PepsiCo's CEO shares the trick that has helped her stay married for 37 years

PepsiCo's CEO shares the trick that has helped her stay married for 37 years

Indra Nooyi

World Economic Forum / Flickr

Neither parent should be CEO of the household, says Indra Nooyi, pictured.

  • Indra Nooyi is CEO of PepsiCo.
  • On an episode of the "Freakonomics" podcast, she said her mother advised her to "leave the crown in the garage," i.e. don't act like the CEO of her family.
  • Nooyi added that she and her husband were constantly readjusting to make sure no one took on more responsibility than the other.

"Leave the crown in the garage." For nearly four decades, that's been Indra Nooyi's strategy for maintaining peace in her household.

Nooyi is the CEO of PepsiCo, and she speaks often about work/life balance. On an episode of the "Freakonomics" podcast, Nooyi shared how a controversial piece of advice from her mother has influenced both her marriage and her parenting style.

Nooyi is 62 years old, with two grown daughters. She told host Stephen Dubner that her mother "believes that these jobs [like the job of CEO] give you crowns, and leave those crowns in the garage when you come home. Don't try to pretend that you're still the big boss, because you're not."

Dubner asked Nooyi whether that idea seemed unfair - after all, if Nooyi had been male, her mother probably wouldn't have given her the same advice.


Nooyi agreed that it was unfair, but also explained how it's been useful - not only for her, but also for her husband. Nooyi's husband is Raj K. Nooyi, who is president at AmSoft Systems, and they've been married for 37 years.

Here's Nooyi: "We all have to develop adaptation strategies, because if we don't, we're going to start feeling resentful or angry with whatever's happening around us. From my perspective, my mom says, 'Leave the crown in the garage?' Fine, I left it in the garage.'"

She added: "Would I have liked to have brought [the crown] in? No, not at the expense of my marriage and my children."

That is to say, checking your ego, or at least your professional identity, at the front door of your home can be uncomfortable. But as Nooyi sees it, everyone has to make some sacrifices to keep their marriage and family intact and for her, this was it.

There may not be such a thing as an equal partnership between co-parents

Still, the concept of splitting chores and childcare exactly 50/50 between co-parents is often more idealistic than realistic.


In an opinion column for TIME, Judith Warner noted that many families probably can't "afford to potentially weaken - or jeopardize outright - the earning power of the person bringing home most of the bacon" (who, she noted, is typically a man). What's more, it's often difficult to quantify housework and childcare; as Warner notes, some tasks are more rewarding or tedious than others.

Meanwhile, couples therapist Esther Perel told Vogue's Patricia Garcia that "equality in many couples is busted with the arrival of the first child." For example, she said, "There's one [parent] that's more able to fall asleep at night than the other. There's one that's more able to be flexible with their job than the other. There is going to be a frontline parent."

Nooyi didn't suggest that either she or her husband was a "frontline parent." Instead, she talked about re-calibrating on a regular basis, presumably so that no one ended up in this role.

She said: "I'm married to a great guy, but it required constant, sort of, adjustments to make sure that we both were equal versus each other, and to our children we both were parents."