Thursday 13 December 2018

Liz Kearney: 'Michelle's patience gives her real power'

Notebook

Former first lady Michelle Obama. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo
Former first lady Michelle Obama. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo
Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney

Hear that? It's the sound of the last nail being hammered into the coffin of the 'Lean In' era. The hammering is being done by the glorious Michelle Obama, who's in the middle of a mega-watt book tour to promote her autobiography 'Becoming', and grabbing headlines wherever she goes with her heart-stopping honesty about love, marriage, careers and children.

The biggest moment to date came when she told an audience in New York: "I tell women that whole 'you can have it all' - mmm, nope, not at the same time, that's a lie. It's not always enough to lean in because that s**t doesn't work."

The crowd reportedly went wild, and it's little surprise because the idea of leaning in, along with lots of other brainwaves that emerged from Silicon Valley, hasn't aged very well.

When Sheryl Sandberg's book came out in 2013, I read it with enthusiasm, nodding along at her exhortations to keep your career on the fast track before, during and after having kids. You shouldn't slow down, you shouldn't say no, you shouldn't resort to traditional gender roles. Yes, Sheryl, I thought, I promise I won't.

And then I actually had a baby, and all of that went out the window. I was obsessed with my new son. If the office had burnt down while I was on maternity leave, I wouldn't have noticed. Nor, I suspect, would lots of new mothers who find that the world never quite looks the same again.

Obama herself is intimately acquainted with adjusting to new realities: she stepped back from her own high-flying career to support her husband and provide stability for their daughters amid the turbulence of political life, though she admits she wasn't always happy about it. "I sensed already the sacrifices would be more mine than his," she writes.

There is great power in that honesty. Women understand there are no limits to their professional capabilities, but until someone figures out how to bilocate, the eternal tussle between the career you've worked to build and the children you love more than anything is a riddle that can't be solved.

But hearing Michelle speak now, with all her hard-won wisdom, goes some way to absolving us of that nagging guilt that frequently we're failing both at work and at home.

Because, in the richest of ironies, by leaning out, Michelle Obama eventually became one of the most powerful women in the world. And now here she is - her girls grown up, husband off playing golf - finally taking centre stage. Her message to the women listening seems to be: be patient, be patient, your time will come. And that's exactly what we need to hear.

Wheels fall off in a world of virtual taxis

How does anyone get a taxi these days? I'm out of practise, having left my taxi-catching days behind way back before having children.

But having accidentally nattered for a bit too long at dinner this week with an old friend, we found ourselves on a rain-soaked, deserted street at 1am, with no obvious way of getting home.

We tried the nearest taxi rank, but it was empty. My phone had died, so my friend, who lives overseas and swears by Uber, tried the app. Our taxi was 13 minutes away, it told us, but it remained 13 minutes away for a suspiciously long time. The MyTaxi app had nothing available.

We rang the local cab firm, but there was no answer. Eventually we met a kindly stranger who gave us the number of another firm, which thankfully answered and dispatched a cab within 20 minutes.

Having lived through the 90s, when there were no taxis, and the noughties, when you were falling over them, I'm not sure the era of the virtual taxi is an improvement.

Irish Independent

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