your spouses have come to an enlightened place of understanding and have everything worked out so beautifully. And I know that isn’t truly the case, because we live in reality. But, where was that recognition here? Coming to a place of confidence and comfort can be a long and difficult journey of making hard choices and letting go of things or beliefs that inform your worldview. And the judging of her life choices based on some very superficial Facebook peeping – who can say what is going on in someone else’s life, what their financial obligations are? You don’t have to agree with her, but some awareness that many people struggle with these comparison and pressure issues – not just moms – would have been nice.

    One thing I have to remember when I listen to your podcast is to fight the comparison bug myself. I consider myself a very privileged woman. I have lots of access to tools and things that can make my life easier (like my Roomba and grocery pickup and carpools) and I do use most of them. But they don’t even compare to what the both of you have in place. For example, I have a husband that expects a hot dinner every night. I don’t have a nanny, I work “part time” in a job that will take everything it can get from me, there are multiple people in the house with ADHD, my kids have a lot of homework. The sports schedule is nutty… it’s a daily struggle to maintain balance and I often feel like I’m juggling. I don’t often complain, because my life is good, but I also feel or have felt all of the pressures the author talked about. That said, my husband often doesn’t get a hot dinner because sandwiches are a complete meal to me. As are leftovers, which he dislikes. And I’m ok with it because dinner is my realm, but it doesn’t mean that expectation doesn’t feel like a sore tooth that you are always wiggle…like so many things can be. While I don’t begrudge you the privileges you have, I think you both lack some awareness about the real lives of many of your listeners. You have opened my eyes to other possibilities, strategies and perspectives that I can apply to my own life. But I think you also need to recognize that your situations are not the norm for many working people – and changing the narrative is harder in practice than theory.

    My husband is a good man, but also grew up with a fairly traditional worldview. And while we are breaking those traditional expectations down, it takes time and effort and patience and a lot of frustration too. Combined with my own expectations and those of my workplace and my children and their schools/coaches… it can be a lot to take on if you aren’t ready, trained or skilled enough to do that work.

  5. I very much agree with Robin and Jen on this. I felt like this episode was gaslighting the many women who this piece resonates with. It’s fine to say “ignore societal expectations,” but that isn’t entirely a solution. We all have our sore spots. Like Robin I was astonished by both of your responses to the breastfeeding aspect—you both breastfed for an extended time (as the AAP recommends), and as someone who struggled with breastfeeding it’s kind of frustrating to hear you both repeatedly say to just use formula when you chose not to. I also think breastfeeding is the biggest area that women feel pressure and problems with it can contribute to postpartum depression. It’s great that no one ever questioned you about breastfeeding, but that’s not everyone’s experience.

    I also read the rant as a compilation, including things she’d heard her friends struggling with, and not one woman’s laundry list of complaints. And to “lean out” meant leaning out from those societal expectations, just as you tell her to do. The arguments made by you and Sarah were along the lines of the stop complaining about your husband post from the other day and it just didn’t seem like a helpful way to frame the conversation or to have any constructive suggestions. It’s possible to be grateful for what you have while still being critical of isn’t going well. You managed to be very kind and understanding to the listener with the question—it is disconcerting how critical you were of Friedburg when I feel the two are very closely connected. It felt similar to the Gemma Hartley episode, which seemed unnecessarily combative to me—at times it felt like you and Sarah were hanging up on Hartley and dismissive of her experiences. I generally love the podcast but I’m a mom of an eight month old baby and the vulnerability is very real, even with a great support system and pretty good mental health—it’s disappointing to hear both you and Sarah dismiss the societal pressures most of us experience as not worthy of discussion. I fight these expectations and flat out ignore some of them just like you, but it doesn’t mean they don’t cause harm to others and it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

  6. I really love your podcast and I’ve never missed a week. But I have to say that I felt very frustrated by this week’s episode on “leaning in and leaning out” just as the above commenters have outlined.

    I agree with Caitlin – I interpreted “lean out” as more in the sphere of unrealistic expectations of moms, more so than leaning out in one’s career. However, maybe this interpretation is because this is what I’ve chosen to do as a physician mom of 2 young kids! (As an aside, I’ve appreciated how the podcast has previously helped me see the long term, often unappreciated, consequences of leaning out of your career during the little kid phase. This helped with my initial mom guilt of returning to work).

