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 path — 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?