Forbes gives Indra Nooyi the #3 spot on its list of the World's Most Powerful Moms. Her two daughters are now young adults and in a recent interview with Freakonomics' Stephen Dubner, Nooyi talked about how she has had to adjust her approach to her children--not just to their growing independence and maturity but in stepping away from the cultural ties of her upbringing in Chennai, India.
Here's some of what this Powerful Mom has to say about parenting:
For a long time, especially given my cultural upbringing, I thought you just listen to your parents and you did whatever they asked you to do. Until I had my own kids. And they told me, “No, we are people too. We have our own mind, we do our own thing.” And I learned the tough way, that the rules that applied to me, from my parents to me — I mean, I was a very dutiful kid in many ways. And if the parents said, “Jump over this line,” you jumped over the line, and you didn’t ask questions. As I had children here, and my husband and I, we learned that they’re people too. They have their own thoughts and ideas, and we have to jointly evolve a point of view, as opposed to, “You will listen to me.” In life I’m learning a lot of lessons that are different from my own cultural upbringing.
Dubner also asked Nooyi about the conflicting pressures of being a mother and a daughter as well as a C.E.O.of a billion-dollar company.
NOOYI: I think we grew up in a culture where our parents basically said, “Don’t let these jobs get to you, whatever your job is, because at the end of the day your first priority is being sort of a wife, and a mother, and a daughter, and a daughter-in-law,” and all those roles we have to play. I have a mother who, in particular, believes that fiercely, and believes that these jobs give you crowns, and leave those crowns in the garage. When you come home, don’t try to pretend that you’re still the big boss, because you’re not.
DUBNER: Does that seem a little unfair, because if you were born male, that — she probably wouldn’t say that to you?
NOOYI: That’s correct, but I can’t change her. I can either spend my time trying to change her, or just say, “You know what? Let her think whatever she wants.” All the times that she’s with me, I leave the crown in the garage. The rest of the time I at least bring it and leave it on the front door or somewhere, or a table sort of in the garage. You know something Stephen, I think we all have to develop adaptation strategies, because if we don’t, we’re going to start feeling resentful or angry with whatever’s happening around us. From my perspective, my mom says “Leave the crown in the garage?” Fine, I left it in the garage. I’ve been married 37 years to the same guy. I don’t think I could have balanced all of this, had I brought my crown into the house every day. There’s no way it would have worked. And would I have liked to have brought it in? No, not at the expense of my marriage and my children. I’m married to a great guy, but it required constant, sort of, adjustments to make sure that we both were equal versus each other, and to our children we both were parents, and one was not C.E.O. and one is not C.E.O. I don’t think that works at home at all.