What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I got this link via BEV. This is Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg delivering the keynote at Barnard College’s 119th Commencement ceremony. I watched it a couple of times and figured I’d share the transcript in case you are interested. Am going to italicise and number the portions that I want to talk about.


Thank you, President Spar. Members of the board of trustees, esteemed members of the faculty, proud parents, squirming siblings, devoted friends: congratulations to all of you. But especially, congratulations to the magnificent Barnard Class of 2011.

Looking at you all here fills me with great joy, in part because my college roommate, a member of your faculty, Caroline Weber, is here. Carrie, it means so much to me to be at your school, and in part because I work in Silicon Valley, let’s just say I’m not usually in a room with this many women. For the wonderful men who are here today, if you feel a little uncomfortable, we’re really glad you’re here, and no line for the men’s room. It’s worth it.

I graduated from college exactly 20 years ago. And as I am reminded every single day where I work, that makes me really old. Mark Zuckerberg, our founder and my boss, said to me the other day, “Sheryl, when do midlife crises happen? When you’re 30?” Not a good day at the office. But I am old enough to know that most of our lives are filled with days we do not remember. Today is not one of them. You may not remember one word I say. You may not even remember who your graduation speaker is, although for the record, Sheryl with an S. You won’t remember that it was raining and we had to move inside. But you will remember what matters, which is how you feel as you sit here, as you walk across the stage, as you start the next phase of your life.

Today is a day of celebration, a day to celebrate all the hard work that got you to this place where you can sit, kind of sweltering in that gown. Today is a day of thanks, a day to thank all the people that helped you get here, the people who nurtured you and taught you, who held your hand, who dried your tears. Today is a day of reflection.

As you leave Barnard today, you leave not just with an education, but you take your place amongst the fortunate. Some of you came here from families where education was expected and emphasized. Others of you had to overcome far more obstacles to get here, and today you become the very first member of your family to graduate from college. What an amazing accomplishment. But no matter where you started, as of today you are all privileged. You are privileged in the most important sense of the word, which is that you have almost boundless opportunity in front of you. So, the question is, what are you going to do with it? What will you do with this education you worked so hard to achieve? What in the world needs to change, and what part do you plan on playing in changing it? (1)

Pulitzer Prize winners Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof visited this campus last year and they spoke about their critically important book, Half the Sky. In that book, they assert that the fundamental moral challenge of the 19th century was slavery; of the 20th century, it was totalitarianism; and for our century, it is oppression of girls and women around the world. Their book is a call to arms, to give women all over the world, women who are exactly like us except for the circumstances into which they were born, basic human rights.

Compared to these women, we are lucky. In America, as in the entire developed world, we are equals under the law. But the promise of equality is not equality. As we sit here looking at this magnificent blue-robed class, we have to admit something that’s sad but true: men run the world. Of 190 heads of state, nine are women. Of all the parliaments around the world, 13% of those seats are held by women. Corporate America top jobs, 15% are women; numbers which have not moved at all in the past nine years. Nine years. Of full professors around the United States, only 24% are women.

I recognize that this is a vast improvement from generations in the past. When my mother took her turn to sit in a gown at her graduation, she thought she only had two career options: nursing and teaching. She raised me and my sister to believe that we could do anything, and we believed her. But what is so sad–it doesn’t just make me feel old, it makes me truly sad–is that it’s very clear that my generation is not going to change this problem. Women became 50% of the college graduates in this country in 1981, 30 years ago. Thirty years is plenty of time for those graduates to have gotten to the top of their industries, but we are nowhere close to 50% of the jobs at the top. (2) That means that when the big decisions are made, the decisions that affect all of our worlds, we do not have an equal voice at that table.

So today, we turn to you. You are the promise for a more equal world. You are our hope. I truly believe that only when we get real equality in our governments, in our businesses, in our companies and our universities, will we start to solve this generation’s central moral problem, which is gender equality. We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.

So my hope for all of you here, for every single one of you, is that you’re going to walk across the stage and get your diploma. You’re going to go out tonight or maybe all summer and celebrate. You deserve it. And then you’re going to lean way into your career. You’re going to find something you love doing, and you’re going to do it with gusto. You’re going to pick your field and you’re going to ride it all the way to the top.

So, what advice can I give you to help you achieve this goal? The first thing is I encourage you to think big. Studies show very clearly that in our country, in the college-educated part of the population, men are more ambitious than women. They’re more ambitious the day they graduate from college; they remain more ambitious every step along their career path. We will never close the achievement gap until we close the ambition gap. (3) But if all young women start to lean in, we can close the ambition gap right here, right now, if every single one of you leans in. Leadership belongs to those who take it. Leadership starts with you.

The next step is you’re going to have to believe in yourself potentially more than you do today. Studies also show that compared to men, women underestimate their performance. If you ask men and women questions about completely objective criteria such as GPAs or sales goals, men get it wrong slightly high; women get it wrong slightly low. More importantly, if you ask men why they succeeded, men attribute that success to themselves; and women, they attribute it to other factors like working harder, help from others. (4) Ask a woman why she did well on something, and she’ll say, “I got lucky. All of these great people helped me. I worked really hard.” Ask a man and he’ll say or think, “What a dumb question. I’m awesome.” So women need to take a page from men and own their own success.

That’s much easier to say than to do. I know this from my own experience. All along the way, I’ve had all of those moments, not just some of the time; I would say most of the time, where I haven’t felt that I owned my success. I got into college and thought about how much my parents helped me on my essays. I went to the Treasury Department because I was lucky to take the right professor’s class who took me to Treasury. Google, I boarded a rocket ship that took me up with everyone else.

Even to this day, I have those moments. I have those moments all the time, probably far more than you can imagine I would. I know I need to make the adjustments. I know I need to believe in myself and raise my hand, because I’m sitting next to some guy and he thinks he’s awesome. So, to all of you, if you remember nothing else today, remember this: You are awesome. I’m not suggesting you be boastful. No one likes that in men or women. But I am suggesting that believing in yourself is the first necessary step to coming even close to achieving your potential.

You should also know that there are external forces out there that are holding you back from really owning your success. Studies have shown–and yes, I kind of like studies–that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. This means that as men get more successful and powerful, both men and women like them better. As women get more powerful and successful, everyone, including women, likes them less.(5)

I’ve experienced this firsthand. When I first joined Facebook, there was a well-read blog out in the Valley that devoted some incredibly serious pixels to trashing me. Anonymous sources called me a liar, two-faced, about to ruin Facebook forever. I cried some when I was alone, I lost a bunch of sleep. Then I told myself it didn’t matter. Then everyone else told me it didn’t matter, which just reminded me of one thing: they were reading it too. I fantasized about all kinds of rejoinders, but in the end, my best and only response was just to do my job and do it well. When Facebook’s performance improved, the trash talk went away.

Do I believe I was judged more harshly because of my double-Xs? Yes.(6) Do I think this will happen to me again in my career? Sure. I told myself that next time I’m not going to let it bother me, I won’t cry. I’m not sure that’s true. But I know I’ll get through it. I know that the truth comes out in the end, and I know how to keep my head down and just keep working.

If you think big, if you own your own success, if you lead, it won’t just have external costs, but it may cause you some personal sacrifice. Men make far fewer compromises than women to balance professional success and personal fulfillment. That’s because the majority of housework and childcare still falls to women. If a heterosexual couple work full time, the man will do–the woman, sorry–the woman will do two times the amount of housework and three times the amount of childcare that her husband will do.(7) From my mother’s generation to mine, we have made far more progress making the workforce even than we have making the home even, and the latter is hurting the former very dramatically. So it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is. If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further. A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world.

I have a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. I want more choices for both of them. I want my son to have the choice to be a full partner not just at work, but at home; and I want my daughter to have a choice to do either. But if she chooses work, to be well-liked for what she accomplishes. We can’t wait for the term “work/life balance” to be something that’s not just discussed at women’s conferences.

Of course not everyone wants to jump into the workforce and rise to the top. Life is going to bring many twists and turns, and each of us, each of you, have to forge your own path. I have deep respect for my friends who make different choices than I do, who choose the really hard job of raising children full time, who choose to go part time, or who choose to pursue more nontraditional goals. These are choices that you may make some day, and these are fine choices.

But until that day, do everything you can to make sure that when that day comes, you even have a choice to make. Because what I have seen most clearly in my 20 years in the workforce is this: Women almost never make one decision to leave the workforce. It doesn’t happen that way. They make small little decisions along the way that eventually lead them there. Maybe it’s the last year of med school when they say, I’ll take a slightly less interesting specialty because I’m going to want more balance one day. Maybe it’s the fifth year in a law firm when they say, I’m not even sure I should go for partner, because I know I’m going to want kids eventually.

These women don’t even have relationships, and already they’re finding balance, balance for responsibilities they don’t yet have. And from that moment, they start quietly leaning back. The problem is, often they don’t even realize it. (8) Everyone I know who has voluntarily left a child at home and come back to the workforce–and let’s face it, it’s not an option for most people. But for people in this audience, many of you are going to have this choice. Everyone who makes that choice will tell you the exact same thing: You’re only going to do it if your job is compelling.

If several years ago you stopped challenging yourself, you’re going to be bored. If you work for some guy who you used to sit next to, and really, he should be working for you, you’re going to feel undervalued, and you won’t come back. So, my heartfelt message to all of you is, and start thinking about this now, do not leave before you leave. Do not lean back; lean in. Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision, and then make a decision. That’s the only way, when that day comes, you’ll even have a decision to make.

What about the rat race in the first place? Is it worthwhile? Or are you just buying into someone else’s definition of success? Only you can decide that, and you’ll have to decide it over and over and over. But if you think it’s a rat race, before you drop out, take a deep breath. Maybe you picked the wrong job. Try again. And then try again. Try until you find something that stirs your passion, a job that matters to you and matters to others. It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness.(9)

At Facebook we have a very broad mission. We don’t just want you to post all your pictures of tonight up there and use Facebook to keep in touch, even though we want that, so do a lot of that. We want to connect the whole world. We want to make the whole world more open and more transparent. The one thing I’ve learned working with great entrepreneurs–Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google–that if you want to make a difference, you better think big and dream big, right from day one.

We try at Facebook to keep all of our employees thinking big all day. We have these posters in red we put around the walls. One says, “Fortune favors the bold.” Another says, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” That question echoes Barnard alum Anna Quindlen, who said that she majored in unafraid. Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face–and there will be barriers–be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold, and I promise that you will never know what you’re capable of unless you try. (10)

You’re going to walk off this stage today and you’re going to start your adult life. Start out by aiming high. Like everyone here, I have great hopes for the members of this graduating class. I hope you find true meaning, contentment and passion in your life. I hope that you navigate the hard times and you come out with greater strength and resolve. I hope that whatever balance you seek, you find it with your eyes wide open. And I hope that you–yes, you–each and every one of you have the ambition to run the world, because this world needs you to run it. Women all around the world are counting on you. I’m counting on you.

I know that’s a big challenge and responsibility, a really daunting task, but you can do it. You can do it if you lean in. So go home tonight and ask yourselves, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” And then go do it. Congratulations, 2011.


So… ladies and gentlemen. Let us discuss. 40 marks for theory and 60 marks on the practicals :p

1. What will you do with your education and how will you change your world? I find this one a rather loaded question. How do you define change and how do you define world? I do agree Facebook has changed the world but the more I look around the more I see most of us plodding on in meaningless jobs and wait – they are meaningless not to me, but to those who hold them. Always whining about how they hate the job but must do it. Are you truly using your education and changing the world? Think about it.

2. We’ve heard this one often enough. We already know the reason. Yes, 50% of women should have the top jobs and there is a glass ceiling that most women don’t have the strength to take on. Mostly because at any given time there is so much else to do that men aren’t handling – missing maids, in-laws, sick children, husbands who don’t pull their share of weight at home. Nothing is impossible – but at some point juggling all those balls in the face of so much opposition gets too much.

3. Very true. Only two days ago a rather slim girl I was talking to, said something to the effect of – I only need to stay slim till I get married. I was shocked. This was the height of her ambition. No job, not even a personal desire to stay fit. Why do we expect so little of ourselves. I often have people telling me that I try to fit too much into a day. And I guess this is my personal ambition. To do everything. Maybe not be the best at one particular thing because then you have to focus on it. But to die, knowing that I have tried everything I wanted and fitted it all into my life. Choose your ambition, I’d say. And don’t let anyone else define it for you. Not even Sheryl Sandberg. If you studied literature because it interested you and not because you wanted to be a professor or writer, that is fine. But if you do want to be that professor, don’t let anyone get in the way. Not even yourself.

4. True this, too. The moment people compliment me on a well kept house or slow tracking my career for the kids or something, I instinctively get uncomfortable with the praise and start dragging the OA in for his share saying – Oh, I’d never have done it without his support or some such shit. I should just grin and say  Thank you. And I will, starting today. Similarly, read an interview with any of the biggest names in the corporate world and they will all tell you how their inlaws helped raise the kids, their husband stayed home when they were travelling etc. How many men will tell you who attended the PTA meeting while they were jet setting? And last of all, the SAHMs too. Compliment them on their choice and they will promptly smile and say they can afford to it because their husband is earning enough. The truth is, there is never enough. These women would have made the same choice even if their husband were earning more or less (as would I) because this is the person they are. But we are still too reluctant to stand up, accept our due, and be proud of our choices, our strength and our achievements.

5 & 6. This one never fails to bother me. Why are powerful women less liked? Is it because traditionally women are not meant to be in positions of power? What about people like the Rani of Jhansi or Razia Sultana? Were they hated too? Is it because strong women aren’t feminine? Is it because women are meant to be feminine as opposed to strong and masterful? Are feminine and strong mutually exclusive? What is feminine? Are we still defining it? Why do even men, let M&Bs define roles for them?

