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Maternity Leave Only for Pussies Now, Evidently

August 3rd, 2012, posted by Aimee

So, a few weeks have passed now, and between the Olympic Games, a Chick-Fil-A gay marriage throwdown and the horrible tragedy in Aurora, the media’s attention have shifted away from the oh-so-controversial hiring of a pregnant Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo. But just because the rest of the world is now obsessing over “The Flying Squirrel” Gabby Johnson and Ryan Lochte’s abs, it doesn’t mean I have finished mulling the whole thing over.

What has bugged me from the beginning is not by any means that an impending first-time-mom-to-be is about to take the helm of one of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies, but the statement she has given about her intention to take just a few weeks off after the birth and “work through” her maternity leave.

Shit. So now, this hero and pioneer for all Womos everywhere has set the precedent essentially that maternity leave is for pussies. Real Womos – the truly ambitious and dedicated women hoping to following in Mayer’s courageous footsteps – have a role model who seems to encourage barely hitting the “pause” button to bond with your child, rest your body and learn to be a mother. If we are to believe Mayer – and the dozens of other top women execs who provided their own “I went back to work two days after giving birth” anecdotes for the myriad of articles that followed her announcement – it’s entirely possible and expected to juggle email and conference calls with the major physical and emotional trauma of new motherhood.

Just a few days ago, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a profile about a woman entrepreneur talking about her struggle to balance the running of her Internet start-up with the birth of first child just 10 days ago … Pooja Sankar mentions that she has calculated the exact number of hours in each day go to caring for her baby and how much is left for work, sleep and everything else. It sounded like pure hell to me. And believe me, I thought much of maternity leave was hellish already … even without working!

Am I the only one who thinks Marissa and women like Pooja are setting a dangerous precedent here? Isn’t it bad enough that we now live in a society that demands all of us to be available and responsive via mobile devices 24/7, and that defines all of us in terms of how many hours we put in vs. the results we achieved? Evidently not.

On the blog Mommyish, Lindsay Cross put it well: “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 … 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.”

Amen, sister. Christ, it was tough for me to get out of my Juicy sweats and get through a day without bawling during the first month after Tav was born, let alone using my brain in any significant, income-generating way.

And to Cross’ first point, isn’t this one more arrow in the quiver for U.S. companies fighting to screw us out of the mandated maternity leave benefits that pales in pathetic comparison to every other major civilized nation in the world? We are already a nation of workaholics with the lowest vacation time and the least amount of maternity leave in the entire world. Marissa Mayer may have nannies, nurses, cooks, drivers and personal assistants up the wazoo, but none of the rest of us have those luxuries, and maternity leave is something we are fighting to improve, not diminish. And besides, I still think no matter how much help you have, giving birth is freaking painful and learning to bond with a newborn infant is terrifying … no matter how much money you’ve got.

What do you think? Am I overreacting here?

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Dick Says: August 3rd, 2012 at 09:50 pm

Solid blog post…

angela Says: August 8th, 2012 at 10:22 am

You are not overreacting at all! My maternity was 6 weeks and my boss allowed me to work two weeks from home after that and it was NOWHERE near enough! And seven months later I am still dabbling in maternity pants!

April Says: August 13th, 2012 at 09:46 am

I totally agree with you and don’t think you are overreacting at all. I hate to see a future where our kids get even less of their mother’s because of the rat race!

Stacey Says: August 16th, 2012 at 06:26 pm

I am a mother of five. I believe it is very important to be with you new baby at least the first few months. Ideal would be 2 years, but we live I. America, so 2 months will have to do,I believe and know without a doubt that time is when u bond with your child. That time off is not only to recover from having a child, it’s the most important time when a deep bond is developes. It saddens me that she is trading that for a corporation. To sad. You are right we live in a greedy country, this could start and turn into something the next generation will have to pay the price for.

Meg Says: September 6th, 2012 at 06:46 pm

I get it that women should have a choice and we should back each other up, but I really think that she is bowing to the pressure. Are shareholders all ticked that she went and got pregnant right as she started? Is she trying to pacify them? This is probably the real root cause–the outside pressure. I found out I was pregnant the day after I signed my contract at my new job. I lost so much sleep and had so much anxiety that I told them right away. I felt horrible guilt. Why? Why did I feel the need to apologize? Why do we see pregnancy and motherhood as a liability? We have to change the way we think and see motherhood. We shouldn’t have to apologize or pacify others. I am pretty sure Yahoo will be fine (well, as fine as Yahoo is these days) without her for 12 weeks.

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