Thursday, July 19, 2012

Professional Mother Rant.

So, I read this headline today and immediately popped over to blog about it:

"Marissa Mayer angers moms by declining maternity leave."

Climbing on soapbox now.

I find it outrageous that any mother would fault this woman for stating her intentions regarding maternity leave and criticizing her for what she plans to do.  I'm actually quite furious.  Here's the deal, Marissa Mayer is six months pregnant, was hired as Yahoo!'s CEO, and has announced that she will only take a few weeks maternity leave and will work through it.  Mothers across the nation are furious.  I don't get it.

This woman is a HUGE executive.  Not just a HUGE executive, but a HUGE CEO.  This is a very, very big deal, not only for her, but for all women, young and old.  She has succeeded in the professional world and we should champion her and all her endeavors.  This is opening doors for our daughter's daughters (to quote Mary Poppins).  Moreover, she was accepted as a CEO of a MAJOR corporation while she was *gasp* six months pregnant.  She was most likely "showing" so she didn't try to pull a fast one on the company that was offering her a job.  Yahoo! execs knew what they were doing. This is huge!  Huge!  Huge!  Good for her!

So, why the backlash because she plans to work during the weeks immediately after delivery of her precious bundle of joy?  Jealousy? Increased expectation on the rest of us? Do mothers fear her child won't be loved and raised well?  Do mothers resent a woman with such lofty career goals?  Or is it really that we don't want to be held to such high standards?

Here's the main quote from the article I read on MSN

TOP TWEETjinkwell

I can see it now: "Marissa Mayer was only on maternity leave for 4 weeks! Why can't you?" Maybe because she's filthy f%$king rich. #smh

Rich really has nothing to do with it.  Sure, she has the money to afford child care at that early age.  It's not secret that most child care facilities won't provide care to infants under six weeks of age which is conveniently the average length of maternity leave afforded by companies across the United States.  However, I would think the impetus to return to work earlier than a person's allowed maternity leave would more likely depend on whether the person is being paid while on maternity leave.  FMLA does not require an employer to pay for the person's leave time, but just to hold the person's spot for 12 weeks.  Thus, some mother's simply can't afford to exercise their rights to a full 12 weeks of maternity leave.  So, quite honestly, if I was not receiving pay for maternity leave, I would, by necessity, have to return to work without taking the whole maternity leave because I'm not "filthy f%$king rich." 

On the other hand, let's assume she is being paid for maternity leave and has declined to take it, which is more likely the situation for Ms. Mayer.  Well then, isn't that her choice?  Perchance she thinks she can't "afford" to take that much maternity leave because she will lose her position as CEO if she does that.  This is what happened to me, but on a much, much, much, much smaller scale.  (I hope I adequately reflected the difference between her situation and mine with that sentence). 

In my case, I planned to have a child around the end of my third year of law school.  Yes, I planned it.  Was it easy?  No.  But it was my choice.  Here, Ms. Mayer may or may not have planned to have a baby, but I doubt that when she and her husband chose to start a family she had anything in mind about becoming the CEO of her current company's major competitor, Yahoo!  It just seems unlikely.  Nonetheless, she chose to take that position, knowing that she was pregnant, and most likely, knowing that this would be a difficult endeavor.  Do I fault her for it?  Hell no.

Back to me, Luke (my first child) was born on a sweet spring Monday evening when I had approximately three weeks left of law school classes and final exams.  I came home from the hospital on Wednesday, I left my newborn at home on Friday and went to school to take a final exam.  I was still on narcotic pain relievers.  I probably shouldn't have taken that test, and in the best of all worlds, I wouldn't have had to do that.  But, it was my choice to have a baby and I knew there would be commitments that would be difficult but necessary to keep after my baby arrived.  I'm not looking for special recognition for meeting those commitments, and neither is she, as far as I can tell.

