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?