Sheryl Sandberg on parenting after the loss of her husband - Women's Agenda

Sheryl Sandberg on parenting after the loss of her husband

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has told her followers we should give more thanks and support to single mothers, and that her book Lean In did not address the challenges these women face well enough.

One year and five days since the sudden death of her partner Dave Goldberg, Sandberg said single parenting is still a “new and unfamiliar world” for her and conceded that she did not fully understand how difficult it is to succeed at work if you’re overwhelmed at home.

Penning the post on her Facebook page over the weekend to mark Mother’s Day, Sandberg said she realised how fortunate she is not to have the same financial pressures that most single mothers face.

“Each and every day they make sacrifices, push through barriers, and nurture beautiful families despite the demands on their time and energy,” she wrote. 

She said she has plenty of support and care from those around her but that she’s still redefining what it means to be a mother since her husband’s death.

“Before Dave died, I had a partner who shared both the joys and responsibilities of parenting. Then, without any warning, I was on my own.”

In Lean In, Sandberg spends considerable time detailing the importance of having a supportive partner on a woman’s career. She’s been criticised for not sharing enough on what women can do if they don’t have such support

“Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right.”

Sandberg said single mothers must “lean in” every day out of pure necessity, and she pointed to the example of a domestic violence survivor Connie Sparks who left her abusive husband, raised four children on her own, and started her own company supporting female-led businesses.

She said the United States must address its lack of paid parental leave, that assumptions regarding a typical family must end, and that corporates do more to help.  

“I think we all owe it to single mothers to recognize that the world does not make it easy for them, especially for those who struggle to make ends meet.”

In the US, 35 per cent of families headed by a single mother experience food security and many single mothers work more than one paid job, on top of their caring responsibilities.


“We need to build a world where families are embraced and supported and loved no matter how they fit together,” Sandberg wrote. “We need to understand that it takes a community to raise children and that so many of our single mothers need and deserve a much more supportive community than we give them. We owe it to them and to their children to do better. We must do more as leaders, as coworkers, as neighbours, and as friends.”

Sandberg’s post has since had 75,000 reactions, 20,000 plus shares and almost three thousand comments. 

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