Honesty in a CEO. And housewife.

A couple of weeks ago Matt Lauer of the Today Show asked GM CEO Mary Barra if she could be a good mother and a good CEO at the same time. He says he’d have asked the same parenting question of a male CEO, if like Ms. Barra, the CEO had brought up the issue in a previous interview. 

It’s not a bad to thing, to ask a person if they can be a good parent and be a good CEO at the same time. It’s perhaps even, a very good thing. 

PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi answered honestly:

I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all… every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother… We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom.

It’s not a bad thing to be content and earnest if you’re instead a good parent and good wife, without the CEO-ness. Kate Tuttle is happy with what she has (and she sounds a lot like me):

Although I make money with my writing, it’s a tiny fraction of what my husband makes. We mostly live on his income. As for the housewife’s workload, that’s mostly mine…  The crazy part is, I (mostly) love it.

It’s utterly refreshing to hear two perspectives from two women who are to be admired, not for how they spend their days, but for their self-awareness. They acknowledge what’s hard. They acknowledge what they want and their associated costs. They work to cover them: Willing to pay, because there’s a benefit out there that’s worth the price.

***

My daughter doesn’t like that I work. It makes me too “busy.” She was telling me this, woefully, but then she paused and said,

“But you were busy before you worked. What were you doing?” 

“Well, I helped out at your school a great deal. I took care of the house and of you and your brother, and Daddy, then. I still do.” 

“Oh yeah….” 

My son recently said, after watching his older cousins head off to their summer jobs as life guards (which struck my daughter as “sad,” because they didn’t have as much time to play),

“I wish I weren’t a boy.”

“Why?” I asked, preparing myself for a completely unexpected but happy-to-have conversation about his gender identification.

“When you grow up you have to go to work.”

My daughter interjected.

“What? Girls grow up and go to work! Mommy took me to work when I was a baby, remember? And then she was home with us and she worked, and now she works and she does work in the house, too.”

I’m a corporate wife. A housewife. A mother. A writer. A woman. And with that conversation, I know a key piece of this woman’s work is done. 

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