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Naomi Lakritz: Those who lean in too much risk falling over

Lean in. That’s Sheryl Sandberg’s buzzword.

Lean in. That’s Sheryl Sandberg’s buzzword. She’s the CEO of Facebook — possibly one of the most inane entities ever invented — and she is the latest wealthy, powerful woman who, from her comfy perch in the corporate stratosphere, deigns to peer down and tell the rest of us women how to live.

Sandberg’s new book is titled Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, while her Lean In foundation urges females to hold lean-in circles, and Sandberg herself complains that women are “pulling back when they ought to be leaning in.”

With all this leaning, women are starting to resemble the Tower of Pisa. But go ahead and lean in. Then fall over. From exhaustion.

Didn’t we hear all this stuff back in the 1970s and 1980s?

Women must learn to act like men, they have to push their way into boardrooms, do everything they possibly can to get ahead, earn zillions and spend superhumanly long hours working — Sandberg checks her office emails at 5 a.m.

She admits she doesn’t see her kids much. They’re both under 10, which is a terribly precious time of children’s lives to let slip through your fingers so as to spend extra hours and energy maniacally clawing your way to the top.

To what end, though? That’s what puzzles me. In the end, as a friend of mine observed when we discussed it over lunch, Sandberg and anyone who follows her advice will be just as dead as everyone else. And as the late U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas said when he received his cancer diagnosis, nobody ever wishes on their deathbed that they had spent more time at the office.

You cannot have it all; yet Sandberg is trying to con a new generation of young women into thinking they can, and that the race to the top is the only thing that matters. I bought into this briefly when this propaganda was rampant some years ago (it flares up every so often like a recurrence of malaria). Then, my infant son started talking and his first word was not “mama” but “Brenda” — the name of the woman who took care of him while I was working.

That sort of thing kind of jars you back to reality.

Most women have to work to make ends meet. Most women probably don’t even want to quit work, because they still want to use their talents and abilities and have career satisfaction. Rather, it’s about adjusting priorities, insisting upon balance and, hopefully, cultivating some serenity.

Sandberg is just another huckster trying to get us women to wear our stress as though it were a badge of honour. Except that it isn’t.

It’s stress, and over time it will make you ill and then it can literally kill you.

Or, as a counsellor at the Cardiac Wellness Centre told me: “Don’t wait for your triple bypass to start doing something about stress.”

Writing on, Simona Covel says what Sandberg and others who came before her are peddling is “career porn,” which is “some kind of fantasyland solution that appeals to many but applies to very few.”

As is standard with new movements that purport to revolutionize the lives of women who are too tired to show up for the revolution, Sandberg is everywhere. She was on 60 Minutes recently, saying things like, “Partner with the right person because you cannot have a full career and a full life at home with the children if you are also doing all the housework and child care.”

Sounds like rather than fall in love with a man and marry him, you should interview him for the position, and if he hates cleaning behind the toilet, tell him that only candidates considered for the short list will receive future communications from you.

Sandberg also said on 60 Minutes that she won’t run for president because she’s “doing all the leaning in I can do right now.”

So are the rest of us, Sheryl, and if we try to follow your advice instead of doing what’s best for ourselves, we’re in danger of toppling over.