In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg – the CEO of Facebook and author of “Lean In” (if you haven’t read it, I really recommend you do) gave a speech to a class of school students graduating high school and asked them “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
An underlying theme (and actually a whole chapter) of Lean In is dedicated to empowering women to consider what they would do if they weren’t afraid of something – mostly, in the context of the book, the question relates to their careers and pursuing equality within the workplace.
But what about equality at home and in a relationship? How is it measured? I can tell you, it’s not necessarily only by how much money you bring in!
Importantly, for the role women play in their family life, a recurring theme with the women I am so honoured to work with is that they do not feel equal. They are not made to feel equal. They are made to feel that their contribution in putting their careers on hold or in staying at home to raise the children while their husbands work, is worth less than the dollar signs on their husband’s pay cheque. And when it becomes “their time” time to pursue their career goals, they do not feel supported. And they wonder how they can achieve their goals and pursue their ambitions they may have put on the back burner for the benefit of the family. They wonder IF they can achieve their goals and if they can, how?
Accordingly, there are so many women who live in fear – fear of relationship failure, fear of disappointing or upsetting others, fear of change, fear of staying, fear of leaving.. fear of the unknown.
I find that it is this fear of the unknown that is most crippling for women. Not knowing what the process of separation involves. Not knowing how a property settlement is worked out. Not knowing how they will support themselves following separation and particularly when they have been the primary parent, not the breadwinner. Not knowing who the children will live with.
Once they know and understand the process and have the information to make the necessary decisions – even before they make any decisions – the fear of the unknown dims.
As with most things, knowledge is power. Knowing is empowering. Understanding how a property settlement works and what is required for a property settlement to occur is empowering.
In the end, part of the message in Lean In is about overcoming your fears to pursue your ambitions – whatever those may be.