    I also felt that there was a real dismissal of expectations that we experience as mothers – many external, and many internalized. We all have different capacities to ignore the expectations of others and to just do what we think is right. I think this evolves during our time as mothers. I know that I’m much more likely to not care when a stranger criticizes me for something as a mom than I was when my little ones were newborns. But as a twin mom, I still occasionally get dirty looks or comments from people when I’m out with my 2yo’s wearing backpacks with leashes (it is the only way to prevent them from darting into cars in the parking lot!) As was said above – we all have our sore spots!
    And I agree about the rather ridiculous dismissal around expectations for breastfeeding. This may very well be an internalized expectation, but is a very strong one nonetheless. I remember going to a breastfeeding seminar at my local public health clinic before my twins arrived. As a physician, I was well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, but the presentation was absolutely over the top. They referred to breast milk as “liquid gold!” I drove myself to the brink of exhaustion to try to breastfeed both my twins, which was just never entirely successful no matter how hard I tried. It probably took me a good 6mo before I overcame the guilt about not being able to do this (thanks to making friends with some twin moms who could BF both their twins!) We are all different in terms of what we can easily let go of, who we are surrounded with, and who we are compared to (by others or by ourselves).

    As for growing tired and wary of the “my husband doesn’t do enough” story. This is an ongoing struggle for me, and I think many other women. Despite being married to a very supportive, equal parent, I still have these moments of frustration and anger when I come home after being on call all day, and he’s done nothing except keeping the kids alive. He’s praised by our extended family for being “a good dad” – which he absolutely is. But it irks me that the standards for him are so much lower than they are for me as a mom. And it makes me frustrated that I’ve even internalized these unfair standards myself.

    Finally, I do share your and Sarah’s passion for not just commiserating, but talking about practical solutions. This is one of the things that I love most about your podcast! But I think that it’s possible to validate the very real difficulties women traverse as working moms, AND to offer some practical solutions or different narratives to move forward. I tend to feel that by and large women have changed as much as we can, and changes need to occur at many other levels, including increased workplace flexibility, and more affordable childcare.

  7. I want to echo everyone else’s disappointment with this episode. I was the person who wrote in the question about the This Is Us episode and both of you discussed how women do tend to be the ones that bend in the relationship to enable fathers to concentrate on their career. The response to that question seemed to absolutely acknowledge there is a cultural pressure for women to be more child/family focused and men to be more career focused. I believe Laura’s words were that girls grow up with the story that the kids and home reflect their contributions and boys grow up with the story that they contribute to the family by having a good job and earning money. To then pretty much say in this episode that this cultural inequality is all sort of in our head and there is no real “society” demanding women to keep the house and be a hands on parent seemed very strange to me.

    I actually talked back to Laura in this episode when she said she doesn’t remember ever being pressured by her pediatrician to breastfeed because her doctor asked if she was breastfeeding, she said yes, they moved on. My response was, “Well, of course your doctor moved on, because you said yes.” There was an article in the Washington Post years ago about a women who had a double mastectomy and constantly encountered comments about her using formula, even from medical professionals. The fact that she had cancer was not anyone’s business, but she felt forced to explain herself over and over to strangers for not breastfeeding. That pressure is not in our heads, that pressure is real.

    The idea that you need to have a Pinterest home is definitely not necessary, but it is also not made up. I found myself wondering when you do have people come to your houses, who is doing most of the straightening up, cooking of the food, or even calling for catering if you go that route. I’m betting most times it is you and Sarah and not your husbands. Why is that? Because you and not your husbands will be judged on the state of your home. Laura did specifically call out her husband for not doing his share of laundry and the point was, I asked him and he did it and now everything is okay. I am curious if in 3-6 months it will slowly creep back into your domain and you will have to call him out on it again. I’m betting that might be the case and hat is the kind of thing that makes women frustrated. Why do we have to be the equality police and make sure our husbands are doing their fair share?

