A friend had recently forwarded me a link to an article a few days ago and it was a very interesting read. I think it’s one of those things that you know for face value in the back of your mind, but it’s hard to really grasp it until you find yourself in the thick of it.
The original article can be read here. This is an interview of Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s CEO, during the Aspen Ideas Festival last week. She gives a very candid response to the questions about balancing her professional and personal life which I appreciated.
Everyone has a huge burden of providing for sustainability and living. Which I don’t think men are any less exempt to the problems of raising a family and moving up in the working force, we all share that burden. But I believe that, even if it is a tiny bit more, women may have a stronger feeling of responsibility of making sure that the domestic operations of their lives are running on course. It might be because of cultural upbringings, societal norms, and/or maybe it’s natural motherly instincts – but from observation, many girls do feel like that they have a large responsibility of bringing order within the home.
I may not be in any place near of becoming a CEO or raising a family, but I do have hopes for myself professionally, and if it is in my path to get married and have a family – there will have to be a day when I need to figure out who I’m going to be. One thing I could only think of as I was reading the article was, “there’s just not enough time in a day…”
Watching my mom, a single woman raising 4 kids (me, my brother, and my 2 cousins), I wonder how she has the time to get everything done. Luckily she’s her own boss and runs her own interior architect business from home so at least she doesn’t have to commute. But even looking back when I was in my confused pre-teen years, watching her work, go to school, nag, come to my school plays, make sure i’m eating correctly, feed the dog, be a wife (back when she was still married to my dad), be a daughter-in-law, be a daughter, be a friend, cook, clean, and read Korean mangas in bed, it was incredible to witness how much a person was able to accomplish running on 3-4 hours of sleep for 3 years.
And yes, as Indra had mentioned in her interview, my mom wasn’t the best at being a mom. I don’t blame her, she did what she could to the best of her ability. If she wanted to get straight A’s in design school (which she did), she didn’t have time to pick me up from school, ask me about my hobbies, put on elaborate birthday parties for me, she wasn’t always on top of her grocery shopping, nor spending time with her family. It didn’t help that the marriage was shaky, always fighting and my dad being so negative about everything she did. Even if everything was going well it already sounds difficult enough, but to have somebody constantly drag you down, I cannot even imagine how many times she might have wanted to give up on everything.
But she didn’t.
Yes, on the wife thing possibly, but considering everything else, she didn’t give up.
Women have fought so hard for girls like me to have a shot at being the best in our fields and play in the big leagues, but there are still so many challenges that are up ahead. Growing up in a culture where everything is about learning as much as I can, being and doing as much as I can, I feel very suffocated by the idea that I might have to sacrifice all that I’ve wanted to do so that my life is in balance. I am sure that might play a large role in why people marry later in life. I keep telling myself I’m not ready to give it up yet.
I look around and so many people around me are posing to show that they have it all together. Well I don’t really know if they’re posing to be perfect, that is me jumping the gun I do admit, but it sounds virtually impossible for somebody to love cleaning, ironing shirts, and love politics! It sounds ridiculous, but maybe I am judging too quickly. I feel like there’s more and more girls out there that are highly involved with fashion, chow down beast mode, is either artsy, crafty, a good cook, or have some sort of an artistic talent, have a can-do-dont-care-but-still-care kind of conflicting attitude about social conventions, and just don’t have a good grasp of who they are in all their flaws and fabulousness. We try so hard to be under the category “all of the above” when it’s not natural. Not everyone of course, it’s just an observation. My main point is that we try so hard to spread ourselves so thin across the spectrum that we can fall into the danger of believing that’s what makes a person perfect and get disappointed with ourselves when we fail.
But I don’t blame them even if they are pretending, because when I talk to some guys out there, they are looking for the perfect woman. You run down their ideal form of a woman, especially in Christian men, it sounds something like this: they have to be pretty/well kept, is a family person, loving, caring, cooking and organizational skills is a major plus, be a boss and make money, needs to have experience in life, have an interesting personality, independent, loves God and is very involved at church, artistic, intelligent, loves children, doesn’t gossip or complain too much, love outdoor activities and full of energy, and other expectations that really just sound like the perfect Mom, Lover, Friend, and Leader all in one. And you know what? Women can be all of that and above, that’s the amazing part. But it definitely should not be pressured upon us to excel and be perfect in all those areas.
I think about all of this and I personally am very turned off by the idea of constantly trying to play the perfect role and having a high risk of failure, that’s like being every character in your own musical – that already sounds like a recipe for disaster, who’s going to harmonize?
But the article was very sobering, and thinking about my mom is very sobering. It definitely is not impossible and there must be something worthwhile for someone to choose to be in such straining conditions. I asked my mom how she does it everyday, and she simply said that she doesn’t know but an advice is that you never lose sight of what’s important to you and you always continue to hope that what you’re doing now is going to make a difference for the future.
I believe now, more than ever, how important it is to have the right people in our lives to make something like this possible. Hopefully, men will have a better understanding now than 50 years ago that working and raising a family is a shared burden and there’s no such thing as a “woman’s” job in the house and it’s ok to help out. Hopefully women will have a better understanding that you can’t be perfect all the time and that’s ok, just keep your head up because you’re doing the best that you can and we’re simply awesome.