I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.
I’ll tell you a story that happened when my daughter went to Catholic school. Every Wednesday morning they had class coffee with the mothers. Class coffee for a working woman—how is it going to work? How am I going to take off 9 o’clock on Wednesday mornings? So I missed most class coffees. My daughter would come home and she would list off all the mothers that were there and say, “You were not there, mom.”
The first few times I would die with guilt. But I developed coping mechanisms. I called the school and I said, “give me a list of mothers that are not there.” So when she came home in the evening she said, “You were not there, you were not there.”
And I said, “ah ha, Mrs. Redd wasn’t there, Mrs. So and So wasn’t there. So I’m not the only bad mother.”
That’s both sad and pathetic. When she gets to her deathbed, will Nooyi be glad she spent all that time at the office? Sounds like she regrets it now. But not enough to quit (though by now, her children may be in college, I dunno).
This is something fathers should think about too. My older son just returned from three weeks away at a summer program. It was startling to Julie and me to observe how different the house was without him. And it occurred to us that if he goes to my old boarding school, as he wants to, we will only have him for one more year.
“They grow up so fast,” goes the cliché. But it’s true. I don’t care how professionally successful I am, if I’m ever reduced to deflecting my guilt by saying, “Hey son, I’m as bad as some of the other dads!”, I will consider myself a failure.