The Myth of ‘Having it All’

Written by Kesang Menezes on Thursday, 09 July 2015.

This blog has been contributed by Kesang Menezes, Faciliator, Parenting Matters. Published on

 The press is abuzz with articles about Indra Nooyi , CEO, PepsiCo openly admitting that one cannot have it all- have a great career, be a great parent and a great spouse. Finally someone was courageous enough to bust that myth!! 

Indra Nooyi's amazing honesty has come like a breath of fresh air for those of us who kept wondering why we are not able to "do it all". I had often picked up magazines which had interviews with women in top corporate jobs who talked about how they manage their work- life balance. There would be pictures of them baking cookies with their children and spending "quality time". And I felt so inadequate. Even with a part-time job, I often feel I just can't do justice to my children. What is wrong with me? Am I just not able to manage my time effectively?
When my children are cranky about something, it takes me many hours of listening and observing to find out what it is really all about. They don't just come and say, "Hey, I am upset because I am being bullied in school". Sometimes even they don't even really know what is bothering them. So, as a parent, trying to be there for them does not just mean baking cookies together or playing a board game. It means huge amounts of patience, deep observation and a calm frame of mind for me to understand what I need to do to help my children grow and develop.
And when I am preoccupied with a work deadline, all I can say to them was "Don't bother me. I'm really busy right now". I do not have the mental space to understand this little human being who looks to me to meet his or her every need. I do not have the capacity or the time to find out why my child is not able to do her homework, why she is slamming doors, why she does not have any friends...
So would I be able to do all this if I had just managed my time better, like all the top notch corporate women honchos that I was reading about?
The problem is that we don't see parenting as a huge professional commitment by itself. We see it as something we do along the way as we meet all our other more important goals in life. We do not recognize the skills, knowledge and time we need to raise a child. And hence we mostly "bumble along". Finally we put so little attention into this task compared to what is required, that it leads to the inevitable result – it is fraught with problems. "My child does not listen", "My child is always throwing tantrums", "My child refuses to eat"... Our time with our children is often hell, and many times it's actually a relief to escape to our air-conditioned cabins and have a cup of coffee without having it being knocked over. It's a vicious cycle: parenting quickly becomes the least enjoyable task in our lives. And I would like to go a step further and say that this is a challenge faced not just by women. It is a challenge faced by anybody who wants to really be a parent. Mom or dad.

What are the implications for a society which does not recognize parenting as a task or profession as important as any other? Nobody wants to do it!!! I have seen the reactions of people at a party when I say that I am a stay-at-home mom. There is a hint of disdain in their eyes before they quickly move on to find someone more interesting to talk to. After all, in their eyes, I am merely raising a human being. What could I possibly have to talk about?  It would be so much more interesting to find out about how that other person sells soaps or cars.

We know for a fact that many of the ills in our society – crime, violence, drugs, corruption- are strongly correlated to poor parenting or lack of it. If the task of raising children continues to be devalued, we can only go downhill from here. Conversely, imagine the kind of social change we would see if a whole generation was nurtured and raised with the attention it deserves- to be responsible, ethical, compassionate and non violent.

Coming back to where I first started – Am I suggesting that since Indra Nooyi said it not possible “to have it all”, that all women must choose between having a career and being a parent? Not at all. I am suggesting that we put this fact on the table – that raising children requires the same amount of time, energy and dedication as pursuing a career, and we all have only 24 hours in day. Once we recognize that, as a family we can make choices about who is best suited to do what. Who can be the main bread winner and who can be the primary caregiver? And this can change with time and circumstances? Or would it be possible to share both tasks if both work part-time?

My second suggestion is that we all question our attitude towards the task of raising a child. I had a friend who said, “I am so angry that after doing an MBA, here I am changing diapers.”

I would like to ask her – can the task of selling financial products be more interesting and satisfying than nurturing the development of another human being?

Maybe it truly is for some but more often I think it’s our conditioning and the things that are valued by society which make us think this way.

About the Author

Kesang Menezes

Kesang Menezes has been facilitating parenting groups and workshops since 2004. She believes that small interactive groups are a very powerful tool for learning. She also writes articles for Parent Circle magazine, the Hindu and other publications and has short online videos on Parenting.

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