In so many ways, Sri Bodanapu is a professional explorer who has gone her own way. She moved to the U.S. from India with an engineering degree when she was 21 years old, and has since explored a non-linear career path including marketing, advertising, tech, social enterprise, nutrition, cookbook writing and podcast hosting. In her podcast, Big Little Choices, she explores the diverse choices parents make and why, from homeschooling to adopting mixed race children.
“I grew up in a very educated and progressive, yet very traditional family in India. My mother has a graduate degree and chose to become a stay-at-home mom. My dad had a very busy and challenging career. Our house was always full of family coming in and out at all hours. That was my ‘normal.’” Sri recalls of her childhood. “With the podcast, I want to broaden my own perspective to understand somebody else’s ‘normal’—to hear stories from people who don’t look like me, don’t think like me, haven’t been raised like me, to see if we could all share these different perspectives and create a non-judgmental space.”
A few years before having her son Shivi (now 3), Sri was working in marketing in Silicon Valley and took a career break to reevaluate her own expectations of herself. “For my dad, education was #1. You get educated, you work really, really hard and you focus on one thing and then you just do it forever.” Sri feels fortunate that she had the ability to explore other career paths and take risks. “My parents didn’t understand why I would leave a great job, but I was financially stable enough to take this time and learn more about myself.” This exploratory break inspired Sri to find a new passion in food, go back to school and build a career as a nutritionist and holistic wellness professional in the Bay Area.
Now that she is a mother, Sri is both honoring and challenging the expectations of motherhood and career that she grew up with. In order to make it all work with a busy life and multiple projects at a time, she is very intentional with her schedule. For example, despite having flexibility as a business owner, Sri keeps very consistent working hours so that she is always able to cook dinner at home for her family. This is something her mother always did for her and that she says both grounds her culturally and inspires her creatively. That’s what works for her, but she recognizes that might not work (or even be an option) for everyone.
Sri finds many women she interviews feel like they are in a no-win situation when it comes to work and motherhood. “‘Oh, you’re a stay-at-home mom? You must not be driven or smart.’ ‘Oh, you’re working full-time and ambitious? You probably don’t spend enough time with your kids.’ ‘Oh, you work part-time? That’s not real work.’ We need more acceptance of the types of careers mothers choose, whether it’s their choice to be a stay-at-home-mom or work full-time or do something in between.”