Indra Nooyi recently rediscovered a letter one of her daughters wrote to her when she was about four years old.
“Dear Mum,” it read. “I love you. Please come home. Please please please please please come home.”
Nooyi, the CEO and chairman of PepsiCo, shared this experience onstage at Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit, in a conversation with Anne-Marie Slaughter and Norah O’Donnell. It serves as evidence of the difficult choices she had to make while her kids were growing up and she was working hard to make PepsiCo a success.
Yet it wasn’t until recently, she said, that she could appreciate just how heart-wrenching it was for her kids when she and her husband spent so much time at work.
Last Labour Day weekend my husband and I kept waiting for our two kids to come home. And we kept going to the window saying, “Maybe they’re coming now; maybe they’re coming now.” And they didn’t come until Monday evening. We were so mad. But then we sat back and said, “That’s how they felt when we didn’t come back from work on time.”
If her daughters eventually have kids of their own, she said, it will be like turning the tables. Suddenly, she and her husband will be waiting for them to involve their parents in childcare and “hoping they will incorporate us in their life.”
Nooyi and her husband told their daughters, “‘Have all the kids you want. We’ll take care of all your kids.”
“Why are we doing this?” Nooyi asked the audience. “We want our kids back with us. Because I’m afraid to let go, because I didn’t spend much time with them when they were young.”
She went on to suggest that there’s a way for society to create a “supportive ecosystem” in which parents receive help with childcare from their own ageing parents.
It’s a way for all of society to improve, she added, “instead of everybody struggling with, ‘When am I going to see my kids? How am I going to take care of my kids?'”
She concluded: “Let’s solve it by bringing the ageing [grandparents], the middle-aged kids who are having kids and the little kids all together to be a supportive system. That’s the next revolution.”
Watch the full video of the conversation here: