Mother’s dilema

My timelines and feeds recently went on a sharing frenzy of the PepsiCo CEO’s interview, where she states the overstated candidly “Why women can’t have it all?”

If you haven’t already read it, reading further may not make much sense.

Read it here.

I am not outraging here. I might have, on multiple points, IF I had read her interview before becoming a mother; The internet and my timelines have raised questions on why a male CEO has it all,or why no one really has it all or even a more personal prodding of “fair-marriage” questions and concerns that stem from the interview.

I won’t go into any of that just yet. Her responses, to me, a mother who is also juggling a fulltime job, have resonated two points.

First — “Biological clock and career clock are in total complete conflict with each other”

Let me pause. Let me let you read that again with an open mind. If it has irked your inner feminist, who believes no one must tell you when is the right time to have kids or if you must even have one, read again. If you believe a woman’s career goals must not be defined or discriminated by her biological clock, read it again. Read it again, till you have vent your outrage for what the sentence doesn’t stand for.

A woman’s fertility clock and physical-grit for sustaining pregnancy and labor may not understand or wait for a suitable time until her career has taken off satisfactorily. “IF” bearing a child is also on her mind, she may at some point in her life, have to juggle the two together, losing and gaining on both ends, until it evens out.

It is not gender bashing, but until men can also bear a child, birth a child and breastfeed a baby; the onus of choosing and acting on the right time, in one’s life for all of the above, falls on the woman in the relationship. Try denying that as you might!

Which brings me to the second point –“you have to cope, because you die with guilt”

In my son’s first year of his life, I went thru “I want to quit my job and stay home to take care of him” thought every alternate day. His grandparents were taking care of him and not a stranger at day care. Yet, the overwhelming guilt swallowed me day and night.

Again, it is tough to deny that in the initial months or year of a child’s life, the child needs its mother the most. So the bigger brunt of the post-partum child care does fall on the mother more than the father, immediately after birth.

So what happens, after that initial phase of mother-needing and transcending into a fair distribution of child care responsibility between partners?? Here is where I notice a gender stereotype that has been created in our minds by societal functioning for ages.

Fathers probably feel the guilt too, but, society has dictated for years that a man never stays home. He is the eternal bread-winner. So for most of our men, even the idea or thought of quitting and staying home with the children doesn’t figure. Not because they won’t do it if necessary, but because, there has never been a need to!

But mothers on the other hand, are constantly judging ourselves and letting the guilt wash us over. It primarily stems from the fact that women have for eons, stayed home to take care of the family, for many of us, our mothers did the same. So that creates a feeling in the back of our minds that, it is a viable and accepted choice, if I ever have to make it. And for many of us, like me, who couldn’t decide between the two ends, here is where Nooyi, makes her point – We have to cope.

I don’t know when and how i coped with mine, but I know I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband.

Whenever we feel guilty for making a difficult decision for our son; be it letting him stay in day care for 8 hours a day or letting him sleep in his own room, we remind ourselves that “we are a family; all the members must co-exist. We are building a life together and not a life that revolves only around a few members”

We are still figuring the parenting thing. And a few mantras like this have helped us cope.

And as for the “Do we have it all?” question, I say define your ALL and be willing to change it as you go. And probably there you may find the peace to go with it!


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