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Of A Million Indra Nooyis And Their Mothers

Posted: July 11, 2014

Pepsi Co President Indra Nooyi’s mother asked her to leave the crown in the garage. As mothers, how supportive would you be of a daughter’s career?

In an interview, Indra Nooyi, top honcho of Pepsico, speaks of what women of Indian heritage will identify with – the family that encourages further education, but also pushes for early marriage (and motherhood). She jokingly talks about the conflict between the biological clock and career aspirations and how one can never really ‘have-it-all’.

She also talks about an evening, when she was told by her mother to go back and buy milk before she could enter the house; when in fact, that evening, she was bursting to tell everyone about her big, fat ascension to being President of Pepsico.

Her mother emphasized that inside the home, she was a wife and mom, while the crown had to stay in the garage.

Postponing the marriage debate

In this interview, I was struck by two things.

The first – the still single ‘unmarried child.’

I grew up in a time when women were waking up to feminism (that’s Ok within limits), Western clothes (appropriate censoring by dads), liberation (ha! You already are !) and free thinking (what’s that?).

I can identify with Ms. Nooyi, whose mom apparently wished her to study further, but wanted her to get married early. Although encouraged by parents to study and ‘go ahead’ in life, we were still largely submissive and bowed to their wishes (after some struggle) when matrimony was discussed. But, I can clearly remember my irritation when the topic was brought up by well-meaning persons of our acquaintance.

Although encouraged by parents to study and ‘go ahead’ in life, we were still largely submissive and bowed to their wishes (after some struggle) when matrimony was discussed.

Fast forward to the present day – young women now are definitely more competitive, career oriented and focused on creating their own identity, income and niche in their chosen fields. Nothing else has changed except that young girls are being badgered about their ‘shaadi’ and biological clock at least five to seven years later.

Guilty as charged

During a family gathering, a savvy young woman of twenty-five, a medical professional was asked if she would like to look at prospective bridegrooms. The person at the other end of her polite negative rejoinder was – yours truly.

An hour or so of ruminating about this incident brought me face to face with some very unpleasant facts (about myself and others like me).

  1. Women who were the “brides” back then, are the mothers, aunts, neighbours and ‘well-wishers’ for the present-day women. So the nosey parker that I had resented twenty-five years ago was now me, reincarnated!

  2. Regardless of the situation, it never, ever fails to help if one merely puts oneself in the shoes of the person that one is ‘helping-out’. Would you have liked it if such questions were asked of you or your loved ones?

  3. The woman in question, in my case, is someone who is as close as a daughter to me. But the closeness of your perceived relationship to a person should not make you overstep boundaries.

  4. Questions about biological clock and ‘needing’ to be married are moot, since young women today are well aware of the pitfalls of what they can, should, will do.

  5. In any case, marriage is too big a step to consider for reasons such as society, clocks (biological or others) and threats of ‘loneliness’ in old age. Some married women that I know are very lonely, while some singles have a great social life.

So, my advice to all the aunties (me included), and neighbours who enquire about the unmarried girls of a family would be, GET A LIFE!

The second aspect: a career for your daughter

When you educate your daughter, and encourage her to get a degree, you are an equal partner in her success. Remember that extra inch that you went to see that she had the best coaching, all those nights that you stayed up with her for her exams, those tears of joy that you shed when she did well? That means that you have an equal stake in her career and success.

…when she starts to climb up that ladder that was blueprinted by you, don’t stand there at the bottom rattling it and shaking it. Hold it steady for your daughter the way you would for your son.

So, when she starts to climb up that ladder that was blueprinted by you, don’t stand there at the bottom rattling it and shaking it. Hold it steady for your daughter the way you would for your son.

Don’t ask what she cooked for her hubby and kids and compound her “mommy-guilt” and “spouse-guilt”. Ask her what accolades she won at work.

Don’t ask if she attends PTA in that accusatory tone. Ask if she had time for lunch amidst the flurry of meetings she had at the office.

Don’t judge her if the planning of the birthday party or family gathering was a little shaky. Offer to help out, instead.

Don’t look at her with “How could You” eyes when she has to work when her child is sick. Drop in and give her a hand!

Don’t ask her to run out and buy milk when she is tired. Break out the milk powder! And make do.

Share her triumphs and disasters at home and work. Give a firm shoulder to cry upon and bequeath her a spine that will stand up to the greatest storms. Your role as a mother does not ever end. If you can do that for your son as well as your daughter, that makes YOU a great mom!

If you manage that for your daughter-in-law as well, then Kya Baat Hai!

Pic credit: World Economic Forum (Used under a CC license) 

Hi. I am an anaesthetist by profession living and working in Mumbai. I truly love

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  1. Pingback: INDRA NOOYI And Her MOTHER- Some Comments | ujwalasblog

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