“I don’t think women can have it all, you just cope said Indra Nooyi, one of the world’s most powerful women the 58-year old Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo and mother of two daughters on an interview earlier this week…….
It set me thinking…how do millions -including yours truly – of working women “cope”? I decided to pen a few thoughts on this with regard to my own life. I read somewhere that one has to be a contortionist to play all the roles life demands. To an extent, I guess it’s true especially if you are a working mom.
There is no magic formula to decide how much time is too little and how much is too much whether its the time you give to home or to work. Each one has a different type of job, different deadlines, and different family commitments. How one integrates all these into a meaningful and fulfilling balance is what the whole journey is about.
At the outset I had decided that I would build a career of my own. Being married to an Army Officer who was pursuing a demanding and challenging career of his own as we started our life together, I joined the forces myself. I had no plans to be on the national stage, but wanted to have a professionally satisfying career.
My MBBS degree and marriage are of the same vintage as is my daughter’s age and that of my MD degree. So you can see that I believed in parallel milestones in my personal and professional life very firmly!
Coping with major crises like serious illnesses or financial crunches are easier I feel, it has to be handled and it is done. It’s the daily day to day routine and nitty-gritty that causes the wear and tear.
I have 2 kids and starting with the morning blitzkrieg as I woke them up with their favorite Cuppa , I made sure that I was involved with their lives as much as I could be. I always had a live-in help, but that was all they were expected to do- HELP. From making the daily “tiffin” to getting stuff they needed for school, I liked to do it myself. I would then rustle up a lunch before leaving the house for my own work. The maid would help with the cleaning up after my cooking….. that was their role and also to step in when I was out on emergencies or travel.
Dinner time as is in most households, was bonding time and I would always try to make a dinner that catered to their “interesting foods” list but still managed to be nutritious. There were days when we had to manage with bread and eggs or even the notorious Maggi noodles but such days were few and far in between. If the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, so is the way to kiddos hearts. As my kids grew up, so did my culinary expertise, or at least that is what I would like to think!!! I got this idea from my husband who staunchly pronounced anything I “dished out” as ‘excellent stuff ‘! I enjoyed cooking and it made me feel very “mommyish ” as well. Recipe books became a favorite buy and a new dish frequent time pass!
My husband would be away often on work or we would be posted to different places. The kids were always a part of my baggage and one of the reasons I chose ObsGyn as my specialty was so that all stations I was posted to would allow me to take them along being a “family station”. Even when we stayed alone, our forays to the local malls and theatres would continue though mostly during the day and early evenings on weekends.
We exchanged notes on books movies and shared TV time. I could never convince them that Enid Blyton was a great author, but it was not for want of trying! I sat through almost all the Harry Potter series whereas they accompanied me to Jodha Akbar and the like! To date I always have a few of their favorite songs on my mobile as well and make it a point to know what is their current favorite. Their interests whether my sons passion for video games or my daughters for riding was always indulged in and attended to as well. I got familiar with the jargon used in each . Technology and internet were used as a part of building bridges across the generation gap. And guess what – I got hooked as well!
All Rosy? Heck, No!!
This is not to say everything went off in clockwork fashion. There were ” I-want-to-pull-my-hair-out days… “why-did-I- ever-think-this-could-work” days. There were crises when the maid decided she had enough of me or vice versa. There was many an evening and many a weekend that never went the way I planned it. Social events would sometimes have to be missed – a no-no in the forces.
Despite securing an Univ first rank In MD, I never did any post PG Fellowships. I cut short my tenures in teaching hospitals so that I could ask for a (Com)passionate / spouse posting. So, the lists on both sides are endless where work interfered with home and career prospects were given a miss to accommodate family time. But there are no regrets.
My kids have been wonderful … they learnt at an early age that I would be gone for varying lengths of time … but they also knew that when I was at home, I was all theirs and so was my attention. In the midst of all this, I also needed to find “Me-Time” .. to read / listen to music or watch the idiot box. I did this mostly at night once the household had settled down into deep slumber. I also had to find time to be with my husband – a glue that holds all marriages together.
All kinds of juggling requires time energy effort and commitment. A few apples are likely to slip as well .. just make sure the majority stay within your grasp. the same applies as you don the hats of a wife, mother and career person.
A support system is an integral part of this constant juggling and I must say I have been singularly lucky. My safety net comprised of my husband friends and family. My husband has always encouraged me to pursue my profession as sincerely as I liked to and to that extent, he has been the wind beneath my wings. My mother was there whenever I felt the need and I will always be indebted to her for that . My sisters and my special friend/s have been my sounding board as well as stress-busters.
So we come back to my title question – It possibly depends on one’s own definition of “all”… if one wants to do a full time job as well as full time parenting….. its physically impossible but it is definitely possible to build a career while being actively and fulfillingly involved with your family and friends as well as your hobbies and passions.Its just a matter of time management.
Yes, we can! We do!