The Death of a CEO and Mom

The Death of a CEO and Mom

20 years ago, at the age of 43, Brenda Barnes made headlines around the world when she decided to resign from her job as CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America in order to work part-time so she could spend more time home with her young children ages 10, 8 and 7.

According to the NY Times, “she explained that she had had her fill of days and nights away from her children.”

Her decision, which sparked a highly-publicized nation-wide debate, inspired admiration in some and disappointment and even fury in others who viewed her decision as a set-back for women in the workplace “arguing that her retreat from such a lofty post was a defeat for women fighting to be considered men’s equals in the boardroom.”

You broke through the glass ceiling! You were our personal superwoman who could do it ALL! And know, Brenda, you’ve let us down, big time.

8 years later, when her children were in high school and starting college, Brenda Barnes chose to accept the position of CEO of Saralee where she remained until she suffered a stroke in 2010. This week Brenda Barnes died at the age of 63.

When I read about Brenda Barnes’ controversial choice, I couldn’t help but think of how, on her deathbed, when thinking of the life she’d lived, Brenda must have deeply regretted her choice to leave the fame and honor and mind-boggling salary of the boardroom for her humble home in suburban Illinois –to devote 8 years to raising and caring for her young children…

Definitely not.


  1. Deborah Poneman is another famous woman made the same decision: She’s made her comeback several years ago when her children were already teenagers.
    However, she does talk about how frustrating it was when her kids were young to think about all of the fame she gave up on.
    Both she and Barnes got to go back to a really good job that is a apparently a perfect fit for them.
    Also, important to note since a lot of the JewishMom readers either have a big family or intend to have one b”H: Western-minded career women usually have 2 children. When you have 7 or even 4, if you decide to make yourself more availbale to your kids, you’re more likely to stay home for a decade or more.

    These facts make it pretty easy to look back feeling content with their decision to drop their career for the sake of their kids.
    As someone who made a similar decision (though I had not been “famous” prior to having my kids)– and had not yet made a significant enough “comeback” to the other aspects of my life, I will surely not regret my choices when I go to shamaim.
    But while still here–on earth, I mean– I am certainly looking forward to dedicating more of my time to my other interests without the accompanying guilt.

    Thanks Jenny! πŸ™‚

  2. vey iz mir, she had a stroke while only in her mid-40s.

    • i think at 56 (it said in 2010, 7 years ago), so still young but not that young.

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