7. Much though I love the OA I must confess he didn’t do half the housework I did when I was working and we were in Delhi. On the other hand, I’d already taken a flexible job and sort of set myself up to be the one point person for everything anyway. So I blame myself. I should have gone to work and let the house fall around our ears, let him come home to no meals, piles of laundry, inches of dirt and more. But I think a lot of this is to do with the fact that homes are still defined by women. He grew up in a tiny 2 bhk that was functional at best. I grew up in a house spread across acres, with brass and silver shining and wooden floors that a man spent a day polishing, with napkins and butlers and a head cook and two gardeners. Even if the OA made his peace with the filth I allowed to build up, I couldn’t have dealt with it. To say nothing of the fact that my kids would be growing up in that mess and dirt. It might have been easier before we had kids. We’ve worked ourselves into a corner and now we need to push out. But with the way work hours are in India its not easy. The OA is rarely home before 8.30 and living in Gurgaon has just made it impossible to have any semblance of work and life balance. If I go to fulltime work our kids will be raised solely by hired help and our home will go to rack and ruin. Which brings us back to the first question – what really is my ambition?

8. So true this one. The first time I quit my job to move with the OA it was because he earned more than me. But I should never have let that be the definer. A job and a career is what it is, and who earns more should never be the question. But I reminded myself that I wanted kids, that I wanted out of Bombay’s rains and small homes so that my kids could have a lawn to play in and if that meant quitting, I’d do it. As she said, I leaned back when I should have been leaning in. We had the Brat a year later – but I am no longer sure what I should have done. I know kids are raised in all parts of the world but I stepped back thinking already, not of myself even, but the fact that my children should grow up with wide open spaces to run about in.

9. Find something that combines passion and contribution. Now again – contribution is hard to define. Are you contributing to society by raising your kids well? I think you are. If you feel you are the best suited for it and no maid or daycare, more power to you. Are you passionate about it? Great. Do you think you will excel at your job? Go right ahead and excel – but find one that you are passionate about.

10. Never let fear overwhelm desire. You hear this often but how often do you identify fear for what it is. We find excuses for a lot of our choices, we justify, but we refuse to accept that we were unwilling to take that one brave step into the unknown. A good friend still tells me she let go of the man she loved because she was scared he wouldn’t earn enough. At that point (when she was making the choice and I was urging her to follow her heart) she kept on about the importance of keeping your family happy, tradition, keeping culture alive blah blah. And married a man her parents chose. They’re okay today. Like all couples married ten years they know each other well, are good human beings so make the effort to keep their marriage going and have kids they focus on. But we have long chats over coffee and things pop up – fear that she would have nowhere to go if things didn’t work out, fear that her parents would hate her, fear that he wouldn’t earn enough to support her in the style she is accustomed to – mostly though, she hadn’t been taught to trust herself. She didn’t trust herself with such a big choice. Isn’t that sad? In the midst of all this I want to remember to teach my kids to trust their choices and their instincts.

I love the last line and I ask all of you – What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Give me an honest answer.


207 thoughts on “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

  1. I loved it MM – thanks for sending this. I should print this out and keep it in front of me. And ask KG to read it as she grows up. I did not make choices to balance work life before I needed to but I feel like I should have known what I would have wanted with kids. I never ever thought I would make the choice to stay home to raise kids – I didn’t expect that feeling from myself. But fear overwhelming desire is so true of me now. I need to ponder on this one…

    • I think that is true for many of us. I remember the fiercely independent feminist I was and I can’t reconcile it with the mushy mother I am. And I realise this is as feminist as it gets too. To make my choices and stand up for what I believe in and do the best that I can

      • I wasn’t one way or another…feminist or otherwise. Just that I never ever thought I would not be working when I had kids. But in a way I feel like I should have “leaned back” then and not have done a PhD. If I had known then this is how I will feel when I had kids, I would have done things differently. I am trying hard to not feel embarrassed about having done it. And to now be sitting at home raising kids. Much as my choice now is clear in that regard. In a way it is better to know yourself and plan accordingly. Feels like all those years of slogging was not worth it. You have a sense of having done something may be but practically the time investment was not worth it. But the only way I find some sense of it – as to why things happened that way is that my kids were supposed to happen when they did. Got to console yourself somehow. Underestimating one’s abilities, fear…all those are things to work on. And somehow I pray that I am able to instill that courage in both my kids – I worry more about KB in that regard even though he is a boy – because he is so hard on himself.

        • Don’t say that yaar. It’s not just time wasted. You got an education. You grew as a person. It was an experience. You brought back something from it that you will apply to your real life. Your kids will learn a lesson from this too. That you didnt stay home to care for them because you an uneducated fool who didn’t have a choice. But an educated woman who chose to focus her energies on raising them. Can you imagine anything better?

          • All that is true. I definitely feel I can pass on the awareness I have because of my experience as to how important it is to be aware of who you are as a person and how important time, especially time you have in your youth is.
            But I would have spent my time differently then had I known this was the choice I wanted to make…(what I meant by “leaning back” as she says) when I was working I was strongly under the influence of academicians who I admired so much that I went in that path…but I should have paused more and thought about what I really wanted to accomplish with my life and how I want to structure it. In that sense, I am really happy about having made that choice and having had the privilege of being able to be with the kids in their early childhood years fully. It is entirely personal choice and at least the one thing I don’t have regrets about.

          • i like this exchange between noon and you MM.

            Noon, I feel the way you did about somethings I feel that when one has spent time learning something…be it a course in MBA or Engineering or pottery class or stitching. One should make use of that knowledge. I’ve noticed that when one does not use something, it’s easily forgotten.

            Also, I struggle with the Q about where it is fair for one to study and not use their studies, given how high the cut-offs in college are today. Isn’t it better for one who knows that they will eventually not pursue it for whatever reason…to lean back and let those who NEED that seat , get it? n yes….the experience does teach one a lot, but can one justify taking up an entire course that is expensive and time-consuming and in-demand just for the experience of it? Wouldn’t it be better to spend one’s time learning something that will be more relevant and useful to the lifestyle that one chooses? So in that sense, I think it’s good to have a sense of what one wants and ones priorities early on in life.

            N don’t get me wrong.. I respect women who make the decision to step away from what was once their aspiration and goal to take care of their kids. I can’t imagine how tough that decision will be when and if I get to that phase in my life.

            • ouch ouch ouch!!! My two paise worth

              1. I believe that knowledge is never lost – only information is forgotten. Knowledge is forever.
              2. What do you call making use? Would teaching your child something or using that knowledge to help your neighbour, not be useful? What about people who take exams, hold down jobs but don’t have their heart in what they are doing? Who don’t innovate or step out of their comfort zone to do more?
              3. Cut-offs are high because the marking system is lax and because people spend hours mugging and taking tuition. We need more good colleges. Seats should go to those who clear the exam – because they clearly are interested and good at it. If good people dropped out to make space for those who are less good but will swear to stick to the job we’d have loads of sub-standard people building bridges that collapse, killing patients and losing our cases.
              4. How do you define need? Does my maid need a job or the high flying executive who heads the soap section at Unilever?
              5. How can you ever tell whether you will eventually not pursue it? What if you have a child with special needs or an inlaw who has a paralytic stroke and needs care?
              6. What if you just change your mind when confronted with a situation? Can you ever predict exactly how you will react to a situation?
              7. Is it fair to pressurise people into certain choices when what they want is perfectly legal and doesn’t harm others? It’s like telling someone to adopt instead of wasting money on fertility treatments. Its their money, their body and their choice, no? Can we put pressure on them saying, but it’s for the better, for the good of society? That a poor child needs them to adopt her just as some desperate kid wants that seat?
              8. Do you at 16 (when preparing for your medical exams) already have an idea of what you will want to do at 30 when you want to have a child? Can you tell what life will bring your way? You might step back and not take the entrance and then at 30 realise that you are financially weak and need a job. Then what?

              Just a few questions that came to my mind when I read your comment. I know you mean no disrespect, so don’t worry about that disclaimer. After all we’re having a nice healthy discussion here.. no one is going to get upset over it.

          • ***not letting my respond to the exact comment ***

            1. Honestly, I struggle to u’stand the difference between knowledge and information. I feel like its pota`to , potAA-to . When we teach li’l ones how to calculate LCM, HCF or other concepts that we don’t use a lot in day-to-day life I have often seen the adult(including myself) refer to the fact that they are re-learning these concepts as they teach the child. That they had forgotten all about it. Recently I was studying for my PMP certification and when I read about the motivational theories, found myself having a ‘vague’ recollection of studying all this while doing my management course. My ma used to teach us Hindi as li’l children but somehow over the years, thanks to hardly conversing in it, she has forgotten the language. And hence I say one forgets what one does not use…knowledge or information.

            2.Teaching your child does qualify as using one’s studies. But given how fast-paced and competitive and complex courses are, I don’t think we can teach anything more than basic education at home. Fundamental or basic education , ALL need to have. But what is taught in a PHD course or Post-grade course cannot be taught at home, n that’s the knowledge that one gains by investing a lot of time and money. N I’m talking about the use of that knowledge. Again it is sad , if one completes such a course only to find out that it doesn’t interest them and that’s not what they want to do in life. I don’t think they are to be blamed for it, but it would have been beneficial for them and others who are truly interested in that field, if the area of interest was known in advance.

            3.Cut-offs are also high ‘coz this generation is more competitive MM. when I got a 91% in my Class xiii 10 yrs back, I was applauded for it. But today, its passé. U score in the 70s and your only average. Like you say , yes, seats should go to students who clear the exam, are clearly interested and are good at it . But what’s the use ( to oneself or the world )of the interest and Excellency if one only studies the course and doesn’t pursue it ? What if one is average and does not clear the entrance exam or cannot afford to even write it or afford the course , but yet willing to study hard and aspires to be a Doctor….and well continue to work as one VS one who is brainy and has the money but eventually doesn’t need the earnings from it , so doesn’t work in that field after studying?

            4. Need is someone who has the interest and knowledge in a field and needs the income from it. Not one who has the interest, knowledge, money and time to study , but lacks the passion or necessity for the job which follows the studies.

            5, 6 & 8. I u’stand that its hard n almost impossible to predict what is to come or reaction to it. That’s why I say it would be NICE if one had an inkling of one’s goals and likes in advance, so they can start planning early. The author says that one shouldn’t lean back and I am saying there is nothing wrong with leaning back, if one is fortunate enough to recognize their goals in advance. One can’t forsee certain events in life..and one must do what they have to , to deal with it. These are special cases and I’m not referring to the examples for this discussion.

            7. I think there is a miscommunication MM. I’m NOT blaming those who choose to do something different with one’s life. I know that even for them, most times, it’s a discovery . I’m just saying that leaning back may actually be a good thing for the few who do have an idea of what their life will look like. If my only goal in life is to be a good home-maker and mom, there is no point in me spending my 20s studying to be a scientist. N no…not fair to pressurize anyone to do or not do anything. that’s not how I intended it. It’s just my view on something, that I was sharing.

            Infact I think this response may be contradicting some of the things I said in my very first response to this post and I’m okay with that ‘coz its making me think and debate with myself. I love this discussion. Thanks for the post and providing the forum. Appreciate it.

      • Is that what feminism all about…women being able to make their own choices, informed choices no matter what they are? Feminism is an ideology and like every other ideology it can be something that influences for your actions/ responses to a large. It shouldn’t become you….the whole fundamentalism in every ism creeps in then and suddenly the thought that started with a radical thought can’t be questioned any longer …and that’s just a thought :p

  2. I have not read the post completely.. but I am soooo glad that you have written this.. I read a profile on her some days ago and was left with mixed feelings (more negative than positive) about whatever she talks.. I have a feeling that this is merely a talk given because you are seen as a beacon of light for women(!) in the male dominated(!) silicon industry .. and you have to sound successful and new!

    Thought this would be of interest

    • 😀 ok now after reading the post.. my 2 cents sound so out of context.. dont want to take it away from what you have written here.. Just that I was reading this sometime back and saw this blog post.. And yes I agree to all those you have pointed out..

      • Not at all. I agree. All successful women seem to have the need to sound a certain way. What they don’t realise is that there is no formula to success. Each of our circumstances is so different…

  3. what an apt time for me to read this post and answer this question.. i introspect and figure out, i am really not afraid of anything, have done things fearlessly without realizing how courageous steps they were. defying parents to get into MBA when they threatened that they will throw me out of house if i did so, married the man of my choice (and you know how frightened i was), and quitting my job to bring up my kids. so really somehow today i can say that i am no more frightened…. and i feel so light and happy. only one thing i will do more…. support my brother in his choice of better half… and i hope i will be able to do it equally fearlessly

    • your brother has chosen a lovely girl. I hope you guys stand by him. I’m here for him as I was for you, for what that is worth. We’ve been there, done that and i know what hell is going to break lose once your grandma hears of it!

      • my grandmother, this society… no they are no more a fear factor for me, the only fear i have with my bro’s better half is that whether she will let him love us like this or not coz she hates it when he talks to me or someone else while he is talking to her. she wants 100% of his time and devotion and is completely against letting him take care of his family even if need arises. becoz she has herself said all this… i am afraid that she will never try to mend relationship with our side of family after their marriage and i will loose my brother.

        • Times are changing sweetheart. Girls no longer feel that they need to fall over their feet to make themselves acceptable to a boy’s family. More power to them. You and I made the mistake of making ourselves too cheap. Begging to be accepted. I realise in this case you are the boy’s family, but she needs to stay strong and not let them feel that they are doing her a favour by accepting her. It has to be a meeting of equals. Else you know your Nani – she will eat her alive.

          Also, I think right now, she’s just young and spirited (and reads my blog too, so I think we need to either include her in this chat or take it offline!) and needs a lot of his time. I was a lot like her. Give her some time and stay secure. Your brother loves you too much to be lost to you. Eventually, like water, they will find their level and balance and be a secure couple. Both of them will have the time on earth for you after that. Lets talk about this in the day time.

  4. I really liked the speech n agreed to most parts of it. Find it very inspiring and I think these kinda speeches should be heard or read once a month…lest we forget it and get on with life , the way we think life is. I now wonder if I’m thinking wrong, when I make peace with the obstacles in my life by telling myself that NO ONE can have everything! Focusing on the positive is good and important…but how much is too much. Aren’t many success stories associated with what one did to overcome a negative event and fight the battle?

    You know, the first answer that come to my mind with that Q..is scary. Something that I’m skeptical about…something that I know is only a phase-thought n once I’m over with this phase , It would not be something I would want to do.
    N the next thing that I would do if I was fearless is to switch my career . I would deep-dive into the psychology field . You not answering the Question?

