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Why Marissa Mayer should be left alone

Published: July 21, 2