Setting the bar WAY too high

I’ve been struggling to form a firm opinion on the recent news that the newly-appointed Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer — who is set to give birth to a son in October — will work during her maternity leave.

This TODAY Moms article spoke to many of the feelings I had upon hearing her decision — mostly sadness that she’d miss out on so much of that early bonding time with her little one — but, as a WOHM (working outside the home mom) I also see the other side, too. And to be honest, it bothered me.

Granted, I wouldn’t ever be in her shoes — I have absolutely no desire to ever be CEO of a company, let alone a [struggling!] global entity like Yahoo! … But though I can’t personally relate, I do see why she is doing what she’s doing. I don’t pretend to know her or anything, but it’s pretty clear she must feel her career depends on it. Sadly, the business world doesn’t stop turning because a baby is born. And for all we know, maybe she has a full-time nanny lined up or a night nurse, or a stay-at-home-husband, or some other round-the-clock help of some sort. Who knows?! Somehow, she is planning to do this …

[Of course, I said a lot of things before I had a baby, too … you know what they say about the best laid plans …]

IMO it’s a sad state of affairs in many respects that it’s come to this — that a new mom in a position of power feels this unnecessary, tacit pressure to return to work essentially immediately upon delivery … but at the same time, she is choosing this. I haven’t read anywhere that Yahoo! as a company has encouraged this decision [I’d be curious to know what their corporate maternity leave policy is — anyone care to weigh in?]. So it’s not like you can fault the company.

Just because I don’t think it’s what I’d do … I can’t begrudge another woman for her choice. After all, I blogged not too long ago about the judgy nature of moms today and how it solves absolutely nothing except create division where solidarity would be better suited to exist.

I think what bothers me most about this is best summed up in a Facebook comment I wrote today: I think she’s setting the bar too high … during a time when so many women are fighting to get some form of maternity leave.

I said, “[The piece was] Well written for sure. I’ve been struggling with how to address this in a blog post of my own. I am conflicted, too. I definitely see both sides (she is in a top position and it comes with sacrifices vs. wondering how can she miss out on that precious time with her baby). I am not sure if it’s her first child but I know I can’t remember those first 6 weeks. It’s a ginormous blur. And I had a C-section, so the healing was not exactly a walk in the park … Yes, I can see responding to emails and taking an occasional call, but I just think it sets a bad precedent for what to expect out of a new mom. But on the flip side, she DID take on the role of CEO of a huge global corporation so she knew what she was doing … I’d like to see how it all plays out. I definitely don’t envy the position she is in.”

Because I do wonder how it will play out. She says now she’ll return to work right away — and she very well might. But between healing and hormones and utter sleep deprivation, she could end up changing her mind. After all, some things look nice and neat in contract form but are ridiculously messy in real life. Like post-partum life for most moms. It’s anything but predictable, easy or neat.

Ultimately, it’s not up to me to know or care how Marissa Mayer goes about her business … but I do worry it unfairly sets the bar too high — especially for women like me who feel all moms deserve a paid maternity leave and job security, should they return to their employer.

The author sums it up best when she says, “Marissa, you’re about to join the mommy sisterhood. We welcome you and we’re so proud to have a trailblazer like you in our ranks. I’m sure you will rock motherhood just like you’ve rocked the corporate world. But I’m also really glad I don’t work for you. Because if I decided to have another baby (purely hypothetical, in case my husband is reading this), I would feel like a total slacker.”


I know it took me a good six months or so of being back at work before I felt good about being there, that I could be a good mom and a good employee. Finding your groove as a new mom is hard enough as it is, and I don’t envy her position one bit. But here’s the thing: while some women HAVE to return to work, she is choosing to return early, choosing this pathΒ  — guts and glory alike — and so I’ll do what I hope all women will do: I’ll offer her my virtual support … and let her know if she needs a shoulder to cry on, she has a huge sisterhood of moms behind her.

Because we moms … we’ve been there. We know.