  5. I know it has to do with keeping the house clean, managing when the maid calls in sick,keeping a hot supper ready for the husband and attending to the kids for us women. We are responsible for what we are today. We let ourselves think we are tailor made for this – ok, the cave woman took care of the kids and cooked, so what? Does a man wanting to become a neurosurgeon think about what he will do when he has a family & kids? Does he allow his ambition to get sidelined or does he choose a less competitive field just because he has to take his kids to painting class on the weekends someday in his life??? Never has any man done that, at least to my knowledge. Then why should we? Who laid these rules? The thought that the home is better managed by women is to be blamed isn’t it? Don’t you think that has made women more sacrificing and men less accommodating?

    • Not all women are sacrificing nor are all men selfish. I think a lot of young couples are finding their equation. Sometimes, including my own case, we’re shocked by the traditional roles we fall into. On the other hand, if you have a dream or a vision, who else can you trust to fulfill it? I wan the house to be a certain way. I know I too would be unhappy to come home to a bare bones home with one sofa and a wipe clean table because that might be the easiest way to run a home while I am out working. And since I want to have the frills and the garden and the dustfree underside of a table and sparkling clean wine glasses, I do it this way. I know at least 5-6 men who are brave enough to come out and say that they want their homes run in a certain way and they come home and do it. Times are a changing… dont you think?

  6. thank you ! this is amazing. i was enlightened by point 8; about women leaning back. that’s how it begins. but how many partners will make their significant others quit a more lucrative job to move with those that want to follow their hearts? it is ultimately about being practical as well.
    i moved cities to be with my husband since her had the better,more stable job. its was a tough but sensible decision, i think, in hindsight. knowing that he would have done the same for me made it easier.

  7. What would I do if I wasn’t afraid? I don’t know if you can call this fear technically but I tend to spend too much time thinking about what people will think of me. I’ve often wished that I could just go out say what I think with all the confidence that I have rather than sitting quietly in my seat for fear of sounding idiotic. Studying in the UK has taken away some of that in terms of the classroom, but it still happens in large conferences. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t weigh the pros and cons of what they say, but obsessing about the consequences of something that hasn’t been done yet can really weigh you down.
    Reading Sheryl’s comments on how women start leaning back, far before they actually have to make decisions, I was reminded of a post that I wrote about two years ago, http://randomnstaccato.blogspot.com/2009/06/my-idol-that-fell-on-its-face.html
    Since then though a lot of things have changed and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some decisions or changes that I’m going to make (especially those related to career) only when I get to that bridge and not a moment before that!

  8. 3) is somehow linked to 7) and 8). Men are somehow raised to be more ambitious in terms of career success while the subliminal message women get is that there is an alternative – you can stay home, have kids, raise them and you won’t be considered a failure. In one sense this is a good thing for women, to have that alternative, to not have the pressure to be successful. On the other, it seems to be presented throughout our lives – especially our young lives – as less an alternative as an inevitability. That even if you don’t stay home, managing the home is your responsibility. So should we be schooling women to be more ambitious, to think of the home as their job less? Or should we be schooling men to be less ambitious to think of the home more? The more I think about it, I think the latter might be preferable. It might do the world some good to have less career-driven, ambitious, aggro men, to have men who also have their home at the back of their minds all the time. Maybe we need someone to go to ivy league colleges and give speeches encouraging men (and everyone) to be less ambitious. There will always be some very driven men and women – but we might end up with a gentler society overall.

    That said, I think 8) is a powerful point. Women do seem to be compromising before they have to. Again, I think it’s related to 3). I think we have come to a situation in the developed world, and in parts of the developing world which are like the developed world (the kind of society you and I belong to where women are educated and independent), where a lot of the inequality in the home is of our own making. Are you so very sure that the OA would have let dust pile up and everything collapse around your ears if you had not done it yourself? I’m sure he enjoys a beautiful home too. Are you sure a compromise couldn’t be reached – a home not up to your high standards but not a filthy mess either? Of course, if your life’s ambition is to have that beautiful home then good for you for knowing it and going after it. But I suspect many women are not so passionate about beautiful homes, or even raising children just that they think they should be.

    I think most women just give up on men contributing in the home in the same way that women do because they don’t really believe men are capable of doing it. They do a disservice to men and to themselves. I am neither great at housework nor am I necessarily the best parent of the two of us – so I insist on sharing this work. If anything my husband does more than me. I know the mental barriers – the idea that a woman should cook was so powerfully ingrained in me, that I struggled with the guilt of not doing it for a good couple of years. And I struggled with the external barriers – a society that looked askance at me, a husband who might occassionally wistfully have thought of how much easier life would have been had he married some girl his parents chose for him. But I dug my feet in and insisted. My Sil and my sister are working mums, and like most Indian women, they come home and do more than their share of the housework. At some level, they acecpt this in a way a man never would, because it is ingrained in them that this is the way the world turns. My Sil says – “it’s not that easy, he just won’t do it”. I understand if he just won’t do it up to her standards. But ‘just not doing it at all’ (in my brother-in-laws case leaving dirty dishes in the sink for days, forgetting the kids vaccine) that would be grounds for some very serious action. I would just not tolerate that, and frankly neither would most men, if women ‘just didn’t do’ the many things they want. But most women do tolerate it, adn compensate for it, and well, that’s why we are where we are. So she is right in saying the real battleground is the home.

    And finally, I don’t think the moral challenge of our generation is gender equality, much as I am a feminist. I still believe it is totalitarianism, or maybe climate change.

    • All very valid points. And I gave it some thought. No, the OA would not leave the house a filthy mess. But I think in cases like ours, we’re from VERRRRY different backgrounds. He would definitely keep it clean, but that would not do for me. I insist on glass tableware, napkins, fresh flowers – its a different way of life and one that a lot of people have dropped along the way because its a nuisance. To me, its more about creating a home atmosphere for the kids to come home to. I don’t want home to be this place with plastic table cloths and plastic glasses. Everything wash and wear. I like the effort and it shows in the way the kids handle their cutlery and chopsticks and fingers when they have to.
      After a point it becomes about wanting to pass on something you grew up with, giving them a certain kind of home and upbringing. I realise that left to the OA they’d have been different children. Nothing wrong with that, just that when you’re as particular as I am, you have to make a choice. I know I can find a good nanny for about Rs 20k a month. But I also know that I’d resent anyone else raising them because that wouldn’t be my way. So its not that he just doesnt do…. but that I just want to do it my way.

      • MM, reading you has taken up most of my morning, and I am hooked, all over again. I am already thinking, hmmm,” i haven’t supervised the lunch. Wonder what a hash the maid has made of it?”. So you are right about wanting to do things your way and making choices that lead you there. Like we could afford a nanny/daycare, but I wanted to bring up Re like I was brought up. With a lot of texture and passion. With stories and songs and wilderness. Not like the OPU who led a silver-spooned life, and was never even taught how to cook. Sure he can keep a clean house, but i know it will fall to pieces when I am not around. And it has. Sometimes I feel i raised the bar for myself. I entered into a contract to ‘do more’ for less. I am the same feisty, efficient person, just without a paycheque.The OPU hasn’t really changed, but now i expect more. It’s like motherhood has given me a whole new barometer to measure him by.
        Thanks for sharing. I am going to print this too.

        • You said it. That is me. I want to raise my kids with a lot of experiences and there is no deadline to it. Even I thought three years is what psychologists say a mother should spend with the child and once they’re up, I’ll move on. Except that by that time your relationship with your child has moved to a place from where you can’t move back. It helps to go to work while the baby is young and never get into this place. Because this is like getting hooked on cocaine (what would I know, sweet innocent that I am? 😉 ) and you can’t step back from it. I know that during the last two years that I was working longer hours I could see the impact it had on the kids and I suddenly realised that I wanted more from them and for them. And for me.

    • As women become more and more liberated – they have a choice:
      – Wait till men embrace the standards that we have kept.
      – Drop our benchmark. And realize that keeping a beautiful home is either a full time job for you, or for some home service agency.

  9. MM, some time back I heard Ms Sandberg speak at TED and there too she talked about how very few women reach the top and how women should strive to get there. And I sat there thinking, “But why? For what?”. The reason women don’t/want to reach there is because for most of them family is their priority and you cannot be a VP or CEO of a company by working a 9-5 job. I think if women want to treat their work as just work, leave office when the clock strikes 6:00 so that she can rush home to be with her kids, just let her do that. Why put this pressure to be a number in your statistic? I believe that if you can build a happy family and bring up your kids as happy, healthy, kind individuals that is your best contribution to the world. And women are blessed with that quality.

    • Yep. That is what I felt. That the pressure always remains. Once there was a lot of pressure to be a housewife and run a fantastic home. Now there is pressure to ace your career. And the best part is that there is still the pressure to ensure that your kids don’t suffer while you’re out there raking in the numbers. The truth is, you CANT do it all. Not every woman has fantastic family support. And then you begin to feel like a failure who could neither ace her career nor rear her kids well.

      • Ammu, I think the problem is to determine whether women really get that they have a choice to want anything else (i.e. to want a life where they can compromise the home and someone else will step in). How come the large majority of women, and not men, seem to put their family first ? You might argue that this is something intrinsic to women. But many of us are not so sure. We believe it is conditioning – women are brought up thinking that they are primarily responsible for the family (of course, someone has to hold the fort at home, but really why must it always be the woman?), that even if they go out to work, they must somehow also handle the home (but men are not raised with this same dual responsibility). Because we have internalised this message from young – through what is explicitly said, through watching our parents, through watching our neighbours, through watching movies – we don’t question it. Even when we question it, we feel guilty.

        ” I believe that if you can build a happy family and bring up your kids as happy, healthy, kind individuals that is your best contribution to the world.” Yes, of course. But how come men don’t think so? Why must women take primary responsibility for this? What is this “quality” that women are blessed with?

        MM, your point is taken in your reply to my comment above. There might definitely be women like you who decide that what really satisfied you in life is creating a beautiful space for your kids to grow up in and being there all the time for your kids. But my question is (more to Ammu than you), how come more men don’t want to do this? Do we as a society let them want it? So we let our women truly think they don’t want it?

        • @The Bride – Well said! I wanted to raise much the same points. I’m particularly troubled this sentence “The reason women don’t/want to reach there is because for most of them family is their priority…” Are we then saying that family is not a priority for most men becaue they don’t rush home at 5pm and that is somehow okay? I don’t buy into the whole argument of how men show they care by working hard and making money while women do it by tending to the home and hearth and raising the children right. How does that leave you with a choice?
          I also like the point you made in your earlier comment “But I suspect many women are not so passionate about beautiful homes, or even raising children just that they think they should be.” That is conditioning at its absolute worst.

          • Yes, to a large extent this is conditioning. You can’t deny it. But I’d like to say that to a lot of the women who have broken free of societal restrictions, this isn’t a valid point. I’ve made so many unconventional choices in my life that I am not guilty of the above reason.

            I would like to think biology does play a large role in who we are and what we do. There is enough research to prove that. I know I ache to cuddle my kids at night while the OA wants them out of our bed and in their own. None of that is conditioning. It’s who we are.

          • MM, I agree that in your case, it is not conditioning. But are you saying that in the case of the majority of women, it is biology? How can we presume that it is biology when the majority of women are conditioned to accept the primary-nurturer-forever role, most women are not as questioning or rebellious as you or me and most men are also conditioned to feel they would somehow lose face if they took up the primary-nurturer role?

            Again, I am not referring to you. I am referring to the masses of women who have not broken free of societal restrictions. And I think the statistics on women in the workplace reflect those masses of women and the restrictions society places on them (and on men) more than biology.

            Leave aside children. Even in societies with a low birthrate, women seem to drop off the career track more than men disproportionate to the number of women having children. Now why is that? Would you say that it is because women biologically lack ambition in the workplace, because women have some innate desire to shoulder more responsibility at home at the expense of compensated work?

            • No, I’m saying with the kind of women Sandberg is addressing – many of them will have to fight biology. They aren’t uneducated village women in India. They’ve not been brought up to raise kids.

              That said, I think a lot of women drop off the career track due to a fantastic bit of conditioning. Yes, we’re not brought up with the pressure of being the primary earner. Which is what gives us the luxury of switching jobs like Ramya or the Intern. They don’t drop off because they want to shoulder more responsibility at home. They often do it because they slow down and want to smell the roses. And fortunately, have the option. I know I slowed down to smell the roses even when I didn’t need to.

              We need to realise that not everyone wants to run this race that is being built up. Not everyone wants to work crazy hysterical hours. Not everyone wants more money. Not everyone wants more fame. Lots of people, men as well as women, want to slow down. A job was once just something that facilitated life. That put food on your table. When did it become something that defined us? When did it stop facilitating life and become life? Why is it so hard to understand that not everyone wants to build bridges, sell pepsi and soaps or fight cases for criminals all day.

              My theory is that those of us who have slowed down, would have done it in any case. Even if I had not had kids, I am not the person who wants to spend 14 hours in office. I want to garden, and read, and sing and dance and if that means living on less money and being less senior at work, I’d do it. It’s just good fortune that kids came to me at a time when I needed the break and the whole thing coincided. I know now, that because of this choice I have made, ironically, the OA has no choice left but to slog for those 14 hours that I opted out of. So sad.

          • You make an interesting point, MM. I think it brings us back to my original point that instead of focusing on making women more ambitious, we should focus on making men less ambitious. I think there is a bit of conditioning that enables us women to drop out of the rat race easier – maybe that is a good thing, and should be extended to men too.

            • Yes absolutely. I think I’ve written about this before. The Amy Chua post. I don’t want either of my kids to be ambitious. I’ve seen it bring exhaustion and heart attacks and what not. If you’re good at your job, you will have passion and you will succeed. No one needs to be driven by others. It should come from within. You choose how much you want. And yes, our boys need a break now too.

