Marissa Mayer & Her Non-Existent Maternity Leave Won’t Help Working Moms

Like the rest of the country, I was excited yesterday to hear that Google VP Marissa Mayer was jumping ship and heading over to Yahoo. Mayer accepted the position of CEO at the struggling search giant, making her the third Yahoo CEO of the year. If anyone could turn the company around, it should be the popular tech executive.

Of course, women everywhere were thrilled to hear that a female was taking the helm of one of the country’s largest companies. The title makes Mayer one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley. That excitement only seemed to double when Mayer announced that she’s expecting her first child. A well-known and high-profile woman taking on a new job and a new baby at the same time? A board of directors who was ready to turn their company over to a pregnant woman, without making condescending inquiries about controlling her hormones or taking a vacation right after starting? This is a miracle, right?

Well, forgive me if I’m a little less than ecstatic. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that the board of Yahoo didn’t discriminate against Mayer because of her pregnancy. It would actually have been illegal, but we all know that it doesn’t stop companies from doing so.

My real problem comes a little further along is Mayer’s announcement. In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Mayer says, ”My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.” Yup that’s right, I want to have another maternity leave debate.

Let me say, I can understand Mayer’s choice. I completely respect that the choice is her’s to make. If she wants to work through a non-existent maternity leave, she has absolutely every right. However, I can’t help but be nervous about the attention that this choice will get. I don’t like the idea that people will use this as ammunition to say that maternity leave isn’t necessary.

I had a three-week maternity leave. It wasn’t because I needed to get back to my job as CEO, it was because I was a broke, single mom and I needed to pay rent. A short maternity leave is tough. It was part of the reason that I had a hard time nursing, because I had to be away from my daughter too much in those first few weeks. My body hadn’t healed completely and I was intensely exhausted. Leaving my infant with someone when she was still so little was heart-breaking.

One of the best things that we could do for working mothers in this country is create a better parental leave system. A system where people don’t have to use their vacation days to have a child. A system where you don’t feel obligated to answer email and continue to work when you want to be bonding with your newborn.

For me, Marissa Mayer’s maternity leave announcement is a little like the models that hop back on the catwalk a week after giving birth. I’m happy for them that they’re able to accomplish such a feat, but it makes me worried about the expectations set for the rest of us. Having a baby is wonderful, but it’s also a medical procedure. There’s no telling how quickly a person’s body will heal. There’s no telling what kind of needs their newborn will have. Childbirth isn’t just a scheduled appointment to add to your planner. And while it may not be a big issue for Marissa Mayer, maternity leave is still something that women everywhere are fighting to guarantee for new mothers. I hope that one woman’s personal choice won’t undercut that fight.

(Photo: DA5/ WENN.com)

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    • Melissa

      Someone like Melissa Mayer also likely has the means to hire a full time nanny to start as soon as her child is born. The majority of working mothers don’t have that option. I’m sure she has worked very hard to get to her position and it’s nice that she has that choice, but I hope employers don’t assume that this is a choice we can all make.

    • WorkingMomof2

      Her first child?!?!? She has NO IDEA how it’s going to play out!! Talk about setting yourself up for failure. I was lucky..the only complications I had was weight gain…I would have never commited to working from home when I was having my first child…you just never know what may happen…What if she has a difficult birth??? Don’t get me wrong..with my second child, I logged on from home pretty much the day I got home…because I was bored mostly…but I do not reccomend it to everyone. you need to rest and heal!

      • Ann

        You are so right! She has nooooooo idea at all. I almost spit out my coffee reading this. I am sure she will have a full time nanny and cook and cleaner/laundry worker, BUT one has to beg the question- why have the baby in the first place???
        Good luck to her, I hope she balances it all and when her child is 15 I hope she doesn’t get an ear full about how she was never there. At least the kid will have killer technology in the house.

      • Lawcat

        What an interesting assumption, Ann.

      • Suzanne Kaplan

        Lawcat, I too question whether or not anyone who doesn’t have to return to work after two weeks would do if he or she really wants a child. Yes, this includes men. Men get let off the hook on this one. But we’re talking about Mayer here, and I only wonder why have a child if you are planning to work right through it fully (assuming she doesn’t change her mind). While I understand the desire to work while raising children, I don’t fully grasp the concept of leaving your children to nannies full-time to keep up with C-level positions. My feeling is, if you want a C-level lifestyle that badly, you really don’t want kids as much as you think you do. People can say what they want to say, but actions speak louder than words.

      • Julie

        Ann, I really hate it when people say “Why did she even decide to have kids in the first place?”. Some women have to work (like me), some women choose to work. And that’s fine too. But no matter what the case, ALL women have the right to choose to start a family. You don’t know this woman and you can’t foresee your own future, let alone hers. Besides, her choice to have a child is not the issue of the article in the first place- it’s the impact her choices will have on parental leave and the laws and choices employers make surrounding that issue. The way this woman chooses to raise her family is none of your business.

      • Lawcat

        Suzanne,

        Since I’m not a personal friend of Mayer – as it seems you are – I don’t intend to know what her work/life balance, schedule, or involvement with her child will be. For all we know, her venture capitalist husband will take time off to care for the child.

        But the “why have children” argument is silly and subjective and can be applied to anything. Why have children if you know you have to work to survive? Why have children if you aren’t going to home school them? Why have children if you can’t give them every absolute possibility in life? Etc, etc.

      • Another Steph

        The Silicon Valley powerhouse companies tend to be pretty employee friendly, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Yahoo organises or already has a creche for the children of employees. Regardless… well, what lawcat said. Stop being judgmental twunts.

