July 18, 2012

Your Maternity Leave. Your Choice.

I typically try to stay away from the controversial stuff here on this blog, and try to maintain a light and fluffy sort of atmosphere. Because that's more fun. The heavy stuff is just that ... heavy. For my sanity, I try to keep the peace as much as possible.

BUT. This article has me a little fired up. So, I'm breaking the peace pact for just a bit. Hang in there with me, mmm-kay?

If you don't want to click over, here is the run down. Marissa Mayer, a former Vice President at Google and the 20th employee that the company hired in it's start-up days, has officially become the first pregnant woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She has made the switch over to Yahoo!

She is also pregnant.

A woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company! This is IMPRESSIVE. Something that we women should be celebrating. But this is not what people are talking about. Yes. She is pregnant, and while there is some huffing and puffing about hiring a pregnant woman, the bigger issue is that Ms. Mayer has expressed that she will only be taking a few weeks for maternity leave, and will most likely be working through it as well.

HOW DARE SHE.

Wait ...

Last I checked, it was a woman's right to chose how she would like to spend her maternity leave. For the life of me, I cannot understand how the author of the open letter linked above thinks that it is her business to tell Ms. Mayer [or any other working mother who CHOOSES to take a short maternity leave] why she should reconsider, how she should spend her time, and how she is making the rest of us look bad by choosing to go back to work so soon after having her first child. But she does so anyways.  The author of the open letter states:
Would it be so bad to spend a couple more months in the comfort of your home, un-showered and wearing sweats like the rest of us? I know you're used to working long hours. But "all-nighter" takes on a whole new meaning when you become a mother.

Give yourself a break. At least see how you feel when you're a mom before deciding -- very publicly -- that you want to go right back to work. There are plenty of working moms in this country who struggle with maddeningly short maternity leaves -- out of financial necessity, not by choice. And I know you didn't annoint [sic] yourself the new poster-mom for "having it all," but you're not exactly helping their cause.
I highly doubt that Ms. Mayer made it to the top by sitting at home in her yoga pants, being a post-baby fat ass like I was during my 12 weeks off [because I won't lie. I was!] The woman is motivated. She has drive. She did not get where she was without that. And as working women who also happens to be a mother, I completely commend her for being where she is. Achieving what she has achieved. For pushing past all the men and making it to the top. THIS is what we should be celebrating. Hooray! She is pregnant and bringing life into this world! What an amazing thing for her and her husband. But I am also pretty damn impressed with her resume and the things she has accomplished in her life. The woman wants to work through her maternity leave. Yes -- she will realize that it is hard. But she is also 37 years old. I think it's safe to say that she has plenty of people around her who have children who have told her all of these exact same things. But again, this is her choice.

She did announce her plans publicly, but does that require us to tear her down? I do not understand why there is this need to do just that -- to her or other mothers out there. The decisions that we as mothers make never seem to be good enough for someone else. If you, as a mother, decide to stay home, then you are a slacker and are giving other woman in this world a bad name because you're choosing to be the care-giver and rely on your husband to bring home the bacon. But if you decide to work, then you are seen as a bad mom for not spending 24/7 with your child. These "mommy wars" need to stop. Instead of tearing each other down we need to lift each other up. We need to support each other, and realize that decisions are completely personal. I know that not everybody is lucky enough to have a full 12 weeks [or longer -- damn you, Canada, and your lovely one-year maternity leave! Get with it, Uncle Sam!] of  maternity leave like I did. And not that it's anybody's business, but because I started a new job four months pregnant, mine was unpaid. So we planned and we made it work. But I know that not everybody can do that. I get that.

But let's be honest here. Even I, in my measly little non-CEO for a non-Fortune 500 company checked my emails and conducted the occasional business while I was on leave. I honestly do not know a woman who has NOT done this. Did I do it every day? No. But I also know women who had their laptops in their recovery room and were handling business just hours after pushing out their kid. And you know what? WHO CARES. Is my child any worse off because I am not home during the day, Monday through Friday? No. He is in amazingly awesome hands during the day and I know he is growing and learning every single day. In fact, he is probably better off with her during the day than he was with me. I love my kid. I miss the shit out of him during the day and I do my best to provide for him by working as hard as I do, but sometimes those Storage Wars marathons suck you in, and the next thing you know, four hours have gone by and you're still on the couch. It's not my fault. It's also irritating as hell when somebody else tells you what to do, or how you should feel, or that you will change your mind when your mind is made up. I speak from experience on this one [as most working mothers, I'm sure, can attest to as well].

The bottom line is ... lay off. Let the woman do what is best for her and her family. Because at the end of the day, that's all that matters. If you do not know her personally, you do not have the right to speak on her behalf, or tell her what she is/isn't doing right. It's her child. Her life. One that I am assuming she worked very, very hard for. And if she, by choice wants to take the minimum six weeks of maternity leave and get back to the grind then let her. Because nobody elses opinion matters.

So to Ms. Mayer -- I say KUDOS to you. Thank you for being an inspiration to those of us woman who work our asses off and are working our way up the ladder. Thank you for busting your ass and being a landmark individual. Being a new mom is HARD. Extremely hard. But I am sure that you will continue to be amazing and impressive in both motherhood and your work life. Your choices are your choices. Don't let the man [or the other woman] bring you down.

Update 7/19: I misread some information. She is the first PREGNANT woman to be named CEO. She is currently the 19th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but the first woman to be CEO while pregnant. My apologies on that. HOWEVER, it does not change the way I feel about what was written! My points still stand.  

6 comments:

Michelle said...

Love! This is fantastic post. Congratulations to Marissa Mayer!

Kim said...

Right on.

Tsoniki Crazy Bull said...

I AGREE!!!

I was raised by a single Mom, who in a couple of months will start her next job in her career which is heading a very large fundraising institution. She busted her butt to work for 30 years to get to the point she is at and as her child, I am beyond proud of her - as L will be of you and Marissa's child will be of her. Those are the thoughts that matter. The Mommy Wars are ridiculous and stupid and I hope they are gone by the time my little girl is a Mommy.

Laura said...

Great post. In full disclosure, I did not read the link you shared, but I think I would disagree with the writer as well. Women should be able to have the choice to work or not to work. I, for one, love spending my time at home with my kids. My sister, on the other hand, is struggling with not working during her maternity leave. We are all wired differently.

I do, however, worry about the precedence that this high-powered woman is creating by working so soon after having a baby. As the first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company, how could she NOT feel like she needs to go right back to work?

Even if it is her own prerogative to work as soon as she has her baby, she is continuing to spread the mentality that women can't take full advantage of motherhood while succeeding in the workplace.

I agree, she should be able to chose how she spends her maternity leave - or lack thereof. But she also needs to realize that she is a trailblazer and by forgoing her maternity leave, she is making it harder for other women to climb the ladder and take their full maternity leave.

Wife of a Sailor said...

A-freakin-MEN!

I don't have children and am not pregnant (sigh) but I plan to only take 6 weeks maternity. I'd love to do 12 weeks but six is all I'd get.

I'd love to be a SAHM if we could afford it but at our age, we are used to two incomes. Losing mine would be about a 60% income decrease. Not do-able.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your post but just wanted to point out she is not the first woman CEO of a fortune 500 company. She will be the 19th current CEO of a fortune 500 and the first who is pregnant. Still very impressive!