    The article you site from the New York Times talked about how men in an all male group were willing to do less desirable tasks, but in a mixed gender group they let all those tasks go to women was very telling to me. I don’t think men are evil and purposely shirking their responsibility, but they know the women in their lives pick up the slack, so they don’t go out of their way to do more than they have to. In contrast, I do think work pressure is often harder for men. My husband has tried to draw a line with his work and say he wants to pick up the kids from school with me, so from about 4:30-5:00pm he wants to not be disturbed. At least twice a week he gets work calls in those times. So, I feel like both genders have their struggles, both need to work toward more equity, but to dismiss these really large pressures and inherent societal inequality as a rant seemed wrong.

  8. I’m a long time reader of both your blogs and the podcast since the beginning, but rarely comment. I have to agree with the other commenters above that you were incredibly not sympathetic to the person who penned the post.
    I don’t have kids but understand that this can be an incredibly difficult period of life. Just because you found ways to buck societal standards (as incredibly privileged high earners) doesn’t mean that everyone else has (or has the means to). I’m disappointed that you felt the need to tear another woman down for feeling like she was struggling and had lots of societal expectations placed on her. This is bad feminism, negating someone’s feelings minimizes their experiences. Not everyone’s circumstances are as lucky as your own. I hope that you can develop some empathy before you critique someone else’s feelings again.

  9. Echoing others who said that this episode missed the mark for me. I’m a long-time follower of Sarah’s blog and while I love her blog and her perspective, I have found her rigid insistence on breastfeeding and pumping to be pretty off-putting and found it extremely odd that neither of you acknowledged that very real (societal) pressure on women. I actually for whatever reason did not feel that pressure (though I nursed both my kids, one of whom refused bottles) but from conversation with friends, coworkers, and relatives, I am very much in the minority on that one.

    Re: the lean-in/lean-out messages, some recent research out of Duke (where I went to grad school in psychology) has demonstrated that being exposed to “lean in” messages increased attributions of women’s responsibility for gender inequality. Honestly (and I don’t mean this harshly), from the tone of your responses to this rant and conversation here, it sounds like both Laura and Sarah are a good demonstration of this effect in action! (Link to press release here in case you don’t have journal access:

    I also thought the NYT article about “What good dads get away with” was a great message and you should think about having the author, Darcy Lockman, on as a guest. She was recently interviewed on Slate’s Mom and Dad are Fighting and the discussion they had with her was excellent. Although I don’t argue that some of the rhetoric is mothers “telling themselves stories,” I think the imbalance of gendered expectations is a very real and pervasive issue even among very feminist men/women and intentionally balanced couples. My husband and I have a really great balance but the reality is that society tells us (directly or otherwise) that the majority of the mental load/management should fall on me. He read that article and really resonated with it – for example, we are planning a Disney trip and he took it on because it’s something he wanted to do. When he had the phone call with the Disney planner (found through one of my friends, because dads don’t commonly do these things), the first thing she said was “well, usually I speak with the moms!”

    1. I second Robin’s comment – Thank you for the article recommendation. I agree that it is fascinating and very much speaks to the tension of systematic effects vs. individual action, which seems to be at the heart of this debate.

  10. This was my first ever episode and came here to make or hoped to observe some of the previously made comments. The lactivists are REAL. I’m glad most regular listeners feel this episode is not representative of how the podcast usually goes. Looking forward to getting to know y’all better.

    I have the privilege to work as an independent contractor +++very flexible —no benefits —70% of the income of my husband. Since he has the “real job” so many of the stressors mentioned fall to me. My husband is the opposite of a misogynist (really, y’all?) and helps a lot, but meal planning, kid school shit, home stuff/laundry/etc.. are all mine.

  11. First, I want to say that (to my recollection) this episode was my idea, so perhaps I should take more of the heat!

    Second, I want to say that even though it seemed to spark anger in a lot of you – it did generate a lot of interesting discourse, so I do not regret publishing it! I do appreciate the feedback. I believe a large part of my frustration with the post was based on my interpretation of “Lean Out” the literal Sheryl Sandberg way, as in “Ladies, quit/minimize your job because this working mom thing is impossible!” and it seems that many people did not read it that way at all. (The other part, I think, is that I felt it was a very complain-y post from someone living a very privileged life. But upon reflection, the fact that it resonated with many is good evidence it’s not just one voice feeling her pain points.)

    Third, I want to say that even though I found the rant off-putting for the reasons I detailed, I think so many of the points brought up above are so valid and I too think Darcy Lockman would be a good guest (though I know I may have to convince Laura who feels like we need a break from this particular topic 🙂 ). I did order her book and am eager to read her exploration of this topic.

