This blog has been contributed by Kesang Menezes, Faciliator, Parenting Matters
I am currently deeply immersed in reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook). It’s a fabulous book in which each chapter is an eye opener about the conscious and not-so-conscious ways in which the world holds back women and how even women hold themselves back. The book inspires me to stand on the rooftops and cheer for women to lean in. Living in India, where the oppression of women is really not subtle at all, the book inspires me to fight hard for women to reach leadership positions, as it is obvious about how that would change the world. I totally share Sheryl’s dream of a world where “our sons and daughters could choose what to do with their lives without external or internal obstacles slowing down their choices”. A world where men could be respected and supported if they choose to do the important work of raising children full time. And women could be respected and supported if they want to work full time outside the home.
My only issue with Sheryl’s worldview is the lack of importance given to the job of parenting. I am a parent educator and I feel very strongly about the fact that we as a society do not pay enough attention to what the task of raising children involves. Don’t we realise that it is the way we raise children which finally determines the kind of society we have tomorrow? And I believe that when children are brought up with immense sensitivity and compassion, when we deepen our awareness with regard to meeting their needs, when every child feels heard and understood and cared for, we will see a society which is just and compassionate.
This is not just my view but that of many leading economists who are now showing us how the quality of care that children receive in early childhood has a direct impact on many social and economic indicators.
Sheryl says that she used research to help her feel comfort in her decision to have other caregivers help her in caring for her children. She quotes research that concludes that “children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers did not develop differently than those who were also cared for by others”. I don’t have the details of the development outcomes and how they were measured, but I can only say from my own experience and my work with parents that it is very, very hard for any parent (man or woman) to do justice to a challenging, high-pressure job and be an effective parent at the same time. In my experience, these are for all practical purposes, irreconcilable. Indra Nooyi, CEO Pepsico, recently made headlines when she spoke publicly about how “We cannot do it all” (parenting and career achievements).