Despite of living nearly 8000 miles away from her, my sister and I are very close to our mom. In fact, we have a bond that often strikes to others as a dear friendship. When the three of us get together, we are often found talking and laughing for hours on end.
In an effort to conserve personal protective equipment for physicians and nurses on the front line, the COVID 19 related shutdown left most dental practices reduced to emergencies only. So for two whole months in early 2020, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. Amongst other things, I decided to use the time to speak to my parents, particularly my mom, daily.
One day I decided to interview mom about her life. What I learned began to change the way I thought about her and her dreams. Ultimately, it compelled me to revisit my own vision.
When asked about the biggest professional challenge she faced, she said, ‘most of the time, challenges are opportunities to improve. Improve your products, the organization, and your relationship with customers.’ My parents have built a successful software business from scratch, in Dubai, UAE. My mom believed that having a positive outlook had always helped their business grow.
When asked what her greatest weakness was, she said, ‘I wish to have always been as action oriented as I am now.’ She reminded me to trust instinct, dream big, and take action quickly. Sometimes, you need to ignore the naysayers in your mind and ‘just do it!’
Women and the workplace
A leader of any company understands the unique dilemma we face in hiring and motivating women. Many women leave a full-time professional job and go home to do a full-time mom job. Several female employees quit, instead of going on maternity leave and coming back. Although, my mom has respected the decisions of her female employees every time, she also hopes for each of them to have an equal partner at home.
The importance of having an ‘equal partner’ at home was made popular by Sheryl Sandberg in a TedTalk that went viral. However, women have always known this to be a fundamental truth. Mom added, ‘having it all is a myth. Women often feel guilty that they can’t have it all, but the truth is that nobody can have it all. We need help at work and we need help at home. We just need to ask for it.’
The importance of having an ‘equal partner’ at home was made popular by Sheryl Sandberg in a TedTalk that went viral. However, women have always known this to be the truth.
When I asked her what wisdom she wanted to pass on to other women, she did not hesitate to respond. ‘Do not underestimate yourself. If you want to be successful, you must learn to ask for what you deserve. For example: if you are not confident about asking for a raise, how will you convince others?’ All things considered equal, in the United States, women still earn 90 cents for every dollar made by men. A study conducted by Freund et al in 2016 recommends training women in negotiating their contracts to help address the gender pay gap.
Advise to spouses and partners
I was enjoying the direction the conversation was taking, so I probed further. I asked mom what specific advice she would give to a spouse or partner. ‘Support her, encourage her & contribute more at home so that she can fly higher & pursue her dreams.’ I shared this with my husband, who responded, ‘of course, just like how you support me, I will support you. We are a team!’
I smiled at this because I realized, I do indeed have an equal partner.
We have so much to learn from our moms, despite the distance, difference in age or ‘generational gap’. What I have learnt, is that my mom has a very progressive view of the world. Sometimes, more so than me. Her clarity in thinking, is something I would like to learn from her and develop. I would also like to retain her positivity and honesty, which she maintains even with her employees.
Vulnerability and honesty
She has been able to demonstrate that when we are vulnerable in the workplace, we often get the best results from our people. This is because they see how much we care. They know how invested we are in their growth and as a result, work harder.
I hope to learn from her her leadership skills and the way in which she prioritizes her life’s activities. ‘Remember to be intentional, Sampada. You do not have to do everything or take every opportunity that comes your way. Make deliberate choices, set limits and stick to them.’
We have so much to learn from our moms, despite the distance, difference in age or ‘generational gap’.
Winning the parent lottery
I ended the interview by asking her what she considered to be the biggest achievement in her life. Her response? ‘My biggest achievement is yet to come’. Thank you for being so inspiring, mom. In the words of Randy Pausch, I know for sure, ‘I won the parent lottery!’
Love you, mom!