By Randi Crawford
Every year, Aspen, Colo., hosts the “Aspen Ideas Festival,” an incredibly powerful summit of leaders from around the world, who come together and share ideas.
This year, there was a very interesting discussion with Indra K. Nooyi, the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. A friend of mine attended the conference and raved about this speaker, so I read the transcript and had to share.
Nooyi is telling the audience about the time she learned that she was the new CEO of PepsiCo, and I want to paraphrase some of what she said.
“I got a call at about 9:30 p.m. from the existing chairman and CEO at that time, and he said to me, ‘Indra, we’re going to announce you as president and put you on the board of directors.’ I was overwhelmed because, you know, look at my background, where I came from. To be president of an iconic American company, and to be on the board of directors, I thought was just — something special had happened to me.
“So rather than stay and work till midnight, I decided to go home and share the good news with my family. I got home at about 10, parked the car, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. I said to Mom, ‘I’ve got great news for you.’ And she said, ‘Well, let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?’
“I said to Mom, ‘Look, I looked in the garage, looks like my husband is home. What time did he get home?’ She said 8 o’clock.
“I said, ‘Why didn’t you ask him to buy the milk?’
“‘Because he’s tired, OK?’
“‘Mom, we have a couple that help us at home, why didn’t you ask them to get the milk?’ She said, ‘Because I forgot.’ I said, ‘OK, fine.’ She said, ‘Just go get the milk. We need it for the morning.’
“So I — like a dutiful daughter — I went out and got the milk and came back. I sort of banged it on the counter and I said, ‘I had great news for you. I was just told that I’m going to be president and on the board of directors of PepsiCo. And all that you want me to do is to go out and get the milk. What kind of a mom are you?’
“And she said to me, ‘Let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo, you might be on the board of directors, but when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother, you’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damn crown in the garage.’”
How can you not love that story? Her mother hit the nail on the head. Nobody at home cares who you are in your professional life. To your family, you are Mom, Mother, Mommy, and Mama. If they don’t have their morning cereal, they look to you. If they can’t find a missing sock, it’s your fault. If they want to have a friend to sleep over, you need to OK the decision. If they get hurt, you are taking them to the hospital. You might be a working mom, but at the end of the day, you’re Mom.
Now if you read the entire transcript, this woman is totally dialed in. She admits that women can’t have it all. If you’re going to climb the corporate ladder, especially as high as she did, then you pay a price. You travel, and go out to dinner meetings, and consequently, miss a lot of your kids’ growing up.
She talked about how her secretary and support staff helped her to “streamline parenting” by knowing her house rules and having her permission to enforce them. I’m a big fan, because she tells it like it is. I get frustrated with all the moms who say that you can have it all. No, you can’t. Something will always suffer, and that’s just life. I’m not judging. It’s just a fact that when you’re a working mom, you can’t possibly put everyone and everything at the top of the list.
And Indra’s mother pointing out that she can leave the crown in the garage is priceless. If Indra wants the role of mom, wife, daughter, sister-in-law and daughter-in-law, as well as her CEO position, then something has to give. Once you walk in that door, you are the chef, the laundress, the chauffeur, cleaning lady, therapist, cheerleader and much more. I thought this was an incredible talk and definitely wanted to share. What do you think? Can moms have it all? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.