Dear Marissa Mayer: You don’t get a gold star for skipping maternity leave.

17 Jul

I was incredibly excited and proud to hear that Marissa Mayer has been tapped as the new Yahoo CEO.  For those unfamiliar with her, she’s been with Google since the ground floor, she was Google employee No. 20.  She is incredibly innovative, talented, and driven.  My excitement about her selection was only topped by my enthusiasm in hearing that she has been selected for this position while pregnant.  She is an inspiring example of how pregnancy does not knock a woman’s dedication to her work, and Yahoo is setting a model for having confidence in women with families.

I admit, however, I’m disappointed in her decision to publicly announce that she plans to only take a few weeks off, and work through it, for the birth of her child.  Marissa Mayer is no stranger to pissing contests over how much she works (she’s notorious for throwing around mentions of her million hour work weeks and all nighters).  I get having an extremely demanding job, with no backup, and by necessity needing to be available.  I get it, I really do.  I worked at a small firm while pregnant, so small that it wasn’t even FMLA protected.  I had 6 weeks “off,” which actually meant that I took a week off and worked 5 weeks from home (my first work-call came in the first day I was home from the hospital), and even had to go back in and work one day during the last week of my leave.  I returned to work and 2 weeks later had to second-chair a 10 day trial.  I’m not saying this because I want a gold star, I’m saying this because I want to show that I do get the workplace pressures that can make maternity leave virtually impossible.

Still, her announcement of her maternity leave intentions disappoints me.  She is the new face of Yahoo.  She is an inspiration for millions of young women climbing the ranks of tech and business.  No one doubts the dedication of Marissa Mayer, but for the women “in the trenches,” in deciding to pursue motherhood, they face significant, albeit subtle, doubt in their devotion to the company and drive to work.  Marissa Mayer’s maternity plans announcement reinforces that prejudice.  The public announcement of her decision reinforces the idea that taking a small pause to attend to personal needs erodes professional dedication.

America is not Europe.  We don’t cut out to the coast for the summer, or shut the shop down for the holidays.  We work. We work all the damn time.  And under the same logic, taking time out to recuperate from having a baby, or to tend to a health problem, or to care for an ill relative is cast in the workplace as professional weakness and lack of dedication.

No one gets a prize for blowing off personal and family needs to spend more hours in the office.  And working through a maternity leave sucks. It really sucks.  Work didn’t interfere with my ability to bond with my child, but like so many other work/life trade-offs, it took a toll on me.  Recuperating from giving birth is painful. It’s exhausting. It’s hard.  It is not possible for you to nurture a new baby, fully attend to the workplace, and effectively let your body heal, and it’s your own physical recovery that gets the least attention.

Marissa Mayer, working through your maternity leave is not a point of pride.  It’s a sad testament to the skewed priorities of our work culture.  I only hope that in time that culture shifts to acknowledge that periodic respite, to attend to personal needs, keeps workers happy, healthy, dedicated and efficient.

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One Response to “Dear Marissa Mayer: You don’t get a gold star for skipping maternity leave.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! Culture Change | BeezusKiddo - February 27, 2013

    […] I can’t stand Marissa Mayer’s smug little face, which fueled my immediate outrage at her unexpected kibosh on working remotely at Yahoo! (read more about my disdain for her in my earlier post about her squandered opportunity to set a good…) […]

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