Family, careers & the pursuit of ultimate happiness

Saturday, January 18, 2014

As many of you are aware, we have a simple family with a crazy life. 

 

We are bi-coastal: my husband works in California and the rest of the family (me and daughter) live in suburban Georgia. We get to be a family for one weekend, or for about 48 hrs every 3-4 weekends of a month. 

 

Given this mega-commuter family structure, we were asked share our experiences in an interview for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, about the perils and benefits of such a family life and the interwoven complexities that it creates.  The lady first interviewed my husband and then me, separately. We are expecting to see the interview in print soon – I will share it when it is online.

 

Amongst the many emails that happened AFTER the interview between my interviewer and me, a new thread of conversation emerged, and we shared these articles with each other from our recent readings under these broader categories.

 

Professional women: juggling: 

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/14/22291797-juggling-act-why-are-women-still-trying-to-do-it-all?lite

 

Professional women: expectations and outcomes: 

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/

 

Gender equality in the workplace:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/01/the-daddy-track/355746/

 

While I mulled and made notes over several of these, I realized there is so much to be done to shake this conformity and make it convention: about the greater ideas about life, family, careers and the pursuit of ultimate happiness.

 

As some of you also know, building the Curry Cravings™ brand has been my personal and incremental journey over three careers, two decades and continents, and with one husband by my side.

 

Having personally lived through the gender biases professionally, these articles resonated with me at a visceral level. From covert discrimination or simply being passed up or being explicitly asked to choose family over career because I was a woman with a traveling spouse- both men AND women in my peer group have let me down, and tried to reinforce the draconian rhetoric that not all women are cut-out to possess a drive for personal success or seek professional careers. Or, I have had to grapple with the work-culture that a married woman with a child needs to stay home or follow spouse or both. Higher paid professional women are able to navigate this better, but entry and mid-level professionals are at the receiving end of pigeonholed-thinking. It also remains prevalent mindset in the workplace that a married woman with a family and or a paycheck that is greater than yours is infinitely superior to you in every way, and especially in your personal desire to grow or succeed as a professional.

As shaken as one can be with roadblocks, I have taught myself to refine my career path with each hurdle my peers created for me, and use life skills to create something that worked for me (as well as my family) and make it a fulfilling path. My goals for ultimate happiness became what I created, by walking on a path that I was confident about, not what is an expected destination or trajectory determined by something else. 

 

Crisis counseling reminder, posted at the Golden Gate Bridge. See note below.

 

To drive the point home, if you are familiar with the Scavenger Vortex episode from the Big Bang Theory. Through the scavenger hunt that Raj has set up, Sheldon has been carrying around a bowling ball that no one knows about. He only brings it out when he has solved the puzzle and gets the coordinates to the bowling alley. He has a plan that no one else thought about and a ‘to-do-list’ for when the hunt was completed. In my case, this episode mimics my personal to-do-list. I am on what seems like a scavenger hunt and am carrying the figurative bowling ball, but I need to solve the puzzles and have the map coordinates in place before my bowling ball has any purpose. And those coordinates are slowly coming together, which makes me even more determined to lug the ball around a little longer.  

 

Contrary to some thinking, I don’t think that including men into the equations (work-life-balance or paternity leave or recruiting them to speak for a cause) will generate sufficient long term solutions. I stress on the words: sufficient & long-term. These solutions will prove useless if there isn’t the infrastructure of confidence, determination and equality constructed into the way we raise our children: boys AND girls, who are raised within ANY kind of family structure.

 

The solution lies in answering the bigger questions: how do you get women to respect and feel proud and confident of their own choices and choices other women make about their lives? How do you get men to respect women as professional superiors, not just equals – because currently they are doing far more than their share of the grunt work. While solving tangible problems vs intangible ones – how can we seek a solution that provides intangible benefits as well. That is why the idea of 'Leaning IN' resonated with so many women but sadly I am yet to find a local set of women who will feel confident enough to participate in such a circle.

With us reflecting more and more on such equality issues and partnerships between men and women, it becomes even more important to instill a newer vocabulary of values for our daughter. My husband and I have lived it all. We come from patriarchal families and workplaces dominated by men. But today and here on out, I need my daughters’ life to be free from the constructs of corporate pressures and frameworks of worn out paths, or social expectations; and if I had a son, I would say the same for him. For my daughter, I hope to instill this: She must have the confidence to carve out her space and to pursue the ultimate freedom of choice, and know that finding fulfillment in that choice is the true pursuit of ultimate happiness.

Important note: the photograph included in this blog was taken at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at a location where tragedy occurs too frequently. The author of this blog intends to use as a point of discussion that determining ones own definitions for success is the key to defining what makes for ultimate happiness.

 

 

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AUTHOR

Nandita Godbole

Once a botanist & landscape architect. Now a personal chef & author, an artist, graphic designer, blogger & closeted poet. Loves freshly brewed chai, the crisp salty ocean breeze, watching monsoon rains & walking barefoot through cold mountain streams. Believes in the strength, positivity of the human spirit. Is spiritual but not a fanatic. Mom of one. Two, if she counts her husband.

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