      • Even if you have fantastic family support no one does it the way the MOTHER does it. 🙂 Also having a single line of authority at home eases a lot of confusion when it comes to discliplining them. I went through the motions before i realized i cannot do it all. I came close to quitting…but did not quit. Stepped down several notches took up flexi work and i think i have the best of both 🙂
        That said i have a lot of regards for women who stay at home to raise kids..3 cheers to them 🙂 I don’t recollect who said it or where i read it here goes the quote “When you see a man u see an indivudial when you see a woman you see a family”

        • “Even if you have fantastic family support no one does it the way the MOTHER does it.” Sorry Meena, I disagree. I have seen kids raised primarily by their fathers – very rare and that is a problem according to me – and they are fine. The support does not have to come from outside the nuclear family. My point is that it can be the father or the mother. Statements such as ““When you see a man u see an indivudial when you see a woman you see a family” just reinforce a stereotype that makes it difficult for men to take responsibility in the home and for women to decide they would rather take responsibility outside the home.

          • I tend to agree with the Bride on the last point, Meena. You’re right about the existence of the quote and the fact that to a large extent it holds true for many families. But we’re working to change that. When you see the OA, you see his kids as the wallpaper on his BB, you see a handpainted mug by the Bean on his office table. You see a family man, not an individual.

            But I do agree on having a single line of authority and division of labour. Plenty of women will disagree with me, but that is okay. I know how I prefer to run my life. I really can’t be juggling things and passing the baby to my husband at the airport and asking neighbours to babysit. I’ve taken the decision to give birth and I take that responsibility very seriously. I cannot take a guarantee for the way the husband will parent, but I can take responsibility for myself.

          • Sorry i dont think i put right, yes kids raised by fathers turn absolutely fine. My own son was parented by my husband who took a year off from work. I meant support from the extended family..in-laws parents etc. I handled 2 confused kids for years which is when i realized that all day they had some one else handling them and in the evening it’s us. A whole generation apart our thoughts are different and parenting too is different. I know many will disagree to this but i can only speak for myself here 🙂

            • Oh no, I agree completely. Even between my parents and me (and they raised me to be the person I am) there is a world of difference in our parenting. I raise the kids very differently. And yes, even the OA and I disagree on so much. It’s not easy for a child to keep adjusting to the adult who is in charge.

  10. The fact remains that it is the women who get pregnant, deliver a baby & nurse them. They ARE the primary caregivers. Why is success defined only by the heights of career? It’s your life as a whole. I know men who have had great careers lament that they missed bonding with their kids.
    Education does not need to translate into jobs. It should translate into overall quality of life and happiness. Education empowers the woman who stays at home to make decisions and to influence the decisions of her husband. So, it is wrong to say that our are not heard. They are heard, may be indirectly 🙂

    What would I do if I was not afraid? I would do what I am doing now 🙂 Living my life on my terms. Education gave me the choice to have a job which helps me give time to my family and have a satisfying career too. And I would choose to be around two warm little bodies than in a cold a/c cabin anyday if life demands it 🙂

    • “The fact remains that it is the women who get pregnant, deliver a baby & nurse them. They ARE the primary caregivers”.

      I agree that being pregnant, delivering a baby and nursing a baby slows you down career wise. However, I don’t see why it should entail being on the slow track forever or dropping out of a career altogether. There are options:

      1. There are women who remain at the top of their careers despite being pregnant, having a baby, and exclusively breastfeeding (with the aid of a pump). It definitely takes a very driven woman to do this. Examples include my husband’s boss and my sister-in-law. The latter manages to be a wonderful host, cook and keep a beautiful home too. God knows how!

      2. Most of us are lesser mortals and cannot juggle everything so brilliantly. I, for one, did move to a less demanding job when I had my baby. I don’t see why this should be a forever situation though, unless I want it to be. There are professions where taking the slow track for a year cuts you out altogether. But most are not so extreme and it is possible to catch up.

      I agree that women – if they committed to exclusively breastfeeding – might find it best to take a year of work. After that year, in practical terms, I don’t see why they can’t – if that is what they want – go back to work and let their husband rule the roost at home. I am not convinced that the majority of women after the first year feel some powerful inbred desire to be the primary caregiver. But I do think that the majority of women feel that they should want this.

      And that said, I agree that success need not be defined by career heights.

      • “I am not convinced that the majority of women after the first year feel some powerful inbred desire to be the primary caregiver.”

        I think otherwise. I think most of the women naturally want to spend more time with their kids than on their career. I was an ambitious, career oriented woman myself till my son happened. And for the past 4 years, I have packed up from office by 6pm every single day, never done weekends, never travelled to client site. All out of choice. It does impact my career, but I wouldn’t have it otherwise.
        You know, after the first year, the kids need you less and you need them more 🙂

        • I agree with MoRS. Parenting is more than just breastfeeding exclusively. I’ve never understood how women use that as a yardstick and tell you how often they pumped at work and rushed home with bottles. Are we saying women who cannot breastfeed aren’t good mothers? Formula is not poison. But its the contact you get from skin to skin that is important. The child held to his mother’s chest creates his most early bond with a human being. At the distance of a foot from her face, there is a bond built. Psychologists and even pediatricians say that. So if you must go back to work, go, and don’t bother with the endless pumping and the matyrdom that goes with it.

          I think there are plenty of women who feel an intense desire to be with their child. And I think there are plenty who don’t. But I believe that like any other experience, it grows more intense as time passes. If you are used to seeing your child at 6 pm everyday then you’re fine with it. But if you’ve patted your child and put her down for her afternoon nap everyday till the age of three… at age four you realise not much has changed and you still want to do it. I speak for myself here.

          The trouble really comes when there is an equally intense desire to do that other thing too. Work!

          • I didn’t even get into formula, MM, because I felt that it would complicate the discussion. The only reason I see that one could argue for the physical necessity of the mother being tied to the child is breastfeeding. Otherwise, a father could well provide skin to skin contact. Did anyone say it has to be the mother’s skin?

            Breastmilk is not just about skin to skin contact. There is immunity and a host of other benefits provided to the child through it. Pumping is not about martyrdom. It is about wanting to give that benefit to your child even if you can’t give the skin to skin contact.

            I am not sure of the passage of time thing. There are women who say that with the passage of time their desire to go to work/to get some time to themselves grows.

            I definitely think there will be both kinds of women. Women who want to focus on home and women who don’t want to focus on home. But unless you are arguing that it is pure biological imperitive to nuture kids and the home (which would make women like me some kind of biological anomaly which I am ok with being, just that I am not convinced it is the case having met several women who feel like me, only they somehow cannot get their husbands to chip in with the work at home), there should be more women out there climbing faster up the career ladder.

            • Yes I agree. I agree all the way. But psychologists will also tell you that the bond with the mother is already there. In utero. You are strengthening it and giving the child confidence and security. Switching it, causes dissonance. This, only if we’re being so anal about it. Otherwise do your 3 months of maternity leave, find a safe caregiver and move on.

              Which brings me to another point. I think everyone should try and be very clear on what they want, when they get into a relationship. You know the man you are marrying – will he share the housework? Does he expect you to rear the kids? Is his idea of a home the same as yours? Is it fair to take a man who doesn’t want a fancy house and land it on his head and say okay, now iron the napkins and change the curtains every week? Just as you wouldn’t want to be told how much housework to do, its unfair to have expectations after the fact. This needs to be clarified before you get hitched.

              Many husbands are okay with a very basic home. And they are very sure they dont want their kids being raised by hired help – but they dont want to do be the one staying home or helping out. I’d find that unacceptable in my husband. The OA has never voiced an opinion on my staying home and its entirely my choice. My parents are constantly urging me to get back to full time work. But in the last few months I’ve noticed my father begin to laud my decision. From being the disappointed father who thought his daughter would rule the world to the grandfather who suddenly realises his grandkids are better behaved than most, its been a full circle and he appreciates that it takes some doing. Even so, there is no pressure to stay home, just an appreciation.

              I think most of us would like to go back to work. I am not debating that. But there is an equivalent desire to continue what we’re doing because we can see the results of the effort. We’re the best judges of what we’re achieving with our parenting and how much of it is nurture, and how much, nature.

              I don’t say women like you are an anomaly at all. There are plenty like you, arent there? But what I am saying, is that there are plenty like me, and its a little patronising by Sandberg or anyone to assume that this is social conditioning and not a conscious choice. It’s almost as though she’s saying wanting to rear your child yourself is not natural. And its only been imposed by society. That, I think, is unfair.

          • Hahn true – don’t agree with everything she said, especially the focus on ambition. I also didn’t like the part she said that men always take credit for everything and women always give other people credit. So? Why should we become like men just because they are ‘me, me, me’? I get that she was saying women suffer from a too-nice complex but I still don’t see why we should turn into men. Giving credit where credit is due does not mean an inferiority complex. Maybe men should be encouraged to do that more.

            You know, we think that women in the US grow up with more liberated gender roles, but it’s not so. It is better than India but women still end up doing most of the housework, especially cooking. Even when there are no children – the US birth rate has dipped to an all-time low – it is the women who pick up the slack at home. And this may be pulling women back in their careers too, not just staying at home for the kids. I’ve seen this with my sister and her friends (not Indians) in the US.

            • Yes.. .I see that in my friends’ lives too. And I agree. This is another basic feminist argument. That we shouldn’t be looking to turn into men. why learn the worst from them?

  11. Nice post but I find it a little irritating that Ms Sandberg lays so much importance on simply achieving accolades at the workplace. Sure you could work yourself out and be a superwoman but what about the kids,home,family ? These are also part of the equation so why belittle women who either have the option to opt out or balance work and life (read slow career down ) . And not everyone wants to be chest thumping “I am awesome” kind of person . It’s a personality thing – there might be some people who let their work speak for them or don’t even care if they got credit for what they did .

    And eeps remind me to take the plastic table cloth off when you come !!! Yeah , i am like that – my MIL bought an expensive dining table and I promptly covered it with a tablecloth and heavy tempered glass so I wasn’t going to have to bother with cleaning and spilling. So go ahead and shoot me !!

    • *looks embarrassed* fine fine. Pick one line and beat me up with it. Go on, thats what I wait for old friends to do.

      And yes, getting back to less personal matters, I understand and appreciate Ms Sandberg encouraging my daughter to go out there and have it all. I just want my daughter to know that you CAN’T have it all. No one does. There’s a price you pay somewhere. In my case, its my knees and my back.

      • Ronald Regan (of all the people) said – You can accomplish much if you don’t care who gets the credit.

        And right there – i fail to agree with ms. sandberg. And so many other points…

  12. to answer your question

    – go skydiving
    – ride the meanest roller coaster in the world
    – chuck my job and backpack around the world…..

  13. 1. I’d go back to school – I want to study Statistics and Child Psychology. Almost shortlisted the universities, but ditched the idea
    2. Quit my job – I like to think I do a good job of what I do, but its not the sort of thing that gives you a sense of achievement. At least, not the way I define achievement
    3. Have more than 3 babies, when I do
    4. Not let self- doubt creep up, every time I meet an extended family member, who tells my parents that letting me complete my MBA and take on a well- paying job was a big mistake. That no man wants a girl who asserts herself so much
    5. Fall in love

    • So why don’t you? What is stopping you? I picked up the forms for MA Lit and realised I am now too far from Univ. If we move out of Gurgaon and closer to Delhi, I will do it.

      You will fall in love. and how. Wait and watch.

  14. My husband does more than half the “housework”…he takes care of dinner on most nights, does the laundry, pays the bills, does the weekly shopping etc. I keep the house tidy, mostly because I can be very OCD, water the plants, cook on the weekends and plan our holidays with meticulous care. We have hired help who comes in a couple of times a week and it also helps that we live in a shoebox on a tiny island where everything is super accessible. This arrangement goes against the conditioning we’ve grown up with in middle class homes in large Indian cities. My mother was the primary caregiver and did more than her share of the housework while holding down a job. I’m doing an MBA at nearly 30, after much positive reinforcement from my husband, and in a few months will embark on a career busier than my last one as journalist. Or not. I could decide I want to go back to journalism because writing is the only thing that makes me happy. So yes, I can vouch for the benefits of picking the right partner and having choices.
    As much as I want to think otherwise, I believe kids skew the equation and change the equilibrium. I know my husband will do everything he can do care for any child we might have but sometimes you are beaten by biology. I don’t know many stay at home husbands but I know mine will not be one. Whether it be for 3 months or for a year, I know I will be one on a “break”, passing up on promotions, desperately seeking that holy grail of work-life balance, even though I am the better educated one and most likely the one with a more lucrative job. The leaning back seems inevitable. I’m not sure how I will feel about it. And If I weren’t afraid I would find out.

    • Intern, when you have your baby, you may well feel like some (and I emphasise the some) that you want either yourself or your husband to be the primary caregiver of your child.

      You don’t seem to be one of those ‘women and women only should care for the child’ so why do you feel your husband will not be a stay-at-home dad? (I suspect some of the reasons but I’d love to hear what you think they are).

      Also, not ALL women are cut out of 24/7 childcare, as much as it is assumed that we ‘naturally’ are. So if there are decent childcare options available to you, and you feel you want to avail of them, don’t feel guilty about it. Some of us are better mothers for it (just as some women are at their best being with their kids around-the-clock).

      Finally, even if you decide to take a year off, why should it mean the end of the world career-wise? I took two years off to do a perfectly useless MA – just because I wanted to. Yes, some people I was parallel with got promoted during that time but when i rejoined (after the MA), I got my promotions etc. So even if you drop out of the rat race for two years, you can still eventually be CEO – just two years later than you maybe would have been.

      PS. MM am I hijacking your thread? Smack me on the knuckles if you think I am.

      • Not at all, Bride. Am happy to have this lively discussion. You know, I am not and never was the kind of woman who believes that women only take care of kids. I just always wanted kids. I still want two more. how do you fight that biology?

        I also don’t think this is about promotions. Its about fulfillment. There’s no real race. So why is this about which women get to the top? I know so many men who don’t want to get to the top and just coast along. Where are the statistics on them?