    I hope that those who were put off by this episode still continue to give us a listen and feedback.

    1. Laura, I know you ALWAYS hate rants as a general principle, so I’m not surprised this one irked you too 🙂 but SHU – I feel like you could have written this viral post when you were in the thick of breastfeeding and pumping a year ago! Surprised to find you in such disagreement! I felt this episode missed the mark on the whole, look forward to future episodes that can simultaneously recognize hard things, laugh at the absurd, and then strategize practical solutions.

    2. Perhaps the more important lesson learned is to not assume you fully understand someone’s situation (based on some posted rant and Google searching) but rather invite a conversation around topics and take the time to empathize and see others’ points of view. This would’ve been a much better episode if you were actually having a discussion with the original poster (might not be a bad idea to invite her on a future podcast so she can respond with a fair chance instead of being attacked). Essentially, this episode ended up being a rant against a rant.

  12. Maybe it was because it came on the tail of the “rant about the rant”, and the tone was set to rant about something similar, but I was put off by the tone of the response to the woman who wrote about the anxiety she was facing in new motherhood. I’m specifically referring to the notion that she just randomly decided to up and quit her job one day and left her family completely financially in the lurch. Maybe that was included in part of her email that wasn’t read on the podcast, but it didn’t come through that way to me. She may have been making a great salary, saved a ton, and be in a great financial place to take a sabbatical. She most likely made the decision with lots of consultation from her partner. No, she didn’t try working with the no telecommuting policy, but she may have seen the writing on the wall with the new management really limiting flexibility. In any case, I would imagine her decision came with a great deal of thought. What does Gretchen Rubin say about change? It’s something like… humans in general are so reluctant to change that by the time we actually *do* come around to making one we should have done it 6 months ago.

    She’s quit her job. That’s a done deal. However, I don’t think she would have written in to you with the question if she had no desire to ever return to the workforce. I really wish your advice had been something more like, “It sounds like you really needed a change. You have the benefit of having this break from work (again, I like the idea of a sabbatical), use some of that time to think about what is really important to you and what you need to do to get mentally (as a side note, I was surprised that Sarah didn’t mention the possibility of postpartum depression, but maybe she’s too far postpartum for that to be the case) and physically healthy again. Use your new time flexibility to talk to someone who can help you decide on your priorities and how to direct your energy so you feel accomplished and not burned out. Now that you’ve had the experience of working with a little kid, you have way more perspective on what you want out of your work life in terms of what you do and how you do it. Yes, this will change over time, but this is valuable knowledge you’ll have as you look for (or create) your next job. The fact that you care about all the things you mentioned means you are probably actually doing a really great job. People who don’t care don’t listen to advice podcasts.”

    1. Hi Chelsea,

      Thank you for this post! As the person who asked the question, the way you described the situation is spot on. I made the decision after months of talking with my spouse, we had spent the first five years of our marriage saving as much as we could to allow for situations like this one, and I just needed a break to figure everything out (which is hard to do when you are exhausted and in crisis mode).

      Also, I actually had my next job lined up when I left the previous one (I was just able to negotiate the start date so I could take a few months off), I got paid out for vacation leave which covered about a month, and did some contract work during the remaining time which did bring in some income.

      All that to say – things are much better now. I sleep at night and haven’t been sick (knock on wood) in three months :0)

  13. Hey, I enjoyed the episode. And I think your response was spot on. And I am so tired of these posts from women complaining about how hard their lives are. We need to own our choices. If you hate that your husband leaves all the childcare to you then you need to talk to your husband! Or upgrade to a better version.
    Also, you mentioned on the podcast something about cheaper child care and paid maternity leave, like it might help. I can let you know that in my country (Norway) where we have very generous maternity leave in addition to heavily subsidized child care, this kind of mommy rant flourishes as well. There is a surprising amount of complaining about how hard parenthood is, in what is quite likely one of the top 3 countries in the world when it comes to parental rights/benefits.

