On having it all

What with Indira Nooyi’s dukh-bhari dastaan going viral, I can’t resist adding my two bits because the piece had me fuming at multiple levels. Having taken out some of the khunnus on fb. I thought I should resurrect my moribund blog so I could discuss it some more.

First - the fact that her mother expects her to be the one doing both inside and outside the home pissed me off. Yes, yes, she’s from another generation and all that, but you can change, you can see that life today is a bit different than the time that you grew up and raised a family and you can have bigger dreams for your daughter than ‘ensured the kids had milk every day of their life’. I know lots of mothers of IN’s mother’s generation who raised their daughters to be independent working women and have a career, and agreed to be part of the daughter’s village in raising the family. Plus, to me, it’s a basic maternal instinct to want to celebrate with your child when the child so much as gets a participation medal for a 50 m race in school, let along becoming worldwide CEO of a billion dollar firm. So to not celebrate the win at that moment and chastise the daughter for thinking her promotion is more important milk – Pfffbbbttt! And by the way I am highly suspicious of whether the mother would have reacted similarly had the son or son in law come home with similar news. In fact, I’m pretty sure she would have popped champagne in that situation, given that she thought a son in law and father of her grandkids who had come home at 8 pm would be too tired to get the milk but not the daughter and mother of aforesaid kids who got home at 10 pm.

I have to say, I had a Nooyi moment recently and I’m NOT HAPPY with my dad about it. Bojjandi fell sick with high fever late in the night when he was over at my parents’ place. He was asking for me so I went over and carried him back and spent the rest of the night sponging his forehead since the fever was not going down despite medication. Finally around 5 or 6 am, I was too weary to stay up and woke up A and asked him to carry on the good work while I grabbed a couple hours sleep. Later that day when I was telling my dad about it, he looks at me and says, “You could have stayed at our house. Why did you wake up poor A? He needs his rest.” I was completely taken aback. Given that my dad has always been more than supportive of my sister and I having careers and working fulltime, to assume that despite having a fulltime job as demanding as A’s, I wouldn’t need my rest is mindboggling. Dad was probably being supportive of A given the stress about A’s mom’s health but the double standard still stank!

Second, the fact that Nooyi clearly drank the Koolaid that expects her to be and do everything. Why would you do that? Granted, there is a stage of life where you want to please everyone but at some point you outgrow it or your ‘self preservation’ gene kicks in and you decide that the person you need to be most impressed by who you are is yourself. To judge yourself by unrealistic standards set by others is to set yourself up for automatic failure and lack of self esteem, whether it’s in terms of appearance, career performance or what you do as a wife, mother, friend…

Third - Not doing it all. I think IN has actually fallen into the trap of wanting to ‘do it all’, which is a whole different ballgame from having it all, and which is impossible and not required. Why should one person want to do it all or be expected to do it all and then face failure? There are only so many hours in a day and days in one’s life. If you have a partner, then make that person a real partner in the business of life rather than carry the burden of Nirupa Roy-like martyrdom by lamenting what you can’t do. It’s that partner’s life too, it’s their kids and home too, so it’s part of their job to do their bit.

I’m not saying this in a martial or revolutionary spirit, but frankly, isn’t it part and parcel of building a life together with your partner? I can’t remember the last time that my husband or I gave each other home and kids instructions when we were traveling, because each of us expects and is equally clued in or involved.  We pinch hit for each other when one of us can’t make a PTA meeting or when the kids are sick and need a doctor visit or someone to stay home. We don’t run around with excel sheets counting who’s done what how many times but because each of us thinks it’s the only sensible thing to do to co-manage both our careers and the home/ kids, it works well enough for neither one of us to feel hard-done-by.  

I remember when Chubbocks was a baby, I hadn’t gone back to work until he was 6 months old. So I used my stay-at-home mom to derive a sense of superiority by constantly scoffing at A’s efforts to help, berating him for doing it differently – for me it was a sense of validation that I was the expert and therefore the perfect parent. With that as the set up I was doing it all where the baby was concerned, it wasn’t until I consciously figured things out that I realized doing it all wasn’t a viable or intelligent solution for me, when there were two parents or other help handy. Once that realization fell into place, then making our relationship a real partnership became much easier and it continued regardless of how many hours I or A worked or how much each of us earned ( or not).

Fourth, I’m not sure what having it all means. If it means being able to give 100% of attention to your home life and your career, then I’m sorry but no one can do it until cloning comes along. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you cannot have it all. If on the other hand you mean have a successful career and a good home life, that is perfectly possible and I would argue that IN has it all in spades! And that many other men and women that I know are managing to do so quite well.


Swati Kaushal said…
Love it! Agree completely! Had my own private fuming and ranting session.
You go girl!!!!
Personally I think the milk story is bollocks.
If its true; there is something completely effed up about that mom-daughter relationship.
Even my grandmother/MIL wouldn't tell me to go get milk at night!
And where was the stay-at-home dad in all this? Watching football?

bird's eye view said…
Thanks Swati. Even if the story were apocryphal, what was it trying to say? That moms should continue to be expected to be super-moms? That husbands can only do so much? I wish I had the going cuckoo emoticon available :)

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