    • Yes, Intern, you’re right. Kids skew the balance. It really depends on how you look at it. Kids are like a career too. You can decide if you want to stand on the edge and dip your toes in or throw caution to the wind and go skinny dipping. Small example. I read to the kids everywhere. Each morning while they sit on the pot, I sit on a stool while they do their smelly business and read to them. One story in this bathroom then run to the other bathroom and read the story there. I don’t need to. I could get ready for office and go to work. But I like this. I like this early morning routine. I like that they love books. I want that someday they should remember fondly the early morning bathroom routine enlivened by Dr Seuss. This is no longer about division of responsibility. This is about me doing what feels right. This feels right. You will eventually figure out what amount of involvement feels right to you.

      • @Bride – “why do you feel your husband will not be a stay-at-home dad?” – oh, its not a feeling at all. I asked him before we got married and a 100 times subsequently when the subject of procreating has come up. He is okay with not having kids but not okay with staying home with a child on a permanent basis. No ambiguity.
        And to the point that both the Bride and MM make about defining the level of involvement/ availing of childcare options – I absolutely intend to do that if/when the time comes but like MM I’m not sure if the half measures/reduced involvement will feel right whether its chidcare or career because I haven’t had to make any compromises thus far. Guess I will have to take the plunge to find out.

        • Fair enough. The OA too didn’t want to have kids particularly badly. I wanted the kids and he played along and even now, is a fantastic father. I don’t think its fair to tell him to quit and sit at home now, when I am the one who wanted them in the first place. He’s accommodated and done what he promised he would. It’s not right to now tell him that I expect even more of him, because that is my dream.

          • These men! They really have it for free. Just say “I don’t want kids.” Women will pine for it anyways and then it will their responsibility. Hmmmph! Now I think it’s a conspiracy 😀 Even my husband had put his hands up after the first ( ironically, he wanted the first and I played along. So he got to do all the waking up at nights as my son was a horrible sleeper.). So when the 2nd came along (and I wanted it this time), I managed everything.
            Nice strategy me thinks! 🙂

  15. For the last three years, I have been trying to do what I want to do, without worrying about the consequences. In 2009, I quit my job (one I was very happy with) to pursue another career, to travel, to try out freelancing. It took me a year to realise that this was not for me – no regrets, I am happy I atleast tried it out. I then decided to join an NGO. I now work with an NGO, and while the work is interesting, its very different from what I expected it to me. I have a one year contract with the NGO, and once that is over, I am considering doing an Ph.D. If I had stuck to my first job, I would have been in a senior role by now, making good money, and enjoying my work – but I am happy that I was able to take the leap, to try what I want to do, even if it means I will never reach the top since I am constantly changing my line of work.

  16. If I wasn’t afraid, I’d go audition as an RJ.
    And I’ve tried, believe me. But they want someone with experience, someone with more fluency in Hindi than I have.

    • why don’t you start with production work? Spend a year around the studio and I can promise you, you will wriggle your way in. It’s easier to get a patient hearing.

      • I’m living in a country where I need a work visa to be able to stay here. My job takes up quite a bit of time, so I can only work weekends while trying to crack my way into the business.

        I’m trying to wiggle my way in as an intern or something into ANY aspect of broadcasting, but it’s been difficult as hell. I’m still working on it though, not given up. I’ve just had a few other things on my mind (like finding a house to stay in, I’ve written abt it on my blog *sigh*) that’s kept me preoccupied for a bit.

        • oh! sorry. Thought it would be easier than that. Here in India all the TV anchors were production girls with stars in their eyes. The moment I got pressured into going on air I quit my job. I am one of those women who never has been interested in reaching for the stars. I like lying in the grass and gazing up at the night sky instead.

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  18. I got myself a degree in Civil Engg when there was a lot of pressure on me to go for more “feminine courses”.Luckily my Dad stood by my decision .I got into the workforce & have completed 22 years so professionally there is that satisfaction of utilising my degree although I had to go slow once the kids came along but it was a matter of a choice made by me .It wouldn’t have been possible for me to work in the first place if I didn’t have my family backup for looking after the kids.I wouldn’t have been able to leave them with a maid.Now lately , I’ve been leaving them with a maid for the past 6 months & it’s got to a point when I’m seriously thinking of quitting.Again the pressure of “how can you quit when you’ve reached this far?” .It gives me doubts but my priority is my kids so why not?I do know that if I quit now there may be no going back but that’s a risk I have to take.So the answer to that last question, for me is to take that leap into quitting a jcareer I’ve been in for 22 years:)And yes , I don’t find any of my male colleagues going through this agony.Ultimately I think it’s a matter of individual choice.Whether you make a career outside the home or utilise your education to bring up your kids well is a decision that must be left to the individual woman.We women face too much pressure to fulfill multiple roles perfectly.It’s important to be able to resist that pressure & follow our hearts.

    • Exactly. If you’ve managed so many years without quitting, why today? I think its because individually we each pick something that is important to us. A lot of parents take this age to quit/slow down because the studies at school are picking up and they realise the kids need help. Many might say that oh, I studied without my parents even knowing what I was doing (I’d be one of those) – but they are diff people with diff parents and diff choices. All the best with your choice. I hope you pick what makes you happy.

      • You’re right, I did.But as I said that was because my kids were under the care of my parents till 6 months ago.Now with Dad not keeping well I don’t want to burden them anymore.Also , though my son manages on his own my daughter who is in fifth grade needs my help in her studies & I’m not able to give her the time .I can sense her feeling overwhelmed by the school work.I always had a Mom who stayed at home so maybe for me this is the right time.

  19. If I weren’t so bloody afraid of regretting it in the future, I’d quit my PhD and stay home to be with my daughter. For some, passion is the driving force, others make do with fear. And that makes it unbelievably sad.

      • There, MM. You crashed my hopes 😦 I have no daughter ( or son for that matter) to be home with but sometimes I want to quit my PhD and stay home and iron my table napkins (not kidding). I bunk office sometimes just to be home and re-arrange my closet for the 100th time.

        But, then I worry about how I will afford to buy yet another set of curtains and cushion covers if I did not have an income.

        • No no no. No quitting studies for any reason. Sorry. Not on. Get an education. It’s important. You’ve invested so much in it already. And its obviously something you cared enough about to do a PhD in. Its probably just fatigue setting in. Take a nice holiday and come back refreshed.

  20. But I want to be with her now :-(. That’s my daily conflict as I know it is with so many of us. I’m resigned to taking it a day at a time until I can make peace with it which will probably be in 20 years from now!

  21. Are you changing the world? When one rear a child giving proper attention & care , teaching humanity, giving them courage to smell the roses, maybe you are changing the world in a small way.

    When one sits in office helping things to flow to complete the picture… i wonder how the world might be changed.

    A women when taking the university degree should be given the courage not to get carried away by the rat race and to proudly follow her heart and feelings without feeling guilty of wasting her education.

    I agree with you MM. job is the food on table. Passion dosent need rewards to be fulfilled. When passion is there nothing comes in the way…

    • I think the right thing to do would be to teach women that no matter what they choose, all choices are equally admirable. I dont see the need to put down sitting in office helping things to flow to complete the picture.

      • And I also dont agree that following one’s heart always means stopping to smell the roses. Some women’s hearts may tell them to rise up the corporate ladder too.

        • Sure. I agree there. But its patronising to imagine that climbing a corporate ladder is the only way to define success and that women who opt out, have been forced to do so, and have had no choice in the matter.

  22. I think it all boils down to this – If something is important to you, YOU have to do what it takes to get that something. Like you say YOU make the effort to keep your house all pretty, because it is important to YOU and not as much to your husband. I see guys all around (even in my own family) who believe that kids should not be brought up by hired help, shouldn’t be sent to daycare, etc, and insist that their wives do the needful. That is just not on. If you think your kids must be raised by a parent, YOU do the raising, don’t ask your spouse to, especially if it is not a priority for them.

    I realized only recently that I was guilty of exactly the same thing. Food is not a priority with my husband, and he is okay with eating out as often as required. I, on the other hand, am a bit of a food Nazi, and insist on home cooked meals. But I hate cooking, and expect him to do his share in the kitchen. He plays along, but whines “why do we have to cook, cant we just go out” lol. I realized I was being really unfair – he does all the housework and supervises the maid in the morning since I go to work early – so i am trying to be cheerful about cooking in the evenings, and have stopped forcing him to join in 🙂

    • Exactly. I think we have to stop forcing things on each other if they’re important to us. The OA knows food is not important to me and yet I make an effort once in a while. I have however now, stopped killing myself. I buy what I can’t do at home and he has to make his peace with that.

  23. You know, I started working straight out of college, and after 2 yrs I got bored and thought what next? so I left the job, and started prepping for CAT- didn’t make it to any of my shortlisted colleges, forgot all about an MBA, and got a job with this amazing amazing company. Its been more than 4 yrs since, and I never regretted not going back to studies, especially when I see MBA recruits joining in and doing exactly the same work that I do
    . Yes, one can argue that they have an edge, but I dont agree, in those 2 yrs that I would have spent doing MBA, I earned more and did the the things that make me happy like travel, scuba diving, adventure sports etc ( & still doing it).

    But to Sheryl’s point of leaning out, I understand what she means- Whenever I have kids in the next 5 yrs, and if I have to make the choice of being a SAHM, I think it will come easy to me because I didn’t do an MBA. Just that extra degree would have added so many expectations on to me (from myself, not others) that I know in my heart that it would have been difficult to give up. I think I unconsciously leaned out then, from making a second attempt at CAT. That is not to say, women shouldn’t go in for higher studies, but the female brain is just so wired up to take on responsibilities & expectations unto herself, & I really admire those who can let their career take a backseat. I just know if I had a MBA degree from Harvard, there is now way my psycho mind who have let me be happy playing just the mommy role. Sigh, we can never win.

    P.S- I had a chance to interact with Sheryl Sandberg when she was working at Google. It was all for 15 mins but she left me starry eyed. I can only imagine the effect of such a powerful speech on the graduating class. Maybe we can do a ‘study’ that Ms. Sandberg is so proud of, and see how do a career mapping of all the women graduates from that batch 😀

    • 🙂 I understand. I’ve seen a lot of people say – Why waste an engineering or medicine seat if you are going to sit home. I don’t see it as a seat wasted anymore. If you aced an entrance and got that seat, its yours. Do with it as you please.

      • What if it was a paid seat? And there was someone more deserving out there who could have used that education better than someone who decided to do the degree because of something like ‘My friends are all doing it/ My parents think I should/ My parents think a good degree will bring good proposals’? What then? Somewhere, a person has the right to do what they want with the money they have. But at the same time, if you’re not going to really make use of the resources the money is buying you, why deprive someone else of those resources? One person opting out of wanting a seat they don’t intend to use is one person less for everyone else to be competing against. And another, possibly more deserving, person getting the opportunity to use what the other would not have.

        • That is a diff issue altogether. People who take paid seats should be banned from getting jobs anyway. I have no time for them. But a person clearing an exam and taking a seat is well within their rights to give up the career when they want. We never know what the future holds for us. What if that person dies? Are we going to hold that against them too? What if they have a special child? What if they change their mind and pick another line?

        • I think it’s dicey to define how education can be used ‘better’. For someone, it might be if they got a job in that particular field and did well in that job. For me, it could be if they enjoyed the education, appreciated what they learnt. For someone else, the idea of how an education can be put to use is very different.

          What if I decide to study medicine because I like it? But I know that I will not take up medicine as a career, that I will then switch tracks and focus on becoming a writer? That can be bad use of my education. But then, what about all the engineers who do an MBA and do jobs that have no relation to their engineering degree?

          Once we start talking about putting an education to use, I think it becomes a slipper slope.

          • God MM – it has shocked me and still does when some working women blatantly and openly (even in a party) have said things like “Wow! You have a PhD and you are not working? Why? Why? How can you do this?! I can’t even imagine that!” Like if I had stopped with a M.S, it would have been OK. Literally those words said loudly. I hate to defend myself and give explanations but I just can’t help go red in the face. I just don’t get it. Like Ramya says here – it is OK for an engineer to do a MBA or an MBA to do something unrelated to his/her job…but it is not OK for a doctor to not continue practicing or for a Phd to be staying home with kids. One woman told me that her sister’s MIL was going to help her because otherwise her sister would be sitting home “vettiya” (useless) with a PhD in hand and raising kids. This knowing that I am in the same boat. The rudeness you sometimes face from people is astonishing. And I think it will be a magical time when the choices women make are accepted as personal choices and not mocked at one way or another.
            Ideally now I want to work for a non profit or start a non profit for children with cancer. I really really want to do that. I don’t know how/when/where to begin – I feel so saddled with responsibilities at home now – I just cannot find the mental space for it. But I am hoping at some point in the not too distant future…

            • You’re too nice Noonie. I feel like slapping them for you. I think you should practice a few sarcastic lines.
              Now remember, the trick is to say them with an edge of sarcasm and a dangerous glint in the eye, smiling all the while. The problem with people is that they imagine you MUST be stupid if you stay home. They get one glimpse of a razor tongue and they begin to regret having opened their mouths.
              Here – say after me.
              – Oh yes, I think an education is completely wasted on kids. I mean why would a kids need an educated mother?
              – Very true. All educated women must work and leave their kids to be raised by strangers and uneducated maids.
              – That’s right. An education is merely a means to earning money. Certainly not about fulfillment. One shouldn’t learn for the sake of knowledge, right?
              – Yeah, why waste time raising your OWN kids when you can make your MIL waste her time raising your kids?
              – True, clearly her time is so much more valuable than her MIL’s time.
              – Of course. Sitting at home with kids is so boring compared to sitting around in office drinking coffee and browsing on facebook.

              Don’t rush the NGO, abbe. I think its a fantastic idea. but you have the FIL with you and your kids are still babies and a venture of this sort will take up a lot of time. These are the best years we have with our babies. In a while they will be gone and we will have all the time on earth to be vetti and hold down jobs 😉

      • Oh wow! I never thought of it this way MM! Now I know what to say to people who tell me I am wasting my teaching degree sitting at home…err, i wish i could just ‘sit’ at home. Jadhoo, pochcha, khana banana or shit saaf karna- who will do all this? LOLLL.

  24. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
    At this point . if i werent afraid or timid i would have asked why MM i am not getting a simple line relply for my comments. I know its your choice.