  14. I also felt a bit frustrated by the tone of your conversation on this topic. While I agreed with some of what you were saying, I can’t help but feel that the very fact of the podcast (which I generally love!) is evidence of the expectations society places on women and that you were too dismissive of the impact this has in this episode. I can’t imagine many men listen (although it would be awesome if more did) and certainly they aren’t commenting. In an ideal world both men and women would be equally interested in thinking and discussing about how to manage work and life but clearly us women are all investing much more of our mental energy in these issues.

    I think part of the problem is also that both of you have quite a similar perspective so it can seem unbalanced /unfair. I would find these types of discussions about topics, where I think it is reasonably easy to guess in advance that there will be a range of opinions, more interesting if you were able to bring in a guest with a different view to contribute as well. Appreciate that this might be quite difficult to arrange, however!

    More generally, while I appreciate your honesty about the resources you have available to you and your target audience, I do feel (as other have said above) that there is a whole tier of professional women who have significantly less financial resources than you who but who are also trying to achieve in their careers and balance work and life and who listen to the podcast. For this group (which I’d include myself in) the outsource/throw money at the problem type advice can get a bit tiresome as it is much harder to implement in practice and involves many more trade-offs. I’d love to hear from more guests grappling with these issues at a lower income point and/or with other complexities in life that make things more challenging (eg disabilities, health issues, child health issues, elder care obligations and so on).

    There are also a mirade of reasons why someone might stay with a spouse who is not taking on an equal share of the household burden – your comments here majorly oversimply the situation many women find themselves in.

    1. I’m one of those professional women (library director, has a Master’s degree) that makes well under the 6 figure mark. I’d love to see a podcast or 2 and maybe even a book, Laura, on those people. My husband and I make just under 6 figures together, but also live in a low cost of living area. I’d love to hear more from people who can’t get all the external help, but still have full and fulfilling lives.

      1. I’d love to see more about how families with relatively lower incomes do things as well! Another librarian here 🙂

      2. We are in the same boat! We make decent salaries, especially for the area we live in (very low cost), but their outsourcing suggestions are honestly laughable to me. There is NO way we could save for retirement/kids’ college and outsource everything they suggest. I know I am perhaps not the targeted listener because I’m not a “high earner”, but I wish they would broaden the conversation to include women of different income brackets.

    2. Yes, I am definitely in the tier of professional women Steph is referring to–advanced degree, compensation well above the median for my profession, advancing in many ways, very comfortable combined household income, etc. I have taken much of Laura’s time management advice to heart and it has definitely improved my family’s quality of life/outlook. Unfortunately, this is an example of a BoBW episode that illustrates a lack of empathy or perhaps limited interest in parents whose situations aren’t readily addressed with investments in services and caregivers.

  15. I was also not a fan of this episode. I will not re-iterate the well thought out comments above but I found this discussion unpleasant particularly due to the slightly mocking tone. This woman wrote a Facebook post which she had no idea would go viral. It sounds like she tried in subsequent media packages to clarify some thoughts that I agree were not perfectly accurate or well articulated. I don’t think it was necessary to rip her original post apart the way you did, especially since Laura already wrote a very critical blog post on this topic. I doubt everything I have ever put forward in a public setting would hold up to that level of criticism.
    I think if the two of you look through your blogs you would find several instances of rants on at least one of the topics you easily dismissed during this episode- I am particularly thinking of breastfeeding for Sarah and complaining about unequal divisions of responsibility at home for Laura – so the intensity of your feelings about this particular “rant” are difficult to understand.

    I was drawn to the generally inclusive and productive tone you both displayed in your earlier episodes- I hope you will be able to get back to that place again for future episodes. Please keep in mind that even those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy a financial level of privilege on par with the two of you may be struggling with other things. I consider myself squarely in the your target demographic but I personally do not have anywhere near the level of flexibility that Laura enjoys by working for herself and at home. I was at the pediatrician with my son well over once per month this winter due to minor complications of a tough cold/flu season and his tendency for bad ear infections (and of course I had to take PTO for all of them- that is generally how it works for the vast majority of people who are not self employed).

  16. I was also a bit disappointed with this episode. Yes, on an individual level this person may have had options she wasn’t recognizing. But also, there are big cultural issues that we can acknowledge need to be rectified. For example, I don’t see the “what dads get away with” articles as only individual rants. They are nearly always taking an individual’s situation to start, and then saying “hey, this is systemic, what gives?” To see y’all discount those systemic issues is disappointing. As someone said above, this podcast exists to talk about women making work and life work together because men don’t have the same conversation!