As I mentioned above, there was not a child care facility that would watch my child during the first six weeks of his life.  My family lives out of town and my husband had/has a full-time job.  Not only did I have to take that exam, I had other classes, papers, and tasks to finish up during those last few weeks, and then right after that, I had to start taking bar prep classes.  What did I do?  I wasn't getting paid.  We couldn't afford a nanny.  And I had to accomplish these tasks in order to get my law degree, pass the bar, and keep the job that had been offered to me starting in the fall of that year.  Quite simply, I couldn't "afford" not to return to my daily work, educational though it may have been.  So, I made some difficult decisions.  My husband took off time at work to help get through the six weeks without child care.  We knew this was a possibility so he tried to save up his time.  He was also given some paternity leave if I remember correctly, but let's not forget that he had a demanding career also, so it wasn't easy to just take off time.  I also got down on my knees and asked my mother, who lives out of town, to come help us out.  Granted, she loves babies, but it wasn't all roses for her with a newborn, a hormonal daughter, a confused son-in-law, and a small house with a yippy dog.  She helped out as much as she could and I tried to give and take with my commitments as well.  I was lucky to have this help.  I won't deny it.  I couldn't have done it otherwise, but even so, it wasn't easy.

By the way, during my maternity leave with my subsequent two children, I continued to be in touch with my job by email and sometimes by going to the office to provide information that no one else could locate regarding certain cases and clients.  I did what I needed to do.  I honored my commitment to my job and my company.

I did it.  She can too.  And, in my opinion, no woman should fault her for what she is planning to do.  Remember, this is just her stated intention at this point.  She doesn't know what is going to happen.  What if her child is sick? What if she's put on bed rest? There are so many possibilities that might change her plans, just as all of us may have to change our own plans and intentions.  Let's give her a break, and support her as she tries to accomplish her goals.  It can only be to our benefit.

If you want to take the full amount of time allowed for maternity leave, then take it.  Go for it.  I definitely won't criticize you for doing so.  In fact, there are medical reasons why you certainly should take off time.  But, don't throw stones at the mothers out there who can't afford, for whatever reason, to enjoy that benefit.

Stepping off soapbox now.


Angie said...

Thank you, Thank you THANK YOU for posting this. I agree... every situation is different and how dare we judge a mother for deciding to go back to work "earlier" than others. Sometimes it's not possible to take that much time off (especially if you're not getting paid) and other times it's just not in the cards.

I have yet to decide just how much time I'll be taking off this fall. Technically I could take the full 12 weeks but I'm really not sure if that much time is right for me (and I don't plan on deciding for sure until about a month into my leave- and I'm fully aware that it's a blessing that I can say that). Plus, I have already made it quite clear to everyone that they're welcome to email me if they have questions while I'm gone. I might not always respond within the hour but I'll certainly try to get back to them in a timely manner. Is that so wrong? To want to help out my co-workers? I mean, that's the least I can do considering how much they're all willing to do for me while I'm out. Their support has been amazing and I can't imagine leaving them in the dark for 3 months.

We should be applauding this new mother; what she plans to do isn't easy and more than anything she needs support, not critics.

Okay....I too am climbing down from your soapbox (thanks for sharing it). :)

And P.S. Your story just added to my amazement of you. :)

Angela said...

I totally agree. The sad thing is, no one is harder on another woman than women. We are led to believe that it's men making us want to be Hollywood-perfeect or men making us feel guilty about lifestyle choices like this, but it's women feeding on women.

Chuckyluv said...

I just want to provide a man's outside perspective on this particular issue. My advice is: Duck, run for cover, get as far from this issue as possible, there's no winning this argument. I'd rather debate the merits of pre-emptive war with Jane Fonda and Dick Cheney than get stuck in that mess.

Seriously though, I really doubt that she views (or viewed) herself as some kind of a standard bearer for working women the world over. My guess is that she weighed her options, preferences and feelings about what she thought was best for her and her family and made a choice. It sounds like it's hard enough being a working mom without having to also be a leader of an undefinable cause of countless women who don't agree on much of anything, or at least not this sticky issue. I doubt she expected a firestorm.

Megan said...

What I'd like to see is this much media coverage for the average male CEO who has prostate cancer and needs/wants/perhaps agrees not to take leave to receive treatment. Have we seen that yet? Does anyone dare venture forth and criticize a man for needing to treat his prostate. Because I can guarantee that about 50% of the men CEOs out there are dealing with issues in that category. I mean, really. This is nobody's business except Ms. Mayer, her family, and the stockholders of Yahoo. And if the stockholders have an issue with it, then they can take it to the board and demand a new search for a chief executive. But hashing this out in the media makes me want to scream.

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