    Its just that i love those replies.. 🙂

  25. Hey there! (Peeping in…). Been lurking around the blogosphere trying to summon up courage to start talking to people again..been so out of it battling a hundred different things.
    But thought that this post is as good as any to make a start, especially as I’m possibly about to shake things up seriously in life, step out of the cocoon I’ve built around myself determined not to be hurt.
    My career has been an extremely important part of me – what initially started off as a fierce need to earn money to help out my family, thankfully firmly entered I-will- only- do-what-I-love territory. I love my job and I am good at it. Thus far I have never found myself in a place where I’ve had to make the small decisions that will eventually find me dropping off the work force. Yes, I’ve taken calls that might not have been in the best interests of my career – but they were not because of my sex. But the last couple of months I’ve found myself thinking that way – thanks to my big decision (I don’t want to talk about it here in case it filters back to the real world). I think I do want to have a baby eventually – but it terrifies me – the balancing act. So should I do one more thing that is going to make the damn balancing that much more tough? Its all easy to say try not to do that – but is it prudent not to?

    • Hi Sweetie 🙂 Missed you! I’d say (without even knowing what that thing is) that go for it. Deal with the babies when they happen. Until then, go the distance if that is what you want.

  26. Wonderful post. I found the comments section far more interesting than the actual post though 🙂 Keep writing! You give 20-something girls like me fresh thoughts, new perspectives and new dreams 🙂 I’m pretty sure that when I do have kids, I would take a break from work. I can’t bear the thought of someone else raising my kids. Its a totally personal choice. Hopefully, the economics in my life should allow for that 🙂

    If I were not afraid..? Maybe bungee jumping? The thought terrifies me 🙂
    I’m living life on my terms and I’m in a fantastic place now, so I would want to continue doing that 🙂

  27. I’m not able to reply to your reply, so i’m putting it here – it IS true MM – i took a sabbatical for a year after I quit a job I hated – and you’ll be surprised to know how much crap I heard. The problem was that this happened 3 months after I got married (no kids in the equation obviously). I heard both kinds of nonsense – “good to see you settling into the domestic groove”, “when are you going to give us good news” AND “what do you do all day???” “you’re wasting your education?” It was just a sabbatical and nothing permanent. I wanted to explore freelancing, but I got sick of people judging, and am back in a full time job now.

      • First timer here and like the person above who’s commented(Madhu)-got married a month back,quit a job i hated a couple of months back-have basically taken a sabbatical just for now and unfortunately facing similar questions like she did:(
        It is very very upsetting and puts me off-big time!
        PS:love your blog by the way,you write oh-so-well 🙂

      • Oh no, I’m not a good person at all. I take it out on my poor husband for no fault of his. It’s like whenever I see a man being horrid, I fight with my husband because one of his “kind” did it. I know, I’m nasty.

  28. If I weren’t afraid, I would have quit my old job and moved for the man I loved. But it seemed like a risk to take then and it was too late by the time I realised that it would have been worth it.

  29. WHat would I do if I wasnt afraid? Hmm, this is going to sound very petty and small minded but I would have liked to confront my in-laws esp MIL for the shit they dished out to me for marrying their son. For all the nastiness, for being vile and evil and for the deep hurt caused to me during our courtship/newly married days. I never-ever said a word, never made it an issue and have forgiven them. But when I see them do the same to their other dauhter in laws as well, it comes back. People around me encourage me to let go and I have, in all honesty I dont think about it , but again its not always easy to be blase and calm about being so openly hated and unwanted. Its been 8 years and I see no change, no letting up, if i had the balls, I would have confronted them., and to hell with being a ‘nice’ girl. OK rant over. I got pissed.

  30. If you want your decisions to mean something to the soceity, they have to be made against some sort of resistance. If you have a good support system, your staying at home or being a career woman doesn’t really make a dent in the societal stereotypes.

    “Are you contributing to society by raising your kids well?” – I think good parents are safeguards; they prevent their kids from turning antisocial. I mean, if we follow the ‘contribution-to-society’ logic, good parents should keep procreating and parenting, eh? Society really doesn’t want you to make kids and contribute (though they keep asking ‘any good news?’). It’s just what you and your kin want.

    There’s nothing wrong in putting your spouse and kids at the center of your universe. Just like, there’s nothing wrong in putting your career at the center. You want both of them to be at the center – now you are stretching the circle and making an ellipse. Nothing wrong with that too. Just know that it’s a longer route.

    Whatever you do, soceity always judges you. She quits the job to take care of her kids: so-not-independent. She leaves the kids at home and goes on business trips: how-self-centered. He quits the job to take care of his kids: what-a-sissy. Kuch to log kahenge!

    If you are not a revolutionary (i.e. someone who puts the ideologies above oneself); keep the primary agenda in focus – do whatever makes you happy (happier). Social contribution becomes secondary/added advantage. Don’t burden yourself with adding too many parameters in to your decision making process.

  31. Gosh, thanks so much for this post. For someone who was fiercely feminist, taking a backseat after the baby, career wise, was hard, even though that was a decision I took myself. Although I work for 4 hrs a day, I still have to come back home, bathe the baby, cook, clean and do everything else, and I still feel like I am not contributing 100% simple because I don’t work full-time, while the husband slogs away(seemingly)! When will we start appreciating what we do for our families?

  32. If I was not afraid I would quit my job, and stay home and paint and write a book and take photographs, without worrying about contributing to finances. I would also go to law school and get a law degree.

  33. And after cooling down a bit, I realise I am not afriad of anything…well mostly. I also wouldnt change the way I have lived my life so far, I have done well. And after reading all the comments and the post, I am completely bewildered…there is a lot women go through huh? I mean so much introspection, so much planning, so much to do and decide, so much turmoil and so much anguish…I was born to be a wife and a mother. As far as I can remember, that is all I ever wanted to do and conciously/subconciously groomed myself for these roles even as I studied and worked. My parents knew about it and were ok. But I studied and worked not to bid my time but because I beleieved it was genuinely needed-to be a good wife and a good mother. And the best part is, I was never afraid of reactions around me! To me grooming myself to be someone’s wife and a mother one day was as serious an ambition as it might be for say , an MBA degree holder. Yes, I was in serious minority but it did not bother me. I am ofcourse very blessed that I didnt struggle with any of my choices. And btw, I also dont think we women can have it all. I just dont think it is possible. Which is why I am not a feminist and happen to think it has seriously undermined family structures around the world. The whole ideaology bothers me because i find it corrosive to the world today. And yes, it is very right of you to point out the importance of choosing the correct partner and I am blessed that my husband is so proud of me. And is very protective of my choices in our marriage and as a commentor said above, credit should be given where it is due. Even if it is to a man. We were all created to love each living being, I dont know why feminism insists on bashing groups and their choices. Or even pointing out flaws in any group which doesnt believe in it. When anybody makes a choice, we may not understand it but we can show grace to that person. Ofourse, in an ideal world all women would have that choice- esp our sisters in villages or a repressed society but there are women like me, who are happy to serve their families and content with traditional roles, undisturbed and strong. It is not superior to be home and “serving” but it takes a lot more out of you because the whole bleddy world will find you an anomaly in these dark times, a freak almost. For happily choosing to stay home for your family. It is not a sacrifice, it is however tough. So yes, while women like Sanberg do salute women like me, I dont find their professed admiration genuine. They have rejected our way of thinking and even gone so far as to be patronising to homemakers/stay home mothers by urging a whole generation of young women to go out and bust balls and thats about it really! To me it sounds terribly one -dimensional and empty. How come I never hear such women give young women an option to choose? That girls today can and should get a degree, they can build careers but ‘that’ career can also be about staying home and being a carer/nurturer, a wife who stands behind her husband and a mother who can give wings to her children…why has it become demeaning to stay home? And why do so many of us feel apolegetic/agonised about it? Let it go I say.
    Gosh this has become errr, rather long. Apologies.

    • The first part of your comment reminds me of my best friend from college. Born to missionary doctor parents, she decided at 6, that she wanted to be a teacher. She also loved babies and knew her calling as wife and mother will always be the most important to her. She followed her dreams through, went to a college to specialize in what she wanted, married her college sweetheart and started work at a school, teaching a bunch of raucous 7-8 year olds. She loves it.
      She also has a 2 year old baby girl, who turned out to be exactly the way her mommy had always imagined her to be (and some more). That little girl is the happiest and friendliest baby I know. Seeing her and her mum is a constant, happy reminder of just how perfect you can make your life to be! 🙂

    • Harshika, feminism is only about encouraging the world to give women choices. That’s all. Just as it was feminists who fought for the right for women to be educated, to go out to work and to be paid on par with men, it was also feminists who fought for maternity leave, for breastfeeding rooms, and it was also feminists who insisted that women’s work in the home be respected and valued. For every Ms. Sandberg who leans on the side of women climbing the corporate ladder (and she did mention that she was not against women choosing not to, just that if they wanted to, they shouldn’t start making compromises until the need to make the compromise surfaced) there will be a feminist who leans on the side of women focusing on raising children.

      • Oh dear…I happen to disagree with feminism doing anything good at all for families- as far as I see it, it has led a big role in adding to more divorces, abortions, confusion in female identities/roles, a whole generation of women who take no pride in being a woman/feminine, insistence on being superior to everyone around but not having much to show for it, inflicting so much damage that I fear for our daughters now. WIth my views on feminism, it would open a whole lot of tiresome arguments back and forth and then I will end up dragging in my religous views etc and that is so not on, atleast not in MM’s space, I respect and love it. But I do admire the way you have summed up your response to my comment…very well written. And now the laundry calls.

    • no there is nothing wrong in making those choices. but times are soo different now. marriages are not made in heaven and do not last eternally. so when a woman does not make sure she is equipped to stand alone if needed, then she is forced to endure a relationship just becoz she cant financially afford to leave it. i have recently known examples of both kinds, and believe me, the one who can support herself is better off.
      so when a girl grooms herself to be a mother and wife she has to also keep in mind that she should groom herself also to be capable of earning enough to meet her needs.
      just some practicality to the romanticized role of mother and wife. coz there are no guarantees in life…

      • I’d prefer to think that women function from a place of choice rather than a position of fear. Educate yourself and work because you want to. Because you want to fulfill all that potential. Not because you are scared that the husband will leave you. If you’re the sort who is scared of a broken marriage and where that will leave you, even an education will be of no use to you

        • The way I read it I don’t think it is a position of fear, MM. I think it is like, say, having a safety net. If you fall (and am sure nobody wants to fall or even starts to climb with the fear of falling) and whenever that happens, you have the cushion of the net to support you and not left in the lurch. And I agree with that, and as much as we all would like to, unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world and it is not so bad to be prepared for adversities.

          • You only have a safety net when you’re doing something dangerous and fearful, right? I wouldn’t want to get into a marriage thinking that I need a job because this could go wrong. I am afraid that is the worst way to think of a marriage. You’re starting from the word go, thinking negative. A job is so much more more – fun, fulfilling, a money maker, everything – but not just a safety net.

          • MM,

            a safety net may not be for a bad marriage but definitely a must for a rainy day, spouse gets laid off , emergency expenses and god forbid an incapacitated spouse. Hence i guess that is a very valid reason too. At the cost of sounding like an aunt think of the best but always be prepared for the worst 😀

            • No, no, I agree. A safety net is a safety net. It should be for life. Not for marriage. We should all be capable of earning regardless of whether we are married or not.

          • No – I am not just talking in the perspective of marriage and by adversity I don’t just mean your spouse leaving you. So, yes, the safety net is not necessarily for marriage but for life. Having said that, education & work will be that cushion that breaks your fall, whatever fall that life throws either in terms of bad marriage or incapacitated spouse. And to that end, I think all women should be educated *enough* to be able to become providers for the family. Any further studies that one wants to do should be done out of choice and not done out of fear or compulsion.

            Well, in a ideal world, a job is so much more but for many, it is just that a safety net, cushion to provide a good education to their kids without penny pinching or pay off debts a little early or afford to buy a home or may be even a fancy vacation. Not all jobs are fun & fulfilling but they are all moneymakers and that is one of the most compelling reasons for many to work 🙂

            • Yes. See, that is my point. All humans should be educated. All humans should have held a job at some point. All humans should be in a position to give it up and take care of the house and kids if they want to, regardless of their gender. And no one should tell them that they should be using the degree and seat they took up. a job should be the safety net. it should not be a stick of guilt someone holds over their head and says – you got an education, use it. What if they turn around and tell people who don’t have kids – you have a uterus, now use it.

      • no no mm,
        i didnt mean get an education bcoz husband might leave you. all i said was its perfectly fine to want to be a sahm, sahw…but to aim for that only could be disastrous if you are not capable of being self sufficient IN CASE it doesnt work out. (excuse me for the negative refrain, have been witness to/part of some traumatic stuff at close quarters recently), like someone said, a safety net-a plan B if your plan A is marriage/kids. dunno if i am being clear. it wd be worse to have to stay in a marriage becoz you cant support urself than to get an education becoz ur spouse might leave u…mmm that sounds even more confused… 😦

  34. Women at the top being hated more than the men, i believe it’s more of a perception than reality. I’ve always thought that bosses are the “love them or hate them, can’t ignore them” category. Where i would go for the generalisation is that anything said about one woman is applied to the whole womankind, whereas an employee dissing a male boss is only hating that one guy. If i see around me, i don’t think the ratio tilts in favour of either one when it comes to the likeability of people on top.

    Oh and to answer your question, i don’t think i’ve ever been afraid of making choices. I never put one plan on hold for another one, when the time comes to make a decision i will, why bother now. I want to do everything that i want to do. It works well for me,,, keeps the family in puzzlement 🙂

  35. You know what? 13 years ago, I was afraid of not being successful, financially sound, not being able to get my MBA, a good job, afraid of letting my kids being cared by a day care provider etc, now, it has changed. I am in a good company, in a Sr. Management position, took some time (1 year for each kid) off to be with my kids and currently take home a decent salary, but, now, I am not afraid of quitting this all for taking up my other love – jewellry designing and making. A lot of my friends think I am nuts, but, I don’t really care. The husband has told me that he will support me whatsover. If the mortgage payments become a problem, we will shift from our current home to a smaller condominium.


  36. This made me think so much that I am going to have come back and answer the questions when I have collected my thoughts.

    It did make me realise, that yes, I AM afraid – of making the ‘right’ choice, or aiming high, of not believing in myself. I am subconsiously ‘leaning back’ from opportunities and desires due to my own fear of failure.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    It was inspirational to read and I do need that inspiration and motivation for me keep me realising my true potential.

  37. I wonder who assigns value to work? That corporate top honcho jobs, government decision making jobs etc. etc. are more valuable than other jobs? like being a homemaker or a primary school teacher or a preacher or a gardener or … Why should money or how many people you have power over directly or how many yes men/women you have around, decide how ‘important’ a job is or whether a person’s potential has been reached? Ultimately I think it is the need to feel fulfilled. some individuals whether men or women, have a drive for certain jobs (and job trappings) and it necessarily may not be same for others.

  38. Another topic that I’ve been thinking of a lot lately, MM – it is eerie how the topics you pick are ones I’ve been thinking of too! Heard Sheryl’s speech a few weeks ago too and have been going through this whole ‘work-life’ balance stuff for the last couple of years. Well…I was raised to believe that I could anything a man could do. Was never really asked to be in the kitchen growing up. Instead was expected to have a high-flying career and always taught to dream big. I became an engineer, moved to the US, got a masters in engineering then decided to move to management and got a PhD in mgmt. Taught at Bschools in the US for the last 10 years. Enter a baby last year – actually even through the pregnancy, my focus completely shifted….work took a backseat to prepping for baby and then when baby got here, I found it terribly hard to juggle work any more. As hard as I try, it is hard for me to have the kind of drive I had earlier as far as work is concerned. Anyways, long and short of it is that I resigned my faculty position this month and while it took me a while to get to this point, I am really happy with the decision – especially when I see how happy my kid is around me. I wondered if I would make the same decision if I had tons of extended family (I grew up with that in India) here but I think times have changed even in India and it is simply not realistic to expect to have that kind of community anywhere. So, the thing that helped me make my big decision was that I think that only I can give my child the support that he deserves – and since I brought him in to this world believe that I should make the time and effort for him to have what I think would be a good support system. Career ambition fades right now in comparison…btw, I have a very supportive spouse who has a job that requires long hours so he is definitely pulling his weight and doing everything he can to help but I am just not inclined to switch roles right now because I just love hanging out with my kid. I agree with you that it must be biology…I went back to work part-time when baby was 6 months old but couldn’t do that when he got to be 10 months…it was just too hard to pick him up from daycare at 8 PM on the one day I worked…ugh!
    Also, I am in a parent coop kind of a thingy here where I live and most other moms at the coop have taken time off too and some were very successful lawyers/techies/Harvard MBAs (most are American) – there are a couple of dads who have taken time off too and are stay at home dads in our group.
    After much thought I believe that this is a crucial and important phase in my life just as the other phases were – there will come a time when I will want to focus on my career again – but for now flexible or part-time work is the best I will be able to do. Like you I love keeping a good home and want to truly enjoy the time with my child…I believe it is all about having the choice. I truly believe that in today’s day and age there are many ways to contribute.
    A final comment – almost all of my US women academic friends who have children have one child at most and feel that they cant have another because it would interfere with their career although they may want one more…I’ve always felt that there is something wrong with that scenario. While I think it is perfectly fine to not have kids – again it is all about choice – it is sad when people who want to have a child choose not to because they think their career choice wouldnt allow it.

    • So many excellent points. You’re right. A baby is a great thing. A fantastic phase in your life. I’d hate to not soak in the best of that and be rushing to work busily. It’s like juggling a piece of chocolate cake while driving F1. Can’t focus or enjoy either of the experiences.

      I’ll disagree with your last line. I’m happy when some people realise that they can’t do justice to both. Because I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t. I wouldn’t leave them my pet goldfish for the weekend, let alone a baby. I frankly believe not everyone is cut out for parenthood, and those who make the mistake of one kid and realise its tough, are better off not having the second or third at all. Have mercy on themselves as well as that unborn kid.

      • & yes. we have chosen to have only one child. the reason i give most often for this is that i wont be able to work if i have the second one (i am an academic as MM knows). its just what i choose to tell people. in reality, much as i love kids and my own little girl, its definitely not like i am desperate to have a second child and holding myself back for the sake of my career or paycheck (ha!), however. all things put together, balancing everything in our lives (and considering how freaking old i am already!), this choice is best for all three of us, so dont feel bad for us, cause we dont!
        that said, academics are probably best poised to have as many kids as we jolly well want compared to high flying corpo warriors & IT folk & journos & everyone else with real jobs…

          • Fair enough when people consciously realize that their choice works well for them. I am talking about many academics I know that hold back and have regrets. I am all for choice of any kind – I dont believe that people should have kids if they dont want to – in fact I got into this whole thing pretty late myself – so I am not judging people who have great lives and certainly not feeling sorry for anyone – one kid, no kids or many kids. And, certainly people who realize that they shouldn’t or can’t parent are better off not doing it. I am talking about the people I have seen in my 15 years in academia across departments and also the people I have read about along the years in books and op-eds – and yes, I always hear about how wonderful academia is in allowing more flex-time – in some ways it is and in other ways it isnt. There are a a couple of great books on this topic – one is called ‘Mama PhD’ and cant remember the other now. about how balancing a tenure track academic job with motherhood is tricky. Am not saying these issues dont exist in other jobs – but a lot of people dont realize all the hidden pressures in academia that stack up against parenthood….these are documented struggles as evidenced by the books I mentioned not entirely just my anecdotal information. I say this because I would always get the ‘you just teach twice a week, wow! that is so much free time for the rest of the week’ – well, in a serious academic job, you have research, you have student projects and emails to attend to, you have committees you are on etc so you are tied to it 24/7…plus in my case add commute time of almost an hour each way + I am not even going to get into politics in academia! While it is a great job, there is institutionalized bias that has been documented in many places where the attitude isnt always supportive of women academics choosing to have kids. Am not saying every place is like that but many are. Just dont want people to have a very rosy view from the outside.

  39. I was compelled to comment here. For on retrospect I found that I have been afraid for most of my life until now. I was only able to think independently when I started on the job. I felt indebted to my parents and relatives, hence felt the need to do as they say. I know, how stupid right? But thats how I felt back then. Now I don’t let things bother me much. I rebelled at the age of 24 (consider me a late bloomer) and married the man of my choice, second best decision (first was to join the job) and one which was vehemently opposed. Now I feel no fear. And it has taken me years to get over the fear I had developed. Fear of parents, of society, of relatives etc. And then I realized ‘In the end it doesn’t even matter’ 🙂
    Good speech but frankly I felt it was an idealogy and sounded a little phony.

      • Oh yes definitely. I readily agree with that. Only larger than life does not equal phony. However, forgot to mention that your points were excellent, I want to take a leaf out of your book and do something myself about the many indecisivenesses lurking in my life.

  40. OK won’t post more comments. But those lines – those sort of retorts do come to my mind – but I find it so embarrassing to say such things – because I do respect their choices – I may not want to do it myself – but I feel like ” I don’t know what makes you do what you do – but I will not mock your choice, definitely not in a group of people”. It is not that I can’t say it but it sound so unnatural to me to say anything back to them…but I really should just to shut them up. But the sad part it just hearing some of them speak I just feel like they are incredibly insecure and need so many social crutches to feel good about themselves…

    • Because you’re nice. Too nice. SAY it. Let them know they’ve hurt your feelings. And let them know their sarcasm has not gone unnoticed. And let them know you won’t take it.

    • Sorry, I keep coming back to this thread because it’s so interesting. Noon, I think you should say something too. If you don’t want to go with the sarcastic put-down (because some of these people deserve that only – I mean, just because they are insecure doesn’t give them the right to be rude no?), how about saying something like “I did the PhD because I enjoyed it, not just as a means to an end, and now I’m at home being with my kids because I enjoy it. And luckily, I can afford to do what I enjoy.”

      • yeah. ideally you should be able to talk about your choices without fear of judgment. but idiots who get downright mean need a nice solid rejoinder just to ensure they dont try it again.

        • 🙂 By the time I get over the shock of their rudeness, the moment passes! I come up with these smart retorts a few seconds too late in my mind! Am not that nice really – just feels weird to tell them anything – because they will not change one bit – they just spew out such nonsense convinced that their lifestyle is the best. In fact one of them I seriously felt like she should take some time off based on the issues she said she had with her kid and the kind of job her husband was in – kids spent so much time with the nanny or in after care. But I felt that the person is an acquaintance not a friend, so it is not my place to tell her what to do. To such educated but one track minded people, I just feel like it is so pointless telling them anything in retort. Just doesn’t penetrate! But I shall make an effort next time, Bride and MM! 🙂

          • It’s not that we can change people, Noonie. But we can shut them up and let them see that we won’t accept their rudeness or disrespect. Just because you are home doesn’t mean you are some dumb woman with no brains in your head. I used to stay quiet like you. But we have sons like KB and the Brat. How else do we teach them to stand up for themselves if not by example? In some years they will realise that their mothers are being insulted – how do we teach if not by example. that is what pushed me to start being stronger, more aggressive if pushed and speaking up for myself.

          • I could not reply to your comment, so am adding it here. I do agree – with kids like ours – KB and Brat – who are born with a gentle, decent nature – it takes a lot of observed learning and coercion sometimes to change that nature – in a way I feel sad to change his sweet nature. But he is learning well these days – he told off one boy to stop telling him what to do and that he will do it the way he wishes to etc.. he has learned to walk away from a game if they don’t play fair. Me – where it matters I do fight back. I have gotten people together to question authorities and have met with officials in some situations when I felt it had to be questioned – despite the “aggressive” ones feeling it is better not to do so and play it safe. Even in such situations I told them that even if my kids are too young to understand now, I am doing it because they should know that you fight for what you believe in – to the extent you can at least. I don’t let people take advantage of me much – may be sometimes I just give them the benefit of doubt and do a favor but if I feel they are taking advantage I do convey it to them as to where I stand. But in these kind of social situations, like at a function, I feel bad to make the atmosphere tense for every one by turning it into a verbal exchange match…because these people are not even sarcastic, they are blatant, close-minded…and in my opinion very uncultured that I find it really embarrassing to retort back like a second grader…it just doesn’t come naturally to me. I just let it pass but keep the friendship at that level – we can never be close friends. They are good people in many ways but are just not aware or open enough to even think about their own choices or that of others. Plus I also wonder to myself if I have ever hurt a working woman’s feelings…I honestly respect their choices and would never put them down but sometimes when you talk about how you feel about your own kids and raising them, they may mistake it to be some kind of judgment.
            MM – hats off to you for hosting this discussion with so many comments coming in. It takes a lot of time to respond in detail to people…you must have had less sleep last night!

            • LOL! 🙂 Its been fun. Yes, I dont like making the atmosphere tense. No, I don’t want to sound like a second grader. But I also realise that people count on us wanting to keep the peace when they are rude. They count on our decency. Now I don’t care, I give it back. They should have thought of their own skins before taking me on. Maybe I am a ruder, harsher person now, but I no longer lie awake at nights hurting over something someone said ot me.

              And no, I’d not put someone down for no reason either, until they did it first. Respect is earned. If you’ve already jabbed at me, you’ve lost the respect I had for you.

          • If I successfully come up with some – hit you in the face – type immediate retort in the future (not when I am fuming on the drive back), I shall pat myself on the back! 🙂
            The other day KB very calmly told another boy he was playing with – why do you have to make the rules all the time, I can make my own rules too. The boy just kept quiet and stopped bugging KB to do this or that. He said it calmly. I was so proud of him for that.
            Yes, exactly as you said – they count on our decency and get away with so much!

  41. I think its not about YOU and me but when you are married and have kids, Its about US ! many of us have choices because we have husbands who go to work, earn a living and help us manage a home and standard of living we dreamt for our kids. I know of mothers ( since I work full time myself) who came back to work when they thought at that time that supporting their husband to pay for the home mortgage is important to realize what they dreamt for their kids. hence its less about I, me, myself but more about us. In my case, I have been working fulltime for last 11 years since the age of 21 with 2 kids moving from entry level to now a mid senior position. We dont have a support and I do rely on maids but between me and my husband, we are clear of his role and mine. If i stretch on weekdays, then he does the chores on weekends – and believe me unlike what we think, there are enough of them like getting a car serviced or picking grocery or dropping daughter to music class etc , if he is in a travelling job, I chose to work where I dont need to travel without compromising on your career. But the key was that as being committed together, we respected each other sensibilities and found a way which worked for us, me, him and now our children. There are also women whose sensibilities lay in making their home a beautiful place much like you MM and they are also those who will find immense happiness and fun in learning new things . Their partners respect that and as long as together they are able to make things better for them and their kids, they are happy. So the key is not about teaching men to shoulder responsibility or women should be nursing an ambition. The key is to decide what works best for your home and whether your partner respects your choide or not. And while I agree that most women do not take credit for their achievements as being just fantastic, these days I see a lot of men also giving credit to a supportive partner as being able to succeed . I am sure Life one day will come a full circle

    • Very true. But this whole balance is not an easy one to find. A marriage and a home and parenting – are all about finding what works for the whole family. Which is why its very difficult to step out and say – But I need this for my fulfillment. If the ‘I’ is always more important than a ‘we,’ then its best not to get into a ‘we’ situation.

  42. nice one, MM. i am not sure if i was ever afraid. i have occasional bouts of self-doubt (even now) but am thankfully in a job that lets me rejuvenate and recharge often, and i come back brimming with confidence. the trick for me has been to identify my strengths, and build on them. yes, i cannot deny that my husband is always my harshest critic and greatest fan. not to mention mum, who was there when the possibility of being afraid was high. we made lists. am i shaking the world? nope. am i happy with my choices? hell, yeah. (is my house messy? like you cannot imagine)

  43. @the bride,@intern,
    I guess MM and many others have very eloquently explained their opinions on this topic. I will add my 2 cents too.
    When I mentioned women making family a priority or dedicating their lives to bring up their kids I didn’t mean to say that men are not or shouldn’t be part of it. I was brought up by parents who wanted the best for their daughters and I always had every opportunity to be successful in anything that I pursued. I have an equally supportive husband too. I got the best education and now I have a job that I love but that doesn’t mean I spend all my waking hours at office. I know how I can get to that next level, but that will require spending 12-14 hours at work which I am not willing to do. I want to be home at a decent time and be able to read, talk to my family and friends, cook a healthy meal and do whatever I want to do. For now it is just me and my husband but when I have kids and if our financial situation continues to be the same I am sure I will stay home to bring them up because 1) I KNOW I will be a better caregiver than my husband and 2) that will make me happy. My education helped me to get a job but that has also made me a more mature, open-minded individual and I am pretty sure I will need those qualities to be a good mom. I am not great at multi-tasking so rushed mornings, juggling 100 things between work and family etc is not what I want. For me this is not about ‘leaning in’ or ‘leaning out’. It is just who I am.
    Oops! Long comment! 🙂

    • 🙂 Well, if people take the trouble to share their views, its only fair that I respond. Unless they’re tirelessly arguing and making the same point that someone else has. If you read, you will see that a lot of people have said different things.

      • 🙂 yes am not referring to the different opinions.. that is not tiring.. only refering to the tirelessly arguing bit.. I gave up reading through it somewhere in the middle.. will attack the comments section later again today :D..

        now let me run off before I am hunted down..

  44. Is it strange that not even for a second I thought about taking a break from work when I had my son? Was it the financial security or my interest in my work that kept me from having these thoughts? I am not sure but I am working full time and still happy. I also pride myself to put my family’s interests first. For instance this week, I have taken two days off to prepare for my child’s birthday party. Even at the smallest of sniffles I stay at home even though we have a nanny.
    As Sheryly rightly says I am privileged (oh so privileged) to have this choice. Will I give up my job when some day my son comes home from school and complains that his friends get freshly baked cookies and he doesn’t. That is the decision I am afraid of.

    • Why should it be strange? If you have dependable care and you want to work, its all worked out fine, na? Don’t worry about decisions that havent come your way yet…

  45. Oh I posted before I finished my comment. Thank you for posting on this otherwise I would not have had a a chance to read this.

  46. I dont know if the correct word is afraid…maybe afraid to hurt…but I would have told a lot of people to go take a flying hike and not stop till they hit a rock and drop dead…people get away with saying a lot of nonsense to me. I completely blame myself for not being able to stand up and curse their living daylights out of them at times because at times its also people I love and care about deeply. They smile and hit below the belt and then I sob myself to sleep thinking how they could say what they did…but now Im slowly learning that maybe its not worth the effort on my part to keep quiet. Because if people cared enough they would have thought about how I felt…so now Iv just stopped interacting with them…that is painful…but I realize that for a saner life I need to channelize my energies towards people who dont give me unnecessary grief

    • I wish you would. People who hurt, are not worth your consideration. I’ve stopped interacting with so many people who hurt me. And I realise this is my fault. I spread myself too thin. I invite everyone, I meet up, I help, I do whatever it is that I can and then I realise that clearly I am not as important to them. Now I don’t care. I don’t make any efforts at all.

  47. I would also give up everything and just do something I like to do with food completely aware that I wont earn any decent money in the first year…but the entire burden of house loan, car loan and other nonsense bogs me down and doesnt give me the guts to just throw it all away- so I guess the fear is of being incapacitated financially myself and not being able to support M for all the hard work he puts in ( though I know that he will never make me feel that way.) I will feel guilty if I cant stand by him financially and expect him to take care of me, holidays, shopping whims etc…I seriously admire people who chuck it all up to follow a passion- it does take nerves of steel and hopefully one day I will get there

    • I whole-heartedly agree. Feminism be damned – I want an unending bank balance to truly not be afraid and do what will bring me the most satisfaction!

      • 🙂 And does it take an unending bank balance to be not afraid? I’d think the more you have, the more you are worried about losing. As the song goes – Freedom’s just another word, for nothing to lose.

  48. Perhaps it is time for you to take up a full time job – great pay, adrenaline at work and all that jazz. You seem to be happy doing your current job and managing your work-home blance, but somewhere in the corner of your heart, you seem to be missing the high of a great job. I often see that you are constantly reassuring (justifying???) your current situation, Maybe, you should give the great job another try, Whether it works or not, you woudl have made peace with yourself. Just a suggestion.

    • Yikes. No thank you. I did have great pay and a good job till September last year. But I’ve been there, done that, lost my knees, lost my skin, lost my peace of mind, encountered bitches, saw my kids fare poorly at school, watched my house fall down around my ears, lost touch with my husband – full time job plus raising my children well is an oxymoron for me. Maybe if grandparents lived close by it would be doable. But daycares and maids for such young kids is a no no.

      And I definitely miss the high of a great job, but the other thing is I am yet to find a job great enough to justify neglecting my kids. Which is what would happen if I took a full time job. Media is a tough task master and unlike other jobs where you can come home at 6pm, I’d rarely get home before late night and I’d be required to travel a lot. That, in my books, is unpardonable parenting. I may as well give the kids away to a stranger on the roads 😦

      I of course always talking about missing my work life, but I think its just got worse thanks to living in Gurgaon – its very much an island. Adrenaline rushes come from many things. I’ve never found them at the work place. I would be much happier in Delhi. I need interaction with lots of people and that is tough in my current situation. Since I have no other option right now, the only one left is to vent on my blog and hope and wait that one day we will move back to Delhi and even if I don’t go to full time work I will get out and have more of a life.

      • It will come all in good time, MM! I can totally see your point – I dont see the solution to talking about missing working to run and get a full time job! As you state, there are many reasons for why what you are doing with the children is important now. It is but natural to want and miss stimulation that one gets from interesting work – and as adorable as kids and babies are, we all sometimes need a break from it hence your blogging about work etc.

        Also, wanted to add in response to an earlier comment about how you have patience with all the comments…I just wanted to say of the many, many blogs I come across – yours is one of two blogs that I check everyday. I stumbled on your blog sometime last year and had no idea I’d connect so much to the topics and your sensibility. A large part of it for me is the graciousness with which you respond to comments. It shows decency and a real respect for others – a very, very rare quality these days. I think we need more of that nowadays so would hate to see you not have time to do this! Thanks for your charm, grace and wit!

        • 🙂 You will find SO many people who will disagree with that. And I have to admit that when people are rude, I am twice as rude. It’s something I picked up while blogging. If you allow people to trample all over you, they will. That said, when I find people like you, seriously interested in engaging and interacting, then I am happy to take the time and effort to answer. Why else am I blogging if not to interact? The only condition being that the questions and points are made respectfully. Thankfully, for every 2 trolls, I have 5 loyal readers and that balances it out.

          • Yeah, the trolls love the interwebs I guess! 🙂 And, yeah – it is good to respond firmly to budtameezi but great that you show real engagement with the way you respond to the genuine ones. Sometimes bloggers are so busy making their own points and listening to their own voice that they are not interested in the comments as much – fair enough, that too – their blog, their rules – but I find it hard to sustain interest in a blog that doesnt involve interaction and engagement, which is why I like your blog. I like the civil conversation on topics that are important in our lives…for a few moments all the distance across continents diminishes and we can engage and converse on what we have in common – be it motherhood, or griping about the help or thinking about work-life balance or aging parents…
            I bet you have to do the extra work to filter out the trolls so thanks for all that effort!

  49. Hi, nice post, have heard this speech before though, she spoke at a ted conference last year.
    If I weren’t afraid, I would become a professional swimmer and live alone. That’s all

      • Ahhh Mad momma replied to me!! ahhhhhhhh
        Lol, just kidding
        I live with my sister, the hardest thing I’ve ever done is adjust to her. If I get a job that pays enough for a rent and living expenses then I would move out, I’m a student so most jobs I get are temp.

  50. I would study, I would find a college, work on getting an admission all over again. But yeah I know I am afraid, I keep telling myself, I’ve done great so far, married the love of my life, lead a very comfortable life and make more money than most of my friends back home so I need to be thankful and give up wanting more.

  51. Here after agessss!! :)) I am going through this struggle now too. Finally! haha

    Joys of being a woman eh. 🙂 I wonder if I contributed 50% in work force rite now, would my husband be able to contribute 50% at home? Would he be able to feed our child? Would he be able to take care of her like a mother can? God bless him for being an angel that he is but there are some things he really cannot pitch in. 50% contribution from him especially at this point in life is almost impossible. Even if he tries, I’d be unhappy with one thing or other. I would want the kitchen cleaner, the clothes folded better, the bathroom shining … which he possibly can’t achieve.

    Perhaps I am leaning back too … but it’s a choice I am making. I take care of my child and the house round the clock and help my husband get his 8 hour sleep every night so he can go to work and provide for us. It’s a perfect balance for the both of us and it works. My ambition in life is to have a happy family … and I’d work real hard to attain that … even if that means that I’ll have to be a SAHM for the next few years.

    You have made a choice of staying with your kids. Much power to that. No one should get a justification for that. You don’t have to justify to anyone or yourself. I believe that you like every other woman is being guilt-tripped into feeling bad -at least a bit- for staying at home, and you get rid of that negativity by pouring it out here on this blog. Reminds me of the breastfeeding struggle that I just went through. If you don’t breastfeed, you are made to feel so guilty that you are a bad mother as if you are feeding your kid poison if you formula feed. I wanted to breastfeed my child and I AM breastfeeding her … not because I was made to feel like an incompetent if I gave her formula but because I wanted to do the best I can for my child. The unnecessary extra pressure of guilt just made my struggle so much more harder. I had so many ‘aunties’ to answer to when they ‘advised’ me that I better be breast feeding. There’s always guilt tripping women everywhere in every aspect of life…….. Anyway, gotta rush … baby crying. : ) Joys of motherhood.

    • Good to know you’ve settled in and are enjoying the early days. Bottle, breast, diaper, nappy… lots of choices to make. But do you really mean it when you say “can he take care of her like a mother can?” We’ve already established that all mothers do things differently – so then what exactly is that standard we’re holding up for fathers that we believe they will not be able to meet?

      While the OA can’t breastfeed he takes as good if not better care of our kids, so I disagree with that sentence. And yes, dividing up the family responsibilities for a happy and comfortable life where no one is overburdened, is a choice we made many years ago.

      Getting to your comment – I believe you have misunderstood or believe incorrectly – I am not being guilt tripped into anything because I am working from home. Pretty much win-win I’d say.

      I vent and blog very honestly – I am very clear I want to raise the kids myself and I am also very human – so there will always be twinges of what I miss. That, I’d say is human. There is no question of ‘justifying’ so don’t worry about me being guilted. Neither do I understand what you mean by pouring ‘negativity’ out on my blog. Huge difference between discussing a speech and its salient points, and being negative – I don’t see either in this post!

      I write on various topics, to discuss, to engage. Not every post can or should be taken personally or related to my personal life. I might give my thoughts on each point but that is all there is to it. It gets very tedious to respond if every commenter makes this about me. Because even I don’t have that interesting a life 😉

      Now off you go to take care of that crying baby. Enjoy motherhood and the baby powder smell!

  52. I am a cynic. I loved the speech and I think the audience was right for something like this. I mean, you don’t tell college kids that they will be “jaded” after 5 years in the work force or that they won’t break the glass ceiling. And I actually felt like she was covering up when she starts talking about choosing to stay home. On one hand you talk about equality in the corporate world, on the other hand you say it’s OK if you want to stay home. If she had started with the right to choose, I would appreciate it more.
    Wants change, priorities change and we all make choices along the way, all our lives. But then reality does set in at some point, and most people realize that you truly can’t have everything you “want”, there is no “perfect” world. I dreamt of being on wall st. Very early on I realized that my teenage dream of glamorous suits was foolish because of the relatively poor quality of life behind those glamorous suits and money crunching. Yet, I want to work and do a damn good job while I am at it. So am I contributing 50%? Absolutely! But am I on a fast track to become CEO at 30? err absolutely not! And I know that would be possible if I agreed to a poorer quality of life, no family, no kids. I chose otherwise and I don’t think that lessens my contribution to society, my company or my family. I make decisions on a daily basis at work and at home. And they do trickle down or translate in some fashion though it may not be immediately evident or tangible.

    Anyway, I ramble, I don’t think I am afraid of anything except of not being an optimal mother to my child and raise her the right way. If I was not afraid, I would be around my child more, travel more, cook more, clean more, talk more, socialize more…live more?

  53. Hi,
    I have a 2.5 yr. old daughter and am recently contemplating going back to a full time job. After a 2 yr. career break, the decision has been a tough one. So many people (mostly, moms) told me that it would be tough for her, tough for me to leave her at daycare, she would be neglected..blah, blah, blah. But after giving it much thought, I decided that I would never know what would be the consequences if I don’t give it a try. Was I scared to take the career plunge and neglecting my daughter? Yes. I still am. I also know that I am aiming for everything. I want a career, and at the same time want that ‘”perfect” work- life balance. Utopia? Yes, perhaps. But, I do know that I won’t know whether I will be able to acheive that unless I try. Only time will tell whether I succeed or not. But, am not afraid to lose, though. 🙂

  54. Since you asked 🙂

    What would I do if I was not afraid – I’d like to say ‘Live independently and do what I wanted, without bothering how it affected things like my marriage’ but on the other hand, wouldn’t that be incredibly juvenile?
    If I was not afraid, I would walk out on my marriage when I got bored but then I’d never try and make it work
    If I was not afraid, I’d quit what I was doing and move to Bombay and do set designing but I’d probably find that taxing as well and wish i was back at my old job where I had the experience and the capacity to put my own ideas forward
    If I was not afraid, I’d move cities every two years and continue to live like today was the last day of my life but then I’d also end up burning a lot of bridges and never having lasting relationships
    If I was not afraid, I’d go back packing around the world but I know it would cause my parents undue anxiety not knowing where i am, how I’m managing and if I had money to survive.
    If I was not afraid life might have been different but maybe it wouldn’t be better.
    You see, its difficult to be happy with your lot and I’m not saying you ought to be content and not strive to achieve more but maybe being a little afraid is not so bad?
    Plus I think a lot of us have these impossible dreams or rather dreams that keep us going but ones we wouldn’t ever want to fulfill and it helps that we are a little afraid.

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