Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has just written her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. She co-authored the book with psychologist Adam Grant. The book is a result of her experiences with grief after suddenly losing her husband, David Goldberg, in 2015. While writing this book, Sheryl revisited her prior best seller Lean In, that sparked a feminist movement. An eye-opening moment for Sheryl occurred when she revisited the chapter from Lean In, “Make Your Partner a Real Partner,” and she realized this did not apply to single mothers.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Sandberg describes how her husband Dave Goldberg’s unexpected death created a deafening crash of grief that reverberated throughout her family. In May 2015, they were on vacation in Mexico when she found him dead on the gym floor — it was later determined the 47-year-old died of cardiac arrhythmia.
While the loss led to a new book, it also caused Sandberg to reflect on her previous work, Lean In. In it, she used research and personal anecdotes to encourage women to aspire to top positions. She explains that it was Goldberg’s dedication as a husband and father that inspired the chapter, “Make Your Partner a Real Partner.”
“As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home,” she wrote in Lean In. “I have seen so many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical.”
“I realize now how hard that [chapter] must have been to read if you were a single mom,” she says. “I didn’t get it.”
Sandberg explains that her new journey as a single mom, and experiencing the death of her spouse, impacted her decision to expand bereavement leave at Facebook.
“I’ve definitely learned how hard it can be to lean in when you’re struggling at home,” she says. “But I deeply believe — maybe even more — in the importance of female leadership.”
I like Sheryl. I respect her business savvy. She’s funny. She doesn’t just spout her ideology but attempts to spell out steps to get there. I appreciate that she learns from her experiences and not only passes those lessons on but where they came from. But let’s be perfectly honest, Lean In left a lot of women out, not just single mothers. Even now, Sheryl is still picking and choosing her feminism as it benefits her. She never really did speak about why she sat out the Women’s March and “remains hopeful” about #45, who has promised to dismantle family leave and women’s health rights as much as Congress will allow. When pressed about her silence, Sheryl reiterates that Lean In remains non-partisan to be the most beneficial in each community. Then why did she come out so strongly on the Immigration Ban? Sheryl works for a company that not only adopted an extraordinary family leave policy but has unprecedented bereavement leave as well. So she doesn’t have to worry about those federally protected bills. But H-1B visas factor very much into her work force.
I’m interested in Option B. Like she did with Lean In, Sheryl established a non-profit organization for Option B as well. From what I have read, David Goldberg was a very well-liked man and Sheryl adored him. I really felt for Sheryl reading how hard it was for her to cope with his loss. I have *knocks wood* been spared true grief thus far but I appreciate the advice she gives on how to help others who are grieving. For example, “don’t ask the bereaved how they are. Instead ask them how they are that day.” I could totally see how that would make a difference. The name for the book, btw, comes from family friend Phil Deutch at whose birthday celebration David died. Deutch suggested Sheryl designate a stand in dad for father-child events at the kid’s school following David’s death. Sheryl declined, saying it just wouldn’t be the same, to which Deutch replied, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the sh*t out of Option B.” I’m being sincere when I say that this is the kind of advice I can use in times of trouble. I don’t do well with lament. Finding solutions, no matter how second-rate, is the one thing that propels me forward when life is kicking me in the teeth. Lean In may not have applied to me but it sounds like Option B might.
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