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The Myth of ‘Having it All’

Motherhood - working and SAHM

Source: Google images

This blog has been contributed by Kesang Menezes, Faciliator, Parenting Matters

The press is abuzz with articles about Indra Nooyi , CEO, PepsiCo openly admitting that one cannot have it all- have a great career, be a great parent and a great spouse. Finally someone was courageous enough to bust that myth!!  Indra Nooyi’s amazing honesty has come like a breath of fresh air for those of us who kept wondering why we are not able to “do it all”. I had often picked up magazines which had interviews with women in top corporate jobs who talked about how they manage their work- life balance. There would be pictures of them baking cookies with their children and spending “quality time”. And I felt so inadequate.  Even with a part-time job, I often feel I just can’t do justice to my children. What is wrong with me? Am I just not able to manage my time effectively?

When my children are cranky about something, it takes me many hours of listening and observing to find out what it is really all about. They don’t just come and say, “Hey, I am upset because I am being bullied in school”. Sometimes even they don’t even really know what is bothering them. So, as a parent, trying to be there for them does not just mean baking cookies together or playing a board game. It means huge amounts of patience, deep observation and a calm frame of mind for me to understand what I need to do to help my children grow and develop.

And when I am preoccupied with a work deadline, all I can say to them was “Don’t bother me. I’m really busy right now”. I do not have the mental space to understand this little human being who looks to me to meet his or her every need. I do not have the capacity or the time to find out why my child is not able to do her homework, why she is slamming doors, why she does not have any friends…

So would I be able to do all this if I had just managed my time better, like all the top notch corporate women honchos that I was reading about?

The problem is that we don’t see parenting as a huge professional commitment by itself. We see it as something we do along the way as we meet all our other more important goals in life. We do not recognize the skills, knowledge and time we need to raise a child. And hence we mostly “bumble along”. Finally we put so little attention into this task compared to what is required, that it leads to the inevitable result – it is fraught with problems. “My child does not listen”, “My child is always throwing tantrums”, “My child refuses to eat”… Our time with our children is often hell, and many times it’s actually a relief to escape to our air-conditioned cabins and have a cup of coffee without having it being knocked over.  It’s a vicious cycle: parenting quickly becomes the least enjoyable task in our lives. And I would like to go a step further and say that this is a challenge faced not just by women. It is a challenge faced by anybody who wants to really be a parent.  Mom or dad.


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ParentEdge is a bi-monthly magazine for discerning Indian parents who would like to actively contribute to their children’s education, intellectual enrichment and stimulation. The magazine’s premise is that learning is a continuous process, and needs to happen both in and outside of school; thus parents have an important role to play in shaping their children’s interests and intellect.

5 thoughts on “The Myth of ‘Having it All’

  1. Ignatius Fernandez

    Kesang, this is excellent! You have put things in perspective. With good points and a chatty diction you have conveyed much. Thank you. I hope many read your fine article.
    I fully endorse your thinking. What can be more important than nurturing a human being who could be another Albert Einstein or Mozart or John Milton or an Indra Nooyi? What can be better than have a child become a gentleman or lady? The craze for money and recognition is so strong among us that we make compromises rather easily. Perhaps, your article will help readers pause and ponder. God bless.

  2. Vaiajayanti Naik

    So true. I was working for 11yrs before i quit to be stay home mom. My son was 5yrs old then. He is 13yrs old now. I don’t think i wasted eight years of my life raising him. He is a very independent person. He has learnt to cook, bake from me and loves spending his time in the kitchen sometimes :). After all this people ask me what do you do if i say i am a stay home mom, i am immediately forgotten as someone who does nothing the whole day. They would rather have a conversation with my husband then me. I have stopped socialising. Now after 8yrs i am looking for a job to keep me occupied, i am without any experience and the tech know how. So here i am in my middle age with no job at home or outside. Sometimes everything i did feels futile, but watching my son grow up with correct values makes it all good.

  3. meera

    Hi Kesang,

    very well written — !

    I read Indra Nooyi’s article and a couple more where people have commented on her article — like you have mentioned it was such a relief to read her article – honest and thought provoking!

    Having juggled a corporate job and parenting for 11 years, I quit full time work 2 years ago. Initially I was weary and now I feel it was the right decision! When I had my job I justified everything saying ” spending quality time’ with my daughter etc. — but now I have realized quality comes only with quantity as I can see a difference.

    Some days we may manage to do it all — but the question we need to answer is — how did we do it ? Happily, energetically or grumbling, screaming and losing it with our children!

    Parenting is the most important job to be done and the most challenging one — and we need to realize this. I tell my friends now, a full time corporate job seems like a cake walk vs. committed parenting! So give it all you can!

  4. Kesang

    Thanks Ignatius, Vaiajayanti and Meera for your comments. While many of us may look at the outcome- how does my child turn out to be?? I think all of us who invest a lot in parenting will experience what it is to feel deeply connected with your children which is gift of a life time!! Working with parents i feel very strongly about how this task is not given the importance it deserves in society. Kesang

  5. Kritika Srinivasan

    Ultimately, the choice one makes to be a working mom, or SAHM, or a hybrid – depends on personal choice and cicumstances. There is no one right answer and unfortunately, whatever choice one makes there are always 10 other people to tell you why you are wrong.
    A working mother has to constantly hear about the fact that she is ‘neglecting’ her kids and we forget that she has a right to her own identity and ambitions as well. However, important parenting is, it’s one aspect of life, alongwith many others. Mr. Fernandez points out that, “What can be more important than nurturing a human being who could be another Albert Einstein or Mozart or John Milton or an Indra Nooyi?”. Definitely agree, but take this further – why would you expect the next Indra Nooyi to give up everything and stay at home as soon as she became a mother? After all, as a mother myself, I am educating my daughter because I want her to be able to do anything she wants to tomorrow without anyone telling her otherwise. And then the choice is upto her.
    A SAHM, on the other hand, is constantly looked down upon as doing nothing, and has to put up with – ‘How do you keep yourself busy the whole day?!”. As Meera rightly points out, parenting demands quality as well as quantity, and the SAHM mother is able to give that to her child. And really, even if she does nothing the whole day, how is it anyone’s business, aside from her family’s, who one assumes are happy with her choices?
    I guess what I am trying to say is, that all mothers are 100% mothers and are doing the best they can given their circumstances, own desires, etc. We have had a society of SAHMs and working mothers for quite a few years now, other countries as well, and you know what? Most kids turn out pretty okay as long as they are loved – and all mothers give them more than enough of that!


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