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    • Ipsedixit

      If it impacts anyone, it will be other C-level moms. The job function is completely different than anything else.

      Either way, it’s her choice. I don’t think we should be hesitant to make choices that work for us just because someone else might not agree with it.

    • Jackie

      Talk about putting career above family! What a loser! I feel sorry for this new baby!

      • MegaMechaMeg

        Seriously?

      • Lawcat

        Yea! She decided having a life outside of the home and not defining herself by her children worked for her! What a loser!

      • Julie

        ridiculous. absolutely ridiculous.

      • Sue

        While I wouldn’t have called her a loser, I too am saddened for this baby boy. Once this baby is born, it is no longer about “her”, it should be about the baby. This child will be an accessory in her life.

      • Julie

        @Sue- You know that the child will be nothing more than an accessory because.. how? The child isn’t even born yet. Do you know this woman? Surely you must, as you seem so sure about how she’s going to treat her unborn child. You shouldn’t pass judgment or assume things about people you’ve never even met.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.wirthice Jennifer Ice

        Agree completely, Julie.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.wirthice Jennifer Ice

        Hard to understand how you can call the CEO of Yahoo a “loser” simply on her personal and professional choice on how long her maternity leave should be, given her economic, personal and professional circumstances. This type of judgemental talk sets women back and only serves to guilt trip working women (http://msmom.me/2012/07/29/quit-your-job-a-response-to-guilt-tripping-working-moms/). Where is your evidence that she is putting career BEFORE family? She is merging her career and family, the best way she can, and you have no right to pass judgment.

    • Katie

      Umm, excuse me, since when was her role to change the world for other mothers. It isn’t, leave her alone.

      If she gets a nanny, goes back to work, locks herself in the house forever, wears pants on changes her name to Spoon, it’s her family life choices and her’s alone.

      Just because she is a CEO doesn’t mean that she has to try to change everything for mothers everywhere, I’m pretty sure that’s not why she is having a baby.

      As for all the judgy comments, thats right, she doesn’t know yet, but none of you know her, so no one here is in the position to waggle their fingers.

      • Another Steph

        Thank you for being the sole voice of reason.

      • Julie

        I almost just copied and pasted Another Steph’s comment. But I figured that would be unoriginal :) Yours really is the only comment here that makes sense.

      • meteor_echo

        @Katie

        This. She just does what works best for her, and I’m really happy that she managed to get this job while also being a future mother.

    • K.

      I’d have the same concerns that others have voiced–maternity leave might be more of a choice if you’re CEO than if you are lower on the totem pole.

      But perhaps a more productive way to talk about this issue is to raise the call for better policies regarding paternity leave.

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    • Eileen

      Did you guys read the same article I did? Lindsay Cross pretty clearly says that she believes it’s Mayer’s choice to take as much or as little maternity leave as she wants. Obviously, no one should be stopping her from working right through her labor if she so chooses.

      I do agree, though, that this choice will likely have an impact on only the highest-level women. The CEO is pretty irreplaceable and constantly needed. The receptionist? We like her, but we can get a temp for six weeks.

      • Julie

        While I agree with your statement, I had to laugh when you said the CEO is pretty irreplaceable. Especially when it says right in the article that this is Yahoo’s 3rd CEO this year alone :)

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    • Tammi

      I want back after three weeks. I am so glad I did! I missed work so much and wanted to be back. I am not a helicopter parent and have no intentions in being one. I worked up until I went into labor and kept in contact while I was at home for three weeks. For me maternity leave was a waste I did not understand the point. I felt lazy and unproductive. I love to work and I love my child. Taking three weeks off or eight weeks off does not make you a bad parent. It is what is right for you and your child.
      Stop busting into other people’s homes and telling them how to live. It is not your family.

    • Lori

      Interesting assumption that she will be with a nanny. Congratulations to Melissa for doing what so many women spend their lives trying to do– Break through the glass ceiling to lead a huge well-known company! Girl Power!! I was giddy yesterday when I read this. Could be because I am also a working mom that helps lead a software start up. Has anyone even stopped to think that maybe the dad will stay home? Mom has the great high-paying job, dad is the caretaker. I have friends with this arrangement. She’s in the C-Suite at a large Fortune 500 company, Dad tends to the kids. Sometimes, it just works better that way! Stop making assumptions, judging and thinking that only mom is equipped to care for the children. I thought we were for equality in this country?!

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    • Emily

      I sort of agree with everyone here. I think of this as an acknowledgment of how Mothers desire to raise their children how they choose. I’m not suggesting that I would make the same choice, but every woman and Mother has different ideals on child-rearing. Being her first child, yes, she has no idea really what could happen, she will probably have hired help, and I’m sure a woman as driven as her is eager to make the changes at Yahoo that she was hired to make. A woman in her position is used to great amounts of responsibility. Bottom Line; I see this as a triumph for working mothers and women in general. I offer her my congratulations and full support.

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    • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.wirthice Jennifer Ice

      I run my own law practice and I am currently pregnant. I cannot afford to take three months UNPAID maternity leave as a small business owner. I would lose all of my clients. Maternity leave is a personal and professional choice. We need to stop guilt-tripping working moms. Just as her length of maternity leave seems unrealistic to many, it is also unrealistic for many professional women to take three months off of work and still have a small business or lead role in their career at a company. I fully support Marissa Mayer’s decision. http://msmom.me/2012/07/29/quit-your-job-a-response-to-guilt-tripping-working-moms/

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