Can You Work Through Maternity Leave? Marissa Mayer Is. Or So She Thinks.
I crack up sometimes thinking about my take on motherhood before and during pregnancy. I’d tell people, “I’m not going to change. I’m going to strap the baby on my back and go, just like I always have.” I was a world traveler before I became a mom. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Went to Fiji on a whim. Spent New Years in Timbuktu (sadly, overtaken this spring by Islamic Extremists). Now the most I do is look at a globe and thank my lucky stars I’m not globetrotting. For me, motherhood did what wanderlust couldn’t. It made me content. I would have never predicted the impact it would have on my whole way of life.
So I had to laugh — and cringe a little — when I read this week that Marissa Mayer, who was just named Yahoo’s chief executive, is pregnant, and — ya ready? — says, “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.” HAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
Clearly she has never had a baby before.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for working moms. And before I had kids, that quote would have made her my hero. But now? I think she’s being a tad naive. I can still be her biggest cheerleader, but first I think she needs to realize that today’s woman simply: Can’t.Have.It.All. Or at least not the first few weeks with a new baby. And why should she? You never get the birth of your baby back. And physically, a birth through the chute knocks you for a few days. A C-section? 2-3 weeks. Not to mention the emotional toll it takes on your entire being. I felt–and looked–like I had been hit by a bus. To run a $2-dollar company, much less a $20 billion dollar one? Impossible. Unless you want to fail. And right now, Yahoo isn’t the dreamboat. It’s a mess. This is no walk in the park.
Simply put, people who don’t have kids: Don’t.Get.It.
Even if she has a baby who comes out sleeping 12 hours a night and refuses the boob (so he can be exclusively bottle fed, which is fine, really. I don’t judge how women choose to feed their babies), I still think she will be so utterly turned upside down that she may have to eat her words.
There are a few things in her favor. Let’s face it: babies are blobs those first few months. I’m sure she’ll have lots of help. The baby will be cared for and loved, both by her, her husband, and her help. It will eat, sleep, and poop. And that’s about it.
But what’s not in her favor is Mother Nature — because unless you’re a zombie or a drug addict, she does kick in, swiftly and (hopefully) beautifully. No amount of money can keep her force at bay. She brings even the strongest women to their knees. The maternal instinct and motherly love is earth shattering. (If it’s not, then the postpartum depression is. These are the things you can’t predict.) I don’t think running a Fortune 500 company can compare to what a baby does. At least not initially.
So my question is, will Mayer battle the demons of guilt? Will she be too exhausted to care? Will she miss out on bonding with her baby while bonding with Yahoo? Or will she be the first woman to “have it all” and thus, will I be eating my words?
No doubt Yahoo is to be commended for hiring a pregnant CEO. But as blogger Julie Ryan Evans points out in her piece:
“I so wish she and Yahoo would set an example — that they would give her a full maternity leave, and that she would take it and still keep her position. Even just the minimum — 6-8 weeks, and show the world that it’s okay for women to have babies and then to care for them and themselves for more than just a few days. That they and their skills are important enough to the company that they’ll figure out something in a woman’s absence and welcome her and her expertise back with open arms.”
Maybe Yahoo did offer her the full maternity leave and Mayer is choosing to work through it. Regardless, it’s unrealistic and naive. I just don’t see how it’s humanly possible without letting something — or someone — suffer. Namely, her.
But I get it. Because you don’t get it until it happens to you.
Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps I’m being one of the “judgey” moms that my fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott refers to in her very well-put piece on this issue. I’ll admit, she did make me pause when she wrote the following: “Instead of judging Marissa Mayer, and using her achievement as an excuse to rekindle the debate about whether women can have it all, why don’t we sit back and watch her work? I’m betting she’ll show us some magic–and probably teach us all a thing or two.”
I worry though, that Mayer could also send a message to the rest of the world that women can push through their maternity leave if they want; that all it takes is “a few weeks.” She could ultimately be hurting the case for the majority of us who actually want to enjoy our babies–and take care of them–before returning to the workforce.
Devon Corneal wrote a piece in the Huffington Post in which she says, “I don’t judge her for embracing her job — I hope she’s a success. I just want to make sure that her blithe decision to take a truncated, working “maternity leave” won’t be held up as the paradigm or used to pressure other women to follow suit. We all deserve better than that.”
“Maybe she’s superwoman, but a few weeks is barely long enough for the epidural to wear off. To think that she’s going to be mentally and emotionally ready to go back and lead a company two or three weeks later and leave her baby is ambitious at the least; thinking that’s what a woman has to do to keep such a position of power is depressing.”
It’s even more depressing if this is all Mayer’s choice. I’m hoping she just doesn’t know any better. Then again, maybe I should know better and hold back the judgement. We’ll see.
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Tags: CEO, daycare, full time, Google, infant, Marissa Mayer, maternity leave, nanny, newborn, part time, pregnancy, pregnant, sahm, sleep, sleep training, working moms, Yahoo | Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips