In an interview with TV host Katie Couric, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg recounts an encounter she had with a young girl. The girl, a high-school graduate, shared her concerns about handling motherhood within the ambit of her professional aspirations. Astonished at the brevity of this young girl’s interpretation of the corporate world, Sheryl said the incident reinforced the need for a focused conversation on the pressure felt by many girls and women when it comes to balancing motherhood and their careers. The insight she derived from her experience sums up the struggles of a lot of women and points out how every woman owes her struggle and success to her own choices.
“I think very strongly that all of us have to make these personal decisions when we have to. When we have that child, you have to decide – are you going to be a work-at-home mom or a work-in-the-office mom? But until then, you should lean in and keep your foot on the gas pedal because it turns out that if you do that you might get promoted, you might make enough money to afford a child care [sic], you might have a more interesting job,” said Sheryl during the interview with Katie.
Being a mother is tough. What’s tougher is being a mother with a job. Is it okay to constantly think about what your child is up to during a work presentation? Is it okay to worry about tomorrow’s deadline while reading your child his/her favourite bedtime story? The answers are hard to find because most working mothers are up to their nose with three things – work, guilt, and compromise. Motherhood is a challenge, which can be dealt with by developing what Indra Nooyi calls “coping mechanisms.” Five more women share their trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being a working mother.
Kiran Bedi, Lt. Governor of Puducherry and retired IPS officer
Kiran Bedi, the mother of a daughter, holds organisation as the true value that can help hold your passion and motherhood in a united bond.
“I know a woman’s life changes when she gets married and becomes a mother and she realises additional responsibilities of home-making. But if she loves her work, she will organise herself in such a way…she’ll create support systems and she’ll plan ahead, that’s what organisation is about. I think that’s the key – how much she loves her work.”
Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and Editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post
Arianna Huffington, who has two daughters, believes that as a mother, you may want to shield your children from difficult times you may be going through. But on the contrary, her daughters have always encouraged Arianna to share everything with them, and it has been a truly uplifting experience for this media tycoon.
"They are really my best friends, and I think that it is great when you see that transformation from you being the mother and the protector, which in many ways you always remain, to also the relationship changing to being best friends.”
Adele, singer and songwriter
Mother of one son, Adele has been vocal about entering motherhood and her daily toil of finding her personal space while nurturing for her child.
“Eventually I just said, I’m going to give myself an afternoon a week, just to do whatever the f--k I want without my baby. A friend of mine said, ‘Really? Don’t you feel bad?’ I said, I do, but not as bad as I’d feel if I didn’t do it. Four of my friends felt the same way I did, and everyone was too embarrassed to talk about it; they thought everyone would think they were a bad mom, and it’s not the case. It makes you a better mom if you give yourself a better time.”
Victoria Beckham, singer and businesswoman
With four children – a daughter and three sons – and the privileged life they have had, Victoria’s kept her focus on teaching them values and appreciation for what they have.
“Being in a position where they live such a privileged life, it is important that our children understand humility, that they appreciate how their parents have worked very hard to create this life for the family and that they, too, have a responsibility to work hard, be respectful and never, ever take anything for granted.”
Susmita Sen, Miss Universe and actress
This single mother of two daughters has been the role model for single working mothers not just in India but from across the world. Someone who has always followed her heart and choices, Sushmita had always aspired to be a mother and now believes that “being a mother is magical, tough, complicated, very human, it’s like everyone else.”
“The good thing is that I’ve never made any ‘sacrifices’ for my children. Because when you put sacrifice as an element, you tend to let the child feel the pressure of ‘I did this for you’,” she said.
There are so many other women leaders in the world who have made a name for themselves. They are not only leaders but also role models, and if we turn around to look at our workplaces, we will discover women who are pursuing careers of their choice without treating motherhood as an impediment.