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Why Women Can’t Have it all

There were many heart tugs as I was listening to the utterly gorgeous Indra Nooyi talk about why women can’t have it all.

I agree. 

And I wondered why I do.

For me, it was because I wanted more. Always. 

When my Aditya, my first born came into our lives, I was in a small town called Vadodara after a business degree from one of the most prestigious business schools in India in the field of Human Resources. In Vadodara they had not heard of XLRI and I was on a pay that was a fourth of what I was earning in my first job which was based in New Delhi. Even so, I wanted to work. And when Aditya was all of 7 months old, I went to work as a “Management Trainee” (after three years under my belt). And I remember coming home and breastfeeding practically “on demand” through the night because I could not express milk!!! I missed what would have been happening through the day and as soon as I came home, there were a million questions… “what did he eat, what did he do, what did I miss”. And I wanted to be in both places!

I missed being there when he bumped his forehead and had to get stitches. 

And then, Sanj came along. I was not there when she casually walked into our underground water tank and nearly drowned. Of course I was a couple of times when she did something similar right under our eyes, but that does not matter. 

I remember getting stressed because my Dad who was visiting would sit patiently at the table with a bowl of cereal because I asked him not to nag me in the morning. He sat there not saying a word, looking down, hoping I would snatch a few mouthfuls before running out of the door. And now, I find myself asking my grown kids if they have had breakfast. 

I missed being able to joyfully run into the open arms of Sanj who would come racing down when she heard the sound of my car drive up back home, in the dark winter nights of Sydney. “Oh, I just want a moment to breathe”… was my head. And I remember how Sanj was doing multiple cartwheels in our home and calling me “a tired little monkey” as I sat on the couch wondering how much more tired I could feel!

I miss the calls for “can you tuck me in and read me a story”… really, gosh you are 13 Aditya. Yes mum, “it is not like you are home to make a snack when I come back from school” he says with a twinkle in his eyes. “I will tell your friends you want a tuck in when you are 13”. Quiet. Emotional Blackmail never worked in my house. I would beg them to come to the beach with us on the weekends, so we could get some quiet together time.

“No Mum”.

“Please, for my sake”.

“No Mum, no emotional blackmail.”

And of course, hubby dear always wanted sex! Really?

My fondest memory is of my son utterly traumatized the day I said I will stop washing his clothes. I found myself on the weekend running through loads of washing and then nagging both kids to put away the clothes I had washed.(And folded).  It occured to me that I want to enjoy my kids, so let’s remove the cause of the nagging, shall  we!

So my stoic resolution kept getting stronger as the pile of clothes grew taller and I had to navigate Mt Everest to go give my kids a morning hug. I loved it. It was fun. 

Work always gave me a high. And was also always a source of nervous, aggressive energy. I remember presenting a case for investing in Leadership and slowing watching people shift, move, being thankful for the experience. I wanted desperately to bring World Cafe into the organisation to prepare our people for transformational changes in the industry and to get them excited about what the future has to offer as opposed to fearful of change… it was big, exciting and I knew exactly how it would play out… so stayed on my bandwagon, getting fretful and frustrated with all the concerns being expressed around the exec table… short of the much needed compassion and belief that may have made the internal stakeholder management so much nicer for everyone. On the day, it was as though time stood still and it was magic as people flowed in and out … the palpable energy in the room and the genuine, heartfelt thank you from my Manager at the time, the MD…and the unending comments after about how powerful the experience was.

And it is at work that I also met some wonderful people. People who I have looked at as mentors, friends, fellow journey people. 

Where I learnt to stay a bit. Linger. Like when Sanj crawled into my bed and I was thinking I have to get out and shower and run to work. I just stayed. Felt the warmth of the hug. And in a moment, she left. And slowly, I got out of bed, went into the shower, replenished.

And it continues on … the constant search for more. I think I learnt it from my father… no fear of consequences. High need for change. Very little ambition. A desire to explore the world. Even if it is only from my armchair!

I have hope. I hope that in India, over the next two weeks I find progress. I can connect to the strong, smart women who are creating and leading change… the Sarpanch in our villages. The woman who decides to leave an unhappy marriage. The woman who dreams big. 

And I think yes, women can’t have it all. And I say thank you. Because if we thought we did, we would not be who we are… constantly looking and fighting for a bigger, better world. 

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