    My husband and I both work (he nearly always gets 45+ hour weeks – he works at a chemical plant type thing) and together we make less than six figures. I’m a librarian and was actually on the podcast early on. I too would enjoy seeing more guests from different perspectives especially on issues where y’all are likely to have similar viewpoints.

    Finally, I’m totally fine with ads! I hope y’all are able to pick ones that are things you like in real life! 🙂

  17. Long time reader and listener here who also is in the demographic you are targeting, and who was also a little put off by the tone of this episode. What’s more off-putting, though, is a lack of response to the thoughtful and mostly respectful comments left by numerous individuals who follow and support your work, when you are clearly reading them. These are topics that are hot button issues for a lot of people, and regardless of your standpoint they are generating discussion. Hopefully, as others have mentioned, future episodes won’t have the harsh and somewhat mocking tone this one did.

  18. Like most listeners I too have felt similar frustrations to those expressed in the Facebook rant. However Sarah and Laura made the point in this episode and throughout the history of the podcast that we all have some freedom to move beyond that place of frustration and craft our own working mom experience. Whether it’s asking a partner or someone in your support network for help, being selective about your school volunteering, outsourcing housework, or pushing for a flexible yet productive work schedule, ultimately it’s up to us prioritize and work for the life we want. I want to give this mom a copy of previous guest Jessica Turner’s book, Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive and tell her to listen to this podcast of course! Thank you Laura and Sarah for the work you do. Societal expectations aren’t going to change unless we all do our part.

  19. First, I want to thank Sarah and Laura for putting themselves out there and for tackling a fraught subject. I also want to thank you both for all your helpful advice and in particular to Laura for writing a book that was transformative to my mindset as a working mother (I Know How She Does It).

    However, I agree with the previous comment that some of this is bad feminism. We are raising children as working mothers in a patriarchal society – we should do everything we can to support one another! Katherine Goldstein of the “Double Shift” from the previous episode very clearly and articulately makes this point and even directly states that “society” doesn’t treat working mothers fairly. I didn’t hear any dubious feedback about “society” during this episode and it made me wonder why all the sudden it became an individual’s choice to self-impose these issues a mere week later. Marriage and motherhood (not mothering) are decidedly patriarchal institutions. Katherine Goldstein’s co-producer, Amy Westervelt, has written another eye-opening book on the subject (Forget Having it all) – society is unfair to working mothers and it has been unfair to women and mothers for centuries. (Thanks to previous commenter for the article!)

    The woman who wrote this post on Facebook and was “given a pass” for that very likely did not want to become the subject of GMA or this podcast. At the very least, I think she should have been invited on (as an invited guest in advance). She was never given the chance to respond to any of the takedowns here or provide any context for why she was posting. She was obviously exaggerating to make her points and the fact that it went viral indicates we are all feeling this, these are systemic problems. The focus on her comment to “lean out” seemed to drive most of the backlash, and this could have easily been bypassed if she had been given a chance to address all of this herself directly, as a guest. If your goal is to keep women in the workforce and have them reconsider “leaning out”, I believe there are better ways.

    I was frustrated when Laura said, “the fact that you’re listening to this podcast is probably an indication that you’re not married to a misogynist.” (And the previous comment that casually suggests that if your husband isn’t helping “just upgrade.”) I think everyone in this society could do some self-examining on the messages we internalize – myself, my husband, my “social circle”, my coworkers included. Blatant misogyny is so much easier to call out than the universe of unconscious gender bias we all unintentionally hold about men, women, mothers, fathers, families, gender, etc. I applaud Darcy Lockman for “throwing her husband under the bus” and writing articles and a book that challenges all our expectations about trying to co-parent on the front edge of the second wave of feminism that finally is trying to tackle motherhood. And while I am critical in this post, it’s the first one I’ve ever written for this or any other podcast. Please don’t take a break from this subject, talk about it more! I believe it’s the one that matters the most to working mothers.

