What happens when “leaning in” and “having it all” mean all work and no play? In a piece in The Washington Post today, writer Elsa Walsh—formerly of the Post and The New Yorker—weighs in on the big Sandbergian debate about work, life, and balance (or lack thereof). Adapted from an speech to St. Mary’s College earlier this month titled “Notes to My Daughter: On Being a Woman,” Walsh uses her own story of heady days as a Berkeley feminist in the ’70s, a meteoric rise through the ranks of journalism, and a subsequent life reckoning after her daughter was born to critique the notion that “feminism is about nothing more than becoming a smart and productive employee and rising to the top.” While appreciating certain parts of Sandberg’s new book—the need to negotiate a higher salary and speak up in the boardroom, for example—she finds the idea of a 24/7 devotion to job to be joyless and rigid and hardly a way to live a full life.
So what advice would Walsh give to her daughter—and her readers—about ditching the “have it all” philosophy for a “good enough” reality? Make time for yourself. Unplug once in awhile. Do what you love while negotiating a flexible schedule. Don’t quit completely because parenthood won’t always be your whole life. But also remember that “success” can be something as ephemeral and deeply pleasurable as giving your child the undivided attention she needs, craves, and deserves.