Archive | July, 2014

I had to blog because Indira Nooyi was asked to get milk

2 Jul

 I read something today, and I had to blog. My current medium of fuming when reading something I don’t agree with, is ranting about it to my friends, or cousins who are friends. If you ask me, this isn’t healthy, my ideas aren’t going anywhere, and they might think I am just obsessed about few things, like, let’s say, Manju Warrier and women’s equality.

But as I said I read something today and HAD to blog, this was, Indira Nooi’s “Women can’t have it all” Interview which is trending across the internet, for what I believe to be the wrong reasons.

Let me just say it out loud first. This is not a stay at home/working mom dispute. I have no idea what it means to work outside of your home leaving a child behind. But this blog is about mothers, the mothers who respond like Ms Nooyi’s did. I am leaving out the rest of her interview, but focusing on the  response of her mother, on the day she became Pepsi’s president.

 

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So it wasn’t a silly promotion, she became the president of  PEPSI and was included in the board of directors. Which is no minor achievement. Not for a man or woman or  anyone else. And her mother asks her to get milk. Followed by the below explanation. “Let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.” Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/why-pepsico-ceo-indra-k-nooyi-cant-have-it-all/373750/#ixzz36JWBDzNM

So what about this response is wrong? Is it hurtful? Is it sentimental? And why is this response the talk of the town.

If you ask me, I would have been crushed by this response .I know of many bright successful adults, who never share their success at work with their family saying, “My family doesn’t get it”. This includes men. I am reminded of this incident that happened to one of my friends. He is called the “whiz kid” at work. Because he is just that, he magically resolves issues. He is extremely successful, highly paid, goes on world tours all the time, has a stellar car. So we would expect him to demand the same kind of respect at home. However during his brother’s wedding his father after giving him instructions to get things done, said “It’s useless explaining all this to you! I would rather do it myself”. The very successful whiz kid belittled because he couldn’t arrange furniture. I have also heard a mother talk about her (very successful and bright, if you ask me) daughter, in a similar way. “She’s an engineer, alright. Just that she makes bad tea”.

So what is with these parents?

At first reading her mother’s response I was shocked, angry, irritated. Why would she say that? Why would any mother say that to her own daughter? What did she do wrong btw? Not know that they have run out of milk?

Out of the multiple interpretations we can give to her mother’s response. Few of them are

  1. The mother is bananas. Who does she think she is!!

She knows nothing about business or what it means to be CEO. She is trying to make the daughter guilty for achieving everything she herself has not been able to. Ask her to get a life!

 

  1. The mother is putting her in her place. Making sure that she remains grounded, is reminded of who she is, and not get carried away by the CEO “crown” (which is damned btw, no idea why)

I know a lot of parents who has taken it upon themselves to teach humility to their kids, by belittling their achievements. I am not sure if it’s an Indian thing, but let me tell you, it doesn’t always work. Rather than become humble, children  are more disappointed that the parents,the very people who need to be proud of you, are least bothered.

  1. She’s reminding Indira of her “primary” duties as a woman.

This is the part that bothers me. Imagine a man entering the household to say he got a promotion. Imagine the wife/mother replying “You are the father, the son, the son in law, so to hell with your promotion”, or worse “go get milk”. The wife maybe thinking it, but in most cases wouldn’t dare  say it. Because the man pays for your livelihood, his promotion means more “money” to the family and so it’s more important. It’s not about a person forgetting to become a mother, or earning for “selfish” reasons.

  1. Was having a bad day

She must have been having a bad day with all the work at home. And snapped. This is the only explanation that gives me any peace. Yes she snapped, everyone does. It’s ok!

Why is Indira made to feel guilty of her achievements? Why is any woman made to feel guilty about hers, like it’s a selfish “hobby” she’s pursuing out of her own interest, because she HATES her family.

Secondly she says about not being able to have it all. This has caused a red flag among few of my aspiring to-be-working-in-the-future women friends. Even before beginning a career, they are worried about this very thing, the curse of the absentee mother. The one who doesn’t attend the coffee stuff on Wednesday mornings. (Read whole interview to know what I am talking about)

I have a pretty simple and straightforward question to schools who do this, Who schedule PTAs on 9 am on Wednesdays expecting “mothers” (some even expect fathers) to be there. The donations, the high school fees, not to mention the innumerable other expenses that a child and the school incurs. Where do you think the money comes from? Or do they think daddy alone should be burdened with the whole responsibility of that, and you can just blame parents for not being present, while also expecting the money to flow. Really? From where?

When our children are born, we really believe (at some very early point in their life) that they are going to change the world. So how exactly are they going to change the world? By getting milk on time you say?

Sachin Tendulkar (who did change the world) said in his mesmerizing farewell speech about how he missed a lot of his kid’s events. I didn’t hear any headlines being made on that? I didn’t hear anyone say “Sachin says. He can’t have it all” of course not. Because he is a man, he is supposed to change the world.

Dulquer Salmaan in his interview, when asked about his father (film star Mammotty), his involuntary response was, “He wasn’t always around, but he is a good dad, “blah blah. Alia Bhatt’s response on being asked about her father, director, Mahesh Bhatt, was on the same lines, “He wasn’t around always, but I was very proud of being mahesh bhatt’s daughter”. So if you are out there changing the world, you won’t be that much around your kids. Probably their mothers took the slack, and WERE around for the kids. But I hate to ask this, why didn’t anyone ask Dulquer about his mother? Why didn’t anyone ask Alia Bhatt about her mother, or how it was growing up as the daughter of her mother, (who I don’t know anything about). The mothers roles are important, but if a person has the talent, will, education, and skill to change the world, and if , in the rare by chance they turn out to be women, we need to cut them some slack.

Holding down a job is no EASY feat. It’s not easy for men, it’s not easy for women. So for those who really work hard and achieve that status. For those who change the world, like Indira and Sachin did, we need to allow them to miss a few of those school events, without being reminded of how they can’t have it all. Like Indira said, she coopted her family, the grandparents are involved, her secretary is involved, she has help at home. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.