    Women are constantly being told what and how to change and the rant reflected that. I understand that Laura is in the self-help genre and so the burning desire that some of us feel to change “society” rather than oneself doesn’t completely fit the demographic or the goals of the podcast, but please don’t lose sight of the systemic problems. There is room to adjust and self-improve or tweak schedules or outsource or whatever can work for you. But there is also a need for some big improvements in our society with respect to working families. I would honestly love to hear more about that from this or any other podcast!

  20. I thought long and hard about responding to this episode, as I’ve never left a comment before even though I’m a longtime listener.

    Sadly, for as much as I’ve learned from this podcast, I may be done listening. I can’t get over the consistently harsh/judgmental tone for people’s “choices” … it is so much more complicated than that. You’re both educated women — did you really never take a sociology or women’s studies course? This issues have a long tail and are systemic; there is only so much an individual can do to change a situation that frankly sucks for lot of families.

    Husband and I have professional careers and earn good salaries for our region, but I can no longer deal with some of the tone-deaf suggestions on this podcast. Jobs don’t grow on trees, and neither does child care.

    I wish you the best and think you serve an audience that’s hungry for good information about work/life balance. But I can no longer deal with the dismissive attitude, so I’m done.

  21. Hi Laura and Sarah
    I came across your podcast a couple of months ago and you have kept me company on many a commute and walk since then. Being a working Mum living in the UK not all of the episode topics resonate with my own world or experiences but I have enjoyed listening to your take on life and hearing how you navigate your way through parenting and pretty amazing careers. Listening to this episode however really made me stop and evaluate if this is a space for me. While I listened, the topic itself actually became irrelevant and what became much more relevant was hearing what I considered to be a fairly cynical and judgmental tone. Everything from ‘I’m sure she is a really nice person’ to if she has time to write this rant etc she has time for hobbies comment, ending with the idea of what a fun project it would be to financially calculate her listed roles/complaints and work out the outsource cost against her salary. I was really disappointed, but after all, this is just a podcast and it was just a Facebook tongue in cheek rant and I hope I can empathise enough to realise that It takes bravery to put yourself in the spotlight of a podcast with global reach and seek comments, as well as bravery to go onto Good Morning America on the back of a Facebook post. I had a look at the Facebook post and something that I think that could be a focus for us all is what it must be like to read the (thankfully in the minority) comments like ‘unless she has been raped she chose to have these children’. I think those are the people that rightly deserve a healthy dose of our cynicism and judgement.

  22. I just listened to the podcast after reading all of the negative comments. This is going to sound obvious, but I think the difference in opinion between Laura and Sarah and most of the commenters is due to the type of people – not typical! – that Laura and Sarah are. I think about this frequently because I feel that I too am in this minority; I have three kids, full-time (though flexible!) work, hobbies/volunteer work, etc, and I honestly feel about 80% of the time that I have a good balance and no issues with managing my life. And I think if you are generally an efficient, low-anxiety person AND have a great spouse and good career/work (in my case, the flexibility helps a TON), the NYT articles and FB rants by harried moms seem a little odd. (After all, I couldn’t care less what someone thinks of my home. I’ve never even been on Pinterest. But, again, I’m likely in the minority.)

    That said, I do think it’s important to empathize with people who are not like that, even those who on the surface seem to be in a good position in terms of income, family, etc. As Laura/Sarah said, you never really know what is going on in a marriage, etc. From my experience with close friends and relatives, I just don’t think it’s possible to successfully advise someone to be less anxious and lower the standards that they have for themselves. Maybe over a long period of time it’s possible – I don’t know. Similarly, I don’t think I’m likely to become *more* anxious, etc – I am the way I am and I don’t see that changing. I take pride in doing good work, but I feel no pressure to do more than I need to or climb the corporate ladder higher than I have. It’s just not something I’m interested in. Maybe if you are a person who has a deep ambition to excel at the highest levels of your career, you’re more stressed and conflicted overall.

  23. Oh, and regarding breast-feeding, I know I was exhausted by pumping after I went back to work. I quit breastfeeding/pumping at around seven months for all of my kids. I didn’t feel guilty at all. Maybe it was because I had twins first and never had the goal of breastfeeding exclusively (and one twin ended up having several hospitalizations so it would have been next to impossible to pump for both while being in the hospital with her). I never felt judged, but then I know that I’m the type of person who very rarely actually feels judged, whether by doctors, friends, or La Leche busybodies. 🙂

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