How about you? Do you think Marissa Mayer’s decision to return to work during her maternity leave sets the bar too high for other women? Or do you think it’s par for the course in the role she has accepted?


6 thoughts on “Setting the bar WAY too high

  1. It is hard to know what to say or feel, but I heartily agree that we best not judge. So, I won’t judge her plan, but I will say that I think it’s a shame that this plan is so public- anything resembling failure, by anyone’s definition, will be too.

    I was back in a Board meeting 6 days after giving birth, 4 days after leaving the hospital after a 4 day labor. There was nothing so pressing that I needed to be there, only peer pressure. I, the Executive Director, made reports in a complete haze. There was no way I could meaningfully contribute, through no fault of my own. Every mom, every child, every birth is different but I don’t expect that she is physically immune. So, I say she sets the bar too high for herself- she just can’t know how she will heal.

    For me, personally, I look back at the first meeting back and laugh at my delusion! I was able to bing my daughter to work for 11 months, so it’s not even about bonding. It’s about accepting reasonable limitations- and the sooner the better for a new mom!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Alene. I agree — I think part of what is so disconcerting is her public announcement … had she quietly gone back to work, no one would have known. But now she’ll be hailed in some circles as a superhero and railed in others for not being with her son. Women are damned if they do, damned if they don’t it seems – -which is why I’m trying hard not to judge her for her decision. I appreciated hearing your story — and loved this line: “It’s about accepting reasonable limitations — and the sooner the better for a new mom.” AMEN!

  2. I’m not a mom, so I can’t fully relate to this situation, but when you commented on a Facebook question on this yesterday, I noticed another comment that I appreciated – something along the lines of not my family, not my career, not my place to judge. I think there are a lot of assumptions being made about how Mayer came to this decision. Maybe it was difficult for her to make this choice, but maybe she always intended to have a short leave, even before accepting this position made it newsworthy. I mean, we know people who have cut scheduled maternity leave short because they were ready to return to work… to roles junior to CEO. We also know people who have intended to come back to work and, at the last minute, have decided to stay home full time – and others who have planned to stay home all along. None of these decisions are inherently right or wrong, but they *are* so.very.personal.

    I will do what you suggest – stand behind another woman’s right to make the right decision for her and her family, whether it is the same decision I would make or not. I agree with you, there is much more power in supporting each other than in placing judgement!

    1. So true, Janelle–I hope I was able to hint at that in my post, too. It’s not up to us to know how she decided, or why she decided to publicize her decision. TBH, I wish she’d just gone under the radar and gone back to work if that’s what she ultimately wanted… but again, not my call. You’re right, we do know people who changed their minds. I guess it just makes me sad that — for whatever reason — Mayer feels compelled to make this decision. I meant what I said; those first 6 weeks are a total blur. I would have been completely useless at work. Then again, I don’t run a bajillion dollar sinking ship either πŸ˜‰ Maybe her drive and ambition stem from that? Either way, I wish her luck. But as I said in that comment yesterday, I *do* wish she’d at least take 6 weeks to enjoy her newborn and recover from her labor and delivery. ESP if she has a C-section.

  3. What was it we were chatting about yesterday … to each their own? πŸ˜‰

    I hate that it was made public; that’s probably the only thing. I never would have known and it wouldn’t have affected my world in any way. Now, I also highly doubt it’s going to become a standard anyone is going to try and live up to. There is a spectrum and this would be at one extreme end (not right or wrong; but I do believe extreme in comparison to what a maternity leave could typically look like).

    But like you said, we’ll have to see how it pans out. I wish her the best, regardless.

    1. Yep! πŸ˜‰ Exactly. We wouldn’t have known and it wouldn’t have affected our worlds in any way. I remember being pregnant and naive … not having a clue what was coming. And even as a mom I don’t know what’s coming … Maya is only 19 months old … my friends with school-age kids, teenagers, college kids … they have lived and learned. I feel that by making such a public declaration of her intent, she’s setting herself up to be scrutinized, for better or for worse. In the end, though, it’s her choice to make.

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