“My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout.” – Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer
I’m no Marissa Mayer. I was not wooed from my job as the CEO at Google to become the CEO of Yahoo when I was 6 months pregnant. She is 37, I am 28. We are of very different worlds. Where we are the same, is I had a son in October last year, and Marissa will have a son this October. We both are from Wisconsin. We both work full time (her, admittedly much more than I). But I am now a mom, and she is not a mom, yet. This is why I worry about her very public statement to work through her first few weeks of maternity leave.
I love seeing a female in a traditionally male-dominated profession. I believe women like Marissa are trailblazers, and proof that women can do whatever it is in life they choose, whether they desire to be a stay at home mom, work part-time, full-time, or become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I am in awe of her drive and success, and the fact she seems to still look her age. I have been told in my own life that “you cannot have it all”, being an employee, a wife, a mother – that something will inevitably have to give or you must give something up. I believe that women like Marissa have the opportunity to set a precedent for the rest of us working moms, that you can be strong and powerful at work, and soft and nurturing at home. That the two worlds may blend but your work will not suffer, and giving birth does not equate to losing brain cells.
That’s why I truly hate that I disagree with her right now. Because believe me, if a male CEO switched jobs when his wife was 6 months pregnant, no one would bat an eyelash and it certainly would not be news. However, I think Marissa Mayer is totally, ridiculously, seriously, mistaken. Facing the birth of my son and maternity leave, I remember thinking that I wanted to take advantage of all of the time we had together, but I remember thinking that I would be bored. I had a glossy expectation of what my life would look like, and I figured that if I was home all day with him, it couldn’t be too hard. But then there was the complicated delivery, hormones, feeding issues, lack of sleep, hormones, confusion, recovery, and oh…did I mention hormones? What if she develops Post Partum Depression?
Granted, she could have the perfect delivery, perfect time breast/bottle feeding, and a nanny to help with cooking and sleeping. However, not even the CEO of Yahoo can escape the hormones. Sorry Marissa Mayer, but although you are an extraordinary woman, you are still a woman. Please, please, please, give yourself time to be one. Meet the little man who will steal your heart, and give him those first precious weeks. I can only imagine the pressure she feels to get back to work, especially in her industry, but honestly, working through a maternity leave that is only three weeks long, makes me terrified for her.
Aside from the fact that I fear she does not realize the impact of childbirth (nor did I), I am worried about the “example” she is setting for the rest of us non-CEO’s. In a country where Maternity leave is already extremely short, typically unpaid or only partially paid, what does this message mean for a mom-to-be working in the lower ranks at Yahoo? That if the CEO can work through her 3 week long maternity leave, you should too? I am aware that Marissa Mayer has a support team that none of us can probably compare to, but I worry about her very public statement. She will have better flexibility than most working mothers now that she is at the top when she returns to work. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about those long, exhausting, crucial, first 12 weeks.
Even if she changes her mind after he arrives, it may be too late. I can imagine that if she wants to take a longer leave, competitors, investors, etc. may find her to be weak/softening/losing her drive, etc. when really she just may have realized what it is to be a mother. I wish she had taken to opportunity to stand up for the rest of the population of working women and say “Maternity leave does not make me weak, dumb, less of a CEO or a woman. Maternity leave is my right to have time to spend with the newest, most important person in my life, and I will take every day possible to recover, bond, and get to know my son. Then, when I return, I will kick ass and take names.”
My time was not enough, and it would never have been enough, but I am truly grateful for a flexible, family centered company, that allowed me the time off I needed so I could be comfortable with coming back. I have never felt an ounce of guilt for the weeks of work that I missed while on leave. I know I would have regretted missing a minute of my son’s life that I could have chose to have seen. I wish that someday a longer, paid, maternity leave is right that all women can have and choose to utilize. Even the CEO.