The Indra Nooyi interview and a fresh round of discussions around “having it all”. I read the post out of curiosity, commented on some FB posts here and there, thanked my Ma in silence and then I thought why not write about it here.
First things first, my Ma, she would never wait for me or anyone to fetch anything for her. She would just get it. That is just her and that is how she raised me. Fetch things for yourself. She lead it by example.
A friend had once remarked while visiting my home that gender was insignificant at my home. There is no “He” and “She”, there is just “You” and “We” in the language you speak (Bengali), she had said. She felt that inherently reflected a difference in how I had been raised. Different than her home where she was always told that she could do or had to do everything that boys could do. Looking back, I am unsure of the influence of the language as such. But I thank my folks for the other half of it. I think that made a whole lot of difference in what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do and the choices I would make thereby. (If you understand what I mean.)
Today I am a mom and I have a career too. I have two young kids to raise. My mind is habituated to constantly juggle between work deliverables, conference calls, deadlines, sick kids, unfinished lunch boxes, missed piano lessons, feeding charts, baby milestones and so on and so forth. At times I surprise myself on my ability to do all this correctly though not perfectly. The results are incomparable. There are performance appraisals at one end and smiles and warm hugs at the other end. I crave for both. I am trying my best to lean in.
A path travelled by many, a decision made by many much before “Lean In” garnered attention or the Indra Nooyi post raised another debate. A decision that is however in my opinion very personal and unique to each mother. Each one has different rationale and circumstances. I have myself toggled between opting out, leaning in and partially leaning in, in raising my two young kids so far. Each time the decision was difficult, emotional and driven by unique circumstances and my own state of mind.
There is no one answer. There is nothing wrong or right. I have friends who have opted out and others who have leaned in, each one of them competent at what they do or what they can do, each one of them raising their kids as diligently as possible. What I have observed though is that it is the stereotypes prevalent in the media and the mindsets in the society, within the organizations, that judge these decisions. Decisions that to me are completely personal.
“Having it all”, the “all” in that phrase is defined at an individual level. It is not a common definition and cannot have a common answer. I have my “all” and I am happy with it. But, my “all” is different than your “all” and therefore I do not understand most of the debate and discussions around that infamous term. It is misleading. What was / is right to me may not be right or work for everyone out there.
It is a tough ride no matter what.
There are mothers who chose to opt out or make adjustments to their career to stay at home to be with their kids. They do not have it easy. It is not easy because once you have given it up, the road back to where you were is just uphill. But most do it willingly and that is their choice. The determination of these mothers cannot be readily understood unless we put ourselves in their shoes.
Leaning in has it fair share of challenges and is heavily reliant on a strong support system in the family, the employer’s policies and understanding from the co-workers. That is if the dad is up for attending PTC’s or doing the pediatrician visit all by himself when required (Mine thankfully does all and lot more). If the new mother does not have to worry about job security while on maternity leave. If the co-worker can stop raising an eyebrow when a parent leaves work every day at 4:30 in the evening because the day care closes at 5pm. If the manager continues to delegate work without an iota of doubt on your efficiency (since becoming a mother). Unfortunately, these “Ifs” still largely remain “Ifs” even today for most of us who chose to lean in.
So instead of debating choices that mothers make, let’s be more respectful and understand them better, help to facilitate those choices. Lets respect the multiple identities of a person, the multiple roles a person is capable to play. But most importantly, MOTHERS, to you I only say this, define and live your own individual piece of “all”, the way you want to. No one else should do it for you. No one else can possible do it for you.
This post has been written by Piya Mukherjee, the resident author at the Chatoveracuppa blog. This is her personal perspective on the discussion around the Indra Nooyi interview and why “having it all” is not a practical term.