Zuckerberg style paternity leave..is it relevant?

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Reading about one of the world’s busiest men running the Facebook empire wanting to take paternity leave got me thinking. Does this mean that Silicon Valley is officially recognizing paternity leave as an important step in encouraging and empowering men to share the responsibilities that come from a new born in the family? If so, it certainly sounded good.

Tech companies have always encouraged maternity/paternity leave in the hope of retaining talent. Yet most have not made much use  of the facility, it seems, for fears of missing out on the pace of work. Even in the case of Marisa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who chose to take minimum time out with both of her pregnancies, worked throughout.

Comparisons aside, Zuckerberg’s statement is a powerful one and highlights the importance of giving family due time. In tech driven businesses, this can be a tough call. Not that it is easier elsewhere. Careers have been put on hold for those wanting to go all the way in caring for children. In the case of Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, it is even more poignant because the couple miscarried earlier. The significance of wanting to spend time with the new born and be around the new mother in a role that both empowers and assists her,must mean considerably to the Facebook founder.

So, does this mean that paternity leave is important for all men whose wives are due to give birth? Or is it just more of the politically correct statements and standpoints to show the world that gender is a key issue in Silicon Valley?

Paternity leave, I’m certain, does help. I remember the aftermath of having my daughter, recovering from a bleeding fibroid and facing the post natal depression blues. Having my husband around helped. It was not just sharing the work – it was also being able to share the fears, the uncertainties, the complications and being able to be comforted and soothed by the person closest to you and the family. Sometimes, what matters is the fact that your husband is around – not even doing anything but just being there so that you can be assured everything is alright. New mothers need an extra hand in reassurance, as we all know.

Undoubtedly, Zuckerberg has set a new standard for all the young, tech driven fathers out there. As a parent who is also a millennial, his decision speaks much for the restoration of faith in families, in fathers wanting to spend time with children and in giving family priority over work. It tells the young generation that work could never replace family, which in itself is a strong delivery. It puts the concept of getting married, having children, raising a family in a new light – for the better.

Now that the founder of the social media giant Facebook confirms paternity leave is ok, we should see the concept gaining momentum at places of work. Argued, evaluated, thought over, mulled over – call it what you may. Every new mother would benefit from an extra pair of hands – especially from the one  who is closest to her.

 

 

 

What does it feel to hit 50 – finally?

What does it feel to hit 50 – finally?

Ever since finally becoming half a century old this month, the question I get asked often is how it feels to finally hit the big five o. And my answer is always the same – age is but a number. It doesn’t feel any different being 50 years old – you are the same old you but yes, there are things you can work on.

When you reach 50, you begin to understand what really matters in life and what doesn’t. It’s a great point in time to choose what is important in life and what can wait. Or forgotten. You understand the fragility of time and the importance of spending time doing things you want to do. Somethings that were on the back burner can be brought up front. Spending time with your spouse and the children are important –  at 50, realization comes that time can be fleeting and the opportunities to make the best use of relationships can be gone before you can grasp them. Finding time for your aging parents is also paramount here ; they don’t have much time left and it would be good to make an effort to spend some time with them.

At 50, you don’t want to hold grudges and be enslaved by them. It’s a great opportunity to forgive and forget. And to let the slights pass. Especially from younger, over confident folk who think they’ve seen it all – you can laugh it off and shake it out of your system. Retorts and rebuttals are not worth the while, considering the bad blood it pumps into your system.

At 50, you are comfortable – or at least you should ideally be – with who you are. You don’t have time to keep analyzing the portrayal of you by others. Fat or thin, easy to please or hard to get, you are who you are – and you can only improve upon what you are. You can set goals to achieve once you understand and realize that the buck ends with you. You can still bring on change even at 50 – but first, you need to know where and what to change without having to reconsider it later on.

Hitting 50 , in my book, gives you a few privileges. Chief among which is not to have the time or the desire to put up with anything you don’t want to. Having lived for half a century, you somehow come to the conclusion that you don’t really have the time to keep on playing games. If someone doesn’t want to be your friend, that’s fine. Not that you would ignore that person for the rest of your life but you understand the dynamics of relationships. They don’t always stay the same and that’s fine too. You don’t have the time to spend mentally reversing situations and regretting the flash backs.

At 50, feel entitled to some opinions – even though they don’t seem to matter to anyone else but you. You have earned them ; they are yours to keep. You may not always be right but you have time on your side. You have been there, done that and when someone not touching this side of 40 thinks you ought to know better, you have earned the right to shrug it off.

Being 50 is also a great time to finally comprehend that you will never have that hour glass figure or be able to squeeze into that bandage dress hanging for ions in your wardrobe. Give it to charity – instead, focus on eating and exercising right. Not because it is fashionable but because it can keep you fit and healthy and add productive years to your life.

In the final analysis, being 50 isn’t bad at all. In fact, it is good because it is that point in your life when you know for certain what remains and what is fleeting.  appreciate more – you can look out of the window and experience the sunset instead of worrying if another day just ended on an uncertain note.

Is the Househusband here to stay?

 

It’s a uniquely modern syndrome – the househusband. Humour aside, there are plenty of househusbands who have taken over the household and child minding duties as the wife’s career accelerates and she starts making twice or more than what he makes. New York Times recently reported that  the majority of the Wall Street high achiever mothers have househusbands, without whom the women would not be able to do what they do. Apparently, according to TIME magazine, so do the ‘Suits’ type alpha females who rock the large law firms in New York. If they are partners and seniors, they are most likely to have househusbands who run errands, pick up children and take care of cooking and home chores.

So what’s wrong with that, you might ask. Granted, in Sri Lanka, where women do engage in high -powered careers, we are a little way off the househusband thing. Plus, we are lucky in that we often have extended families, a grandmother or an aunt to watch the kids and the home front so that the women can continue in their stellar careers. Either way, culturally, househusbands are not exactly a concept that rocks in this part of the world. A man is expected to work and bring home the bacon. Or the rice. But he has to go to work in the morning and come back home in the evening or whenever he finishes work. Even if it means work is just a computer in his den.

But it seems the high -powered women who prize their careers elsewhere do not feel much differently about gender specific roles, either. According to TIME, such women do not like to talk about their househusbands. It is embarrassing , or so it seems, when the woman doing the earning has to admit that it is really her husband who is handling the home front. Gender roles reversed? Unable to deal with it in the 21st century? Maybe.

It is to be assumed that if the wife has built a career that makes more money and offers more scope than what the husband is engaged in, then it must be that the family would make the decision to give her the support she needs while he chooses to handle the kids and the chores. But pragmatic as such a decision seems, the cultural shock apparently is a tad too much.

It does seem indeed that the power mums are not proud of their househusbands but embarrassed. Some are said to pretend their househusbands engage in other ‘work’ such as ‘consulting’. Is it that the equality of the sexes is fine in theory but in actual fact, the cultural definitions fit better ,more naturally than the ones we have created ourselves? Is politically correctness being stretched too far, being too tested when in conflict with gender defined roles that have come into place over centuries?

Like it or not, apparently the househusbands also feel uneasy about the status quo. When they have to mingle among mothers picking up kids and running errands, it is not always easy to be the instruments of cultural change even though it might seem edifying at the start.

It would also seem that as developed or progressive as the world may appear to be, somethings are always kept best in their traditional roles. It benefits the children too. The traditionally defined roles of the husband as the earner, supplemented by the wife, even though the roles may differ as far as income levels go, is still accepted as the model that works best.

On the other hand, it does take a very courageous and a mature man to be able to successfully fit into the role of a househusband. Courageous because in the eyes of his fellow men, he stands the possibility of being ridiculed; looked down upon in the eyes of family perhaps. He needs to be mature to handle the pressure of letting his wife be the numero uno in the financial department. On the whole, the reversal of culturally defined roles is never easy and will also continue to be a challenge, no matter which part of the world it is.

The other side of the coin is that a supportive husband is what makes a woman’s stellar career stellar. Whether busy in a career himself or a househusband, without the support of the man in her life, even the most powerful woman can find herself in a complicated situation. You maybe the most powerful woman career wise but you could also be the most miserable.

One is reminded of the unique role of Miranda Priestly, the all- powerful editor of the fictitious Runaway magazine, in the hugely successful “The Devil Wears Prada” movie. Although it is said that Miranda’s character was based on the actual Editor of US Vogue, the icy Ann Wintour,  Meryl Streep did absolute justice to the role as an iconic woman whose glance could make or break a hundred careers. What stresses our point though is the  scene in the movie when Miranda is told by her husband that he does not want to be a “Mr. Miranda Priestly” anymore ; unable to stay a mere bystander in their already tumultuous marriage, they eventually go for a divorce. That scene, to my mind, captures best the cultural shock associated with being a full time househusband.

It just isn’t what is done.

 

WHAT ARE WE AS CAREER WOMEN TEACHING OUR KIDS?

 

My six year old daughter loves her Barbies and can play for endless hours in her imaginary Barbie house, having picked up a lot from the Barbie videos she has learnt to download from YouTube. She is very apt at using technology, the legacy of millennium kids, even at six years. When I become a mother, which is her way of saying when I grow up, she says she will do what Ammi does. She even says very admiringly that she will wear glasses, when she becomes a mother. ( I happen to wear glasses). My point here is that daughters are almost always likely to watch, imitate and follow their mothers and of course, sons their fathers, no matter what politically correct gender mix nonsense that passes for modern thinking out there. That’s the way it has been and that’s the way it will be in the future too.

But are we doing the things that will empower them to become successful adults?  Are we giving them the sense of direction, stability and focus they need to emerge balanced, confident young men and women who can lead successful lives whether in their careers or in their personal lives? Too many young people are becoming confused, insecure individuals whose troubles can be sometimes very easy to spot. Too many are driven by trends and what is fashionable only to discover that real life is not like that at all.

As mothers of all shades, and as career women, I personally believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that the daughters and sons of our generation , whether biological, adopted or otherwise, are able to learn from our success and go on to create success themselves. There is so much we can do – and it is never too early to start. Just watch a few little girls or boys at play – you will notice that they are streets ahead of what we used to be as kids. They are technologically savvy and are able to comprehend a lot more than we could grasp. They represent a generation that has grown up with amazing technological feats that were unimaginable just ten years ago. Yet, without mentoring, they will not be able to harness the power, develop strong values and become what they should become, able to take the lead in tomorrow’s world.

A mother could always start by encouraging her daughter or her son to do things on her own  ; becoming independent is a core value that will spur other qualities. There is not much point in becoming highly qualified if she is not able to do things on her own. Some mothers make the mistake of mollycoddling their daughters and their sons even into adult life. Ladies, we must know when to cut the strings. That does not mean you will lose the central place in their lives – rather, it means that they will always remember how you encouraged them to become empowered by learning to do things on their own.

Children learn from observing. If they observe you cherish values such as hard work, punctuality, responsibility and empathy, they will want to follow those traits. Teaching children the value of hard work is one of the best foundations a parent can lay in their young lives. Too often, we hear of young men and women who want the easy way out. They want cushy jobs, a senior manager once shared with me, with the perks but are not very willing to do the work. It would seem to me that they have not had the opportunity to see the value of hard work as they were growing up. Granted all the technology has made some of us lazy –we do not even have to remember any phone numbers now, just ask Siri to dial someone for you – but we can never tire of mentoring our daughters and of course our sons in the way they should be.

Empathy is a strong trait that is often absent in our  circles. Just visit a public toilet to know what I mean. Thinking of others sometimes doesn’t cross our minds at all. But teaching children that other people matter as much as we ourselves do, is a vital point in ensuring that they will be set up for success later in life. Whether as colleagues, bosses or partners, they will perform best if they understand and know that all people are worthy of respect and attention.

Young men and women would benefit tremendously from being exposed to good manners from an early age. One can never underestimate the power of being well mannered. It starts early in life and it starts in the home. No matter how powerful you may be in your career or how high you are, it is your responsibility and yours alone to teach and pass on values to your children. In the process of bringing up children, there are no excuses, unfortunately. Children who have been exposed to strong values in the home are able to translate these into a stronger foundation for success in later life.

Women who have achieved success have a greater responsibility to ensure that the success trickles down into their personal lives. The world is full of unhappy children who have had to watch their immensely successful mother (or father sometimes) charm the world ; they may have yearned for that charm at home but the parent was often absent or was distracted when spending time with the family. It is important for us to know and understand at home, we are not the CEOs or the high -powered career women but mothers and wives whose attention means the world to the children. There is the story of the famous Hollywood actress who chose to live in Europe with her kids and not cash in on her Hollywood glamour. Her grown up children later said that they did not even know their mommy was a star – to them, she was just their mummy who loved them.

It is never too late to start – let us start investing in the futures of our children – let their legacy be one of building a strong foundation of values, love and confidence.