If you’re going to lean in, you need support

baby-diapers-and-wipesJust as I was beginning my career, Lean In was becoming popular. In true lean in spirit, I was told to pursue my ambitions, ask for more, and change the conversation to what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t. I totally bought into the idea that if I put my mind to it I could (and should) do everything in full force.

Then I had a child.

Beyond the baby shoes, ducky washcloths, and teeny tiny onesies, it turns out taking care of an infant is a LOT of work. Even with my husband right by my side, the majority of the care landed on me after he returned to work.  Soon enough I found myself exhausted, overwhelmed, and disconnected. Even if I could do it all, maybe I didn’t want to?

There is no denying the level of pressure women feel on a daily basis to be a certain kind of mother, partner, friend, and professional. I’m all about encouraging women to ask for what they deserve but expecting women to be more, do more, and lean in more is not always sustainable.

I wish we would stop asking women to do more and instead ask ourselves what we can do to give women more choices. And not just choices but also the resources and support to make choices work, like how to end an unhealthy relationship without losing your housing, how to stay in a career but still be able to spend time with the ones you love, and how and when to start a family.

We don’t need to pressure ourselves to lean in, we need people and resources that support us to make the choices that are best for ourselves.

“I have a friend who has a sister who…”

Photo by Justin Jensen
Photo by Justin Jensen

I used to do a lot of domestic violence trainings. In fact, someday I’ll tell you the story of when I did 36 trainings when I was pregnant and barfing. But recently I have been training again. And I remembered something. At some point, without fail, a participant will come up to me with some version of this question: “I have a friend who has a sister who has been in a domestic violence situation for years and my friend just doesn’t know how to help her. They’ve tried everything but she just won’t leave and everyone is worried about her and her kids’ safety and it is just a mess. What can they do?”

Every time my heart breaks. Again. My heart breaks for the asker, the sister, the survivor, the kids, the abuser. All of us. And I wish I had a better answer. But here is what I say:

It is hard to see someone you love and care about struggle. It is painful to see people making choices that we disagree with or find unfathomable. I get it, I do. And I also get that it is really hard for the survivor to make those choices and know that people disagree with them. We cannot imagine what it must be like for her. But I know that she is making decisions based on what she thinks will keep her safe or safer or sane. And in order to stick with her, we all need support. We need help to be there day in and day out. The good news is that there is support available. Domestic violence programs offer support to friends and family, not just to survivors themselves. The most important thing that all of us can do is to stay connected to the survivor. Connection directly counters and resists the abuse and isolation that survivors face.

So go forth. Reach out. Ask her: “What would make things better? How can I help with that?” I know it is hard to offer help and be turned down. But know that each offer is planting a seed and reminding her that you are there. Be there so that when she needs you, she can find you. No one deserves to be abused.

So hang in there and get support for yourself because when she calls on you, I want you to be ready.

Thank you. No really, thank you for staying connected and breaking that isolation. We need you. It takes all of us and we’re in this thing together.

Amor: Un valor fundamental (Love: A fundamental value)

Hace unos días participé en nuestro retiro, un tiempo y espacio donde como organización conversamos sobre nuestros valores fundamentals y cómo éstos marcan nuestro trabajo y decisiones. Un momento inspirador y por supuesto no podría esperar menos cuando el amor fue nombrado como uno de nuestros valores más importantes.

Cuando uno habla de amor, suele sonar abstracto, o romántico, pero la realidad es que en WSCADV es definitivamente un verbo no un sustantivo y lo digo con toda firmeza pues en cada acción que se lleva a cabo, en cada projecto, en cada palabra, en cada reunión entre nosotros o con nuestros programas miembros, amor es el valor fundamental y el común denominador en nuestras acciones.

Para muchos la sola palabra amor no dice mucho, pero déjame te platico como es que personalmente he visto esta palabra en acción: cuando uno de nuestros compañeros esta pasando por un momento difícil y todos los demás ofrecen su ayuda y la organización cambia las políticas internas como el poder ceder tus días de enfermedad para alguien que lo necesite más que tú, eso es amor. O cuando se toma el tiempo necesario para re-estructurar la organización tomando en cuenta la opinión de cada uno y proporcionando el espacio necesario y seguro para procesar cualquier mal entendido, eso es amor. O aún cuando mal entendidos y diferentes puntos de vista surgen, el perdón y la entrega salen triunfantes, eso es amor. O cuando tu directora necesita ese extra apoyo para avanzar como organización donde todos cedemos y nos comprometemos para el crecimiento de nuestra organización, eso es amor.

Por que amor, no es solo una palabra, es compasión, es energía, es entrega, es estar presente, es eso que te centra y te impulsa a ser mejor, es apoyo, es entusiasmo, es inspiración, es amistad, es simple y llanamente querer lo mejor para los demás y uno mismo. Aquí en WSCADV cada uno de nosotros pone el corazón en cada acción con la finalidad de algún día erradicar la violencia para vivir en plenitud nuestra AMADA COMUNIDAD, y eso, eso es AMOR.


Some days ago I participated in our retreat, a time and space where we, as an organization, could talk about our fundamental values and how those affect our work and decisions. It was an inspirational moment and of course I wasn’t surprised when love was named as one of our fundamental values.

When one speaks of love, it often sounds abstract, or romantic, but the reality is that at WSCADV love is definitely a verb, not a noun. I say this because in every action that takes place, in every project, in every word that we use, with each other as a team, at each meeting with our member programs, love is the fundamental value and the common denominator in our actions.

For many, the word love does not say much, but let me tell you how I have personally seen this word in action: when one of our colleagues was going through a difficult time and everyone else offered support, and the organization changed internal policies so we could give our sick days to someone who needs it more, that’s love. Or when you take the time to restructure the organization taking into account the opinion of every employee while providing a safe space to process any misunderstandings or concerns, that’s love. Or when misunderstandings and different points of view arise, forgiveness and compassion emerge triumphant, that’s love. Or when your director needs that extra support to move the organization forward and each one of us gives something up and commits to keep growing, that’s love.

Because love is not just a word, it’s compassion, it’s energy, it’s to be present, it’s what centers you and makes you better, it’s support, it’s enthusiasm, it’s inspiration, it’s friendship, it’s simply to want the best for others and yourself. Here at WSCADV each one of us puts our whole heart into every action in order to eradicate violence someday and to live fully in our BELOVED COMMUNITY. And that my friends, that is LOVE.

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