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By Anita Felicelli

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About this blog: I grew up in Palo Alto and now live in Mountain View with my husband, daughter and two corgis. After about a decade grappling with the law, first as a law student at UC Berkeley and then as a litigator around the Bay Area, I left ...  (More)

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Mother's Day

Uploaded: May 10, 2014
If you follow this blog, its most consistent critique is that our cultural products should place greater value on art, originality, empathy and diversity. These are not popular values and they are not Silicon Valley's core values—at least in the Valley's current iteration, they do not appear to be. But this critique was not my original intention in writing this blog. All I wanted to do here was write about what I do for fun, which is consume culture and analyze it, and perhaps meet other local people with similar interests and values. Unlike most local people I know, the reason my husband and I stay here, in spite of our current mismatch to the area, is not work. The reason we stay is my mother who lives 10 minutes away from us in the house where I grew up.

My mother is a founder and officer of a Silicon Valley tech company. She grew up in India, but I think she was born to be here in America, in Silicon Valley, at this specific point in time. She is an optimist, a workaholic, a lover of pop culture, an avid reader of mystery/suspense novels, a Beatles fan, a feminist, and a person for whom meritocracy and the American Dream have worked.

When she was in her twenties in India, my mother wanted to work in electrical engineering, even though it was not yet commonplace and cut against the social mores of that time. It presented a wholly different path than the paths her seven sisters were taking. My grandfather let her leave town to live by herself with male roommates—again, completely against the times—so that she could pursue her dreams.

When we came to Pennsylvania, initially so that my dad could go to graduate school, we had nothing. We walked everywhere and I played mostly by myself with secondhand toys. We ate dosa and rice and sambar and idli at home. We never ate out. We did not go to the movies. We clipped coupons and reused yogurt containers. My early childhood was marked by lack—a child's perception that I was missing out on something that the affluent people around me had. Of course, this feeling of lack did not go away when we moved to Palo Alto. There, my family's one luxury for years was getting pizza from Round Table every other Thursday night.

We visited India every few years, but my grandparents remained strangers to me, far more curious about me than I was about them, to my continuing shame now that three of them have passed. When I travel to Chennai now, I still can't communicate with my sole grandmother because she speaks Tamil and I have only a kindergarten level understanding of what she is saying at any given time.

So it is crucial to me as an adult that my daughter have a different childhood, in which she knows her grandparents well and does not constantly dwell on what she might be missing. She has for her mother somebody with a hot-tempered and sensitive personality. I've read enough contemporary memoirs to know these are not character traits that daughters value in their mothers when they grow up. But fortunately for her, she has in her grandmother somebody who is measured, persistent, assertive, successful, and loyal and is such an excellent role model for girls. There is nobody I know who deserves her success more than my mom, nor is there anybody I would rather my daughter have a close relationship with than my mom.

Seeing a woman who has taken huge risks, followed her dreams, worked hard and succeeded in a male-dominated field is so empowering and inspiring. I've faced challenges in my life, but the luck of having my mother in my corner has more than made up for them. I would not trade that good fortune for any external measure of success. Happy Mother's Day to all the hardworking Silicon Valley mothers, who so rarely appear in any movie or television show or book—and mothers everywhere.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steven F., a resident of Rex Manor,
on May 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Proud to say this article is about my mother-in-law who is more a third parent than a weekend gift-giver to our daughter. I feel so blessed to have her in my new life as a father.

Her success story is truly remarkable and deserving of an HBO story-line (whose phallocentrism is, I believe, the main subject of Anita's knock) and yet she still finds time to do for everyone else.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Facts, please, a resident of another community,
on May 10, 2014 at 5:22 pm

[deleted for abuse]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Facts, please, a resident of another community,
on May 10, 2014 at 11:06 pm

[deleted for abuse]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Facts please, a resident of Midtown,
on May 11, 2014 at 7:54 am

[deleted for abuse]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on May 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Thanks for thoughtful and provocative reflections on motherhood of different kinds!

After observing silicon valley from both far and near since the term was coined 40+ years ago; experiencing first-hand (not via the media) the variety of its individuals, its firms, and the various/hilarious misconceptions that US pop culture acquires about the region; after all that, I'm wary of any phrase like "silicon valley's core values." But however expressed, I think you might be surprised how much criticism akin to yours above comes also from real players who make up what "silicon valley" is.

A separate matter: To avoid needless distraction in this blog, if you identify clear-cut habitual trolls, I'm sure you'd be abundantly justified in deleting all of their postings AND any responses you initially made to them. Remove all traces if possible (the web master may be helpful if needed). You bent over backward this time trying rational engagement, yet it didn't work, and for reasons you pointed out. In 30 years of public Internet history, what trolls have always least liked is what they most needed -- to be ignored. They only post because they get a rise out of people. Don't indulge them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 12, 2014 at 6:58 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Max - Thanks for reading and commenting. That line was merely a preface to the reversal in the piece, the goal of which was to say that even though I make criticisms about popular culture in this blog and my values appear to differ from the Valley's, I consider my mom and her very nice colleagues to embody the core values of Silicon Valley and I value her presence in my daughter's life more than I do places where my own interests might be a better fit (e.g. since I'm into books and art -NYC or since I'm progressive and into academic theory Berkeley). In the final draft before posting, I did delete a paragraph about creative risk-taking and tenacity, and how critical this is to all endeavors, tech and non-tech, (and how I see this as a core value of Silicon Valley), which might have made this reversal, and why I opened the way I did, clearer to readers.
Re: habitual trolls - I am starting to think there is actually just the one above, but s/he sometimes posts from work or a coffee shop in order to make me feel like the community at large is posting nasty remarks. My first response above was a lapse because I was shocked that anyone would be such a jerk about a mother's day post, not looking at IP addresses. Won't happen again, and yes, I will be watching vigilantly and deleting all his/her future postings from any address and irrespective of content as "abuse." I'll consider deleting the past ones, too.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Phil, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 12, 2014 at 8:29 am

Anita--Nice posting for Mother's Day--I am sure she is as proud of you as you are of her.

Re trolls--part of the internet these days--there will always be trolls around. Best to ignore them and keep your blood pressure low!!!!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Thanks Phil! Re: trolls and blood pressure- you're absolutely right.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jay, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Excellent piece for a truly badass & heroic woman. Thanks for getting her story out.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 13, 2014 at 7:33 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Thanks Jay.



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