“Guilt comes as part of the success package”
Success to me, from a professional perspective, has meant having the respect of my peers, being secure in the knowledge that whatever I did was correct and done without sacrificing the integrity of my advice for any external reasons, that I was able to institutionalise an organisation, nurture young talent and be a good mentor for a future set of leaders. But striking a balance between my professional and personal life has never been easy. I had three children in quick succession between 1986 and 1990. I founded my own firm in 1984 and so that was also the period of time when I was at my most manic at work. Frankly, I don’t think I have mastered the art of striking the perfect balance yet. There are different times in my life where I gave priority to different things. But I think the one lasting guilt I will have, like many working mothers do, is that I didn’t give enough time to my children. I try to make peace with it in my head by being there for critical milestones. But for young girls, having a mother around is essential, especially while they’re facing those typical teenage issues. That’s where I failed to do what I should have perhaps.
I find ways to make up for it, without verbalising it, by being there for my girls (Anjali, Aarti and Aditi), now young women, whenever they reach out to me. And of course, my husband (Jaydev Mody, founder of Delta Corp) as well. I certainly haven’t been the stereotypical wife and the only way that our companionship and bond has lasted is because we’re both driven, conscious and proud of each other’s achievements. I’m aware of the rarity I have found in a husband who isn’t insecure, and is in fact extremely proud of me. As a 60-year-old, a piece of advice I’d give to my younger self is to not become obsessive about my work for such a long period of time. Of course, that might have affected where I am right now, but in the long run it would have been worth it. And even in hindsight, I can recognise that if I wanted a career that was growing as fast as it was at that time, I probably would have had to make that sacrifice again.
To young women trying to carve a niche for themselves, I’d say work your brains out before you decide to get married and start a family. Make sure you are respected for what you’re doing and establish your reputation. But recognise that you’d need a little time for yourself.
But truth be told, the opportunity for women to ask for things is much more now than it was in the early 1980s. Employers are far more aware of how valuable a woman leader can be. It is virtually impossible for us to have it all. Guilt comes as part of the success package, but it is a manageable guilt. A woman’s role is one of motherhood, you can’t take that away biologically, nor should you want to. And if that is a role that nature gives us, how much do we fight with it before something snaps in our own head? That’s the struggle we all fight with and I don’t see that changing.
ZiA ModY 60 Legal consultant Founding Partner, aZB & Partners, Mumbai