Thoughts about Indra Nooyi having it all

Indra Nooyi, as is usual for women in any position of power, talked about having it all and how she doesn’t have it all. One telling anecdote was when she came home after being anointed CEO of PepsiCo and her mother asked her to go get milk because no matter what she is professionally, she is still a wife and mother. You can read that and other gems in this article here.

Some thoughts…

* If my parents read this article, they’d probably say ‘See? She’s the CEO and still listens to her mother. You, hardly a stripling, talk back to us’, only half jokingly. Yeah, talking back to your mom is so easy, someone still in school can do it.

* Why would you care what your mother thinks when you are the CEO of something? Unless you are Rajinikanth in Mannan, that is. I don’t mean in the “hurr durr I’m the boss” way, but you’ll have a little magnanimity to empathize with what people say if you got that high up? At least enough to not have it affect you enough to put it in a book years later?

* My parents ask me to run errands. Me being the lazy non dutiful daughter whine and wriggle out of them. That’s likely why I’m not CEO material.

* Was this very unlike her usually supportive mother that she was shocked? In which case you must have a large enough heart to forget this bit which is insignificant compared to her large body of supportive actions. If this was her mother’s usual attitude, she should have developed a thick skin by then. Either way, offering this incident without context seems very unfair to her mother.

* For every such Lucille Bluth mom, there are a hundred other mothers who for the entire duration of 10th to 12th make sure their kids never have to do any chores other than prepare for exams and entrance exams.

* Given the sort of misogyny I saw at NITK, I can’t help feeling her husband being an alumnus is somehow connected to not having it all. No, that’s actually being very unfair to male NITK alumni. But… You my get my point.

* What is this having it all? Girls of my generation dreamt of full time jobs because financial independence and freedom from having to play dutiful daughter in law were things our mothers didn’t have and made it a point to tell us so on every available occasion. We aren’t all CEOs (yet), but we sure don’t think the joy of parenting makes up for lost professional opportunities.

* Would staying home have made Nooyi a better mom? Judging by her mother, I’d guess no.

* My mother sacrificed career for family. But I was a latchkey kid for more than a few years. How? Because my mother was away taking care of my dying grandfather. I wouldn’t see her for days at a stretch. Yeah no, not all those who opt to be stay at home moms are able to devote full attention to their children.

* Oh, and my father sacrificed career for family as well – he turned down several opportunities involving travel to be able to take care of his ailing parents. Why, several male friends of mine want to drop lucrative careers in the West to go back home and take care of their families. Somehow these sacrifices never find a mention anywhere.

* Somehow, the only people I find feeling guilty about not being good mothers are urban, racially privileged, upper middle class women in first world countries. For my maid back home, she doesn’t have the luxury to think twice to leave her kids behind with her parents in their village while she and her husband toil in the city.

* Why is dinner mother’s responsibility? Make the kids help? Several of my mornings were spent whining while cutting vegetables before getting ready for school, while my mother complained about the tomatoes not being chopped fine enough. Others I grew up with did similarly. These women CEOs seem to pamper their kids silly.

* Upper East Side moms seem to palm off child rearing to nannies and don’t seem to die of guilt. Why can’t West Coast CEO moms do the same?

* What annoying child calls her busy mother for permission to play Nintendo? My sister and I did as we pleased, played rough, broke vases, spilled food, but knew enough to clean up before our parents got home. And finished our homework and studied for tests because Amma and Appa would whoop us if we messed up. There was one family friend whose kids wouldn’t let her have a moment of peace. In the days of landlines, when their mother would visit mine, they would repeatedly call whining about the second born wanting to poop, about the first born drinking juice from the fridge…. I know not all children are easy. But at least try to train them?

* What stupid school is this her daughter goes to where mothers are expected to come in every week? How annoying and embarrassing it must be to have your teacher and mother meet in front of all your friends every week.

* If this and other articles are to be believed, everyone before this generation was born to twenty year old stay at home mothers who made dinner every day. My great-aunt worked in the sessions court, her sister in law was some high ranking government official, another great-aunt was a surgeon… And after her husband’s death, my great-great aunt was a cook and nanny in America and South East Asia while her sons stayed with relatives in India…. There were several other ladies who had to work after their husbands suffered poor health or passed away. And my family isn’t even one of those ones where all the women are overachievers and liberated. We were just a lower middle class family trying to get by. These jobs were out of necessity. And they managed fine with husbands and children. Maybe not as fine as we’d like, but certainly not how much Slate, the Atlantic and Salon want us to worry about these decisions.

* If you’re a woman reading this… Chances are, you’re doing just fine. You can rise pretty high in your career if you want, you can have children when you want, and most likely your family will be proud of your achievements. Yeah, you’ll hit a few roadblocks, you’ll be discouraged, you’ll come across misogyny, but overall, there isn’t anyone out there conspiring for you to fail. You can go about your life without much worry. Feminism has a long way to go, but several paths have already been cleared for us.

* Indra Nooyi is an old dingbat on the verge of retirement. Her mother is from an even earlier generation. Are you really going to let a random incident between two ancient relics affect your perception of where women stand in this country, and disregard the miles of progress we’ve made in the sixty years of Nooyi’s lifetime?

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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