Lean Together

by Katie Hurley, LCSW

If I’m being honest, most days, I’m probably leaning sideways.

I’m a full-time mom with two part-time jobs. Two days a week, I throw on my psychotherapist hat and do my best to help ease the worried minds of the children and families that come through my office. When night falls, I’m a writer.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that I am a friend, sibling, daughter, aunt and wife. I’m both exhausted and energized more often than not, but I wouldn’t change a thing. In terms of reaching that elusive work-life balance, I’ve found my happy place.

I am happy with and grateful for the life that I live.

So, while women all over the world are now on a mission to lean in, I’m busy enjoying the life that I have… while leaning sideways.

Although I applaud each and every women who reaches for her goals, I’m a little bit dismayed by the way those goals are often met. Maybe women do need to lean in a little more, but they also need to stop leaning all over each other to get there.

What women really need to do is lean together.

Bullying among women certainly isn’t a new concept. With text messaging, social media and the pressure to be perfect it has taken on new meaning and gained steam at an alarming rate, but it certainly isn’t new.

Whether it involves manipulative behavior to get ahead in the workplace, sarcasm-laced judgment and criticism in the carpool lane or the latest version of the so-called “Mommy Wars” (are we over that Dove beauty campaign, moms? Can I tell my daughter that she looks beautiful today?), women have engaged in psychological warfare since, well, probably forever.

Often, women lash out when their self-esteem is low or when they feel threatened by another. Sometimes, it’s a function of jealousy or misplaced anger. The pressure to be the perfect mother, wife, colleague and friend certainly doesn’t help.

But the external pressure that women might feel has nothing on the pressure we put on ourselves. We dissect every little thing we see and hear. We compare ourselves to those around us without even knowing what kind of life others might actually be living.

The grass is always greener, ladies, in work, in marriage and in motherhood. Well, the grass is always different, anyway.

It’s time for women to lean together and take a stand. If we choose to help each other out — to support one another in our dreams, our parenting and even our marriages, we can finally stop arguing.

Judgment, criticism and sarcasm leave everyone on both ends feeling a bit defeated. Lashing out in anger might provide momentary relief, but later leads to guilt and rumination.

We have no reason to project our anger or other emotions, but we have every reason to build each other up.

Together, we can spilt childcare to reach for opportunity, provide relief when someone is struggling and find our way to whatever version of the work-life balance works for each of us. Together, we can build a generation of women who are both supportive of one another and a force to be reckoned with in the workplace.

To do this, we have to stop fighting. We have to stop bullying, online and otherwise. We have to stop judging every career move and parenting decision and stop personalizing everything we see and hear.

It’s time to stand up to the psychological warfare that keeps women down.

It’s time to lean together so that we no longer need to worry about how we can possibly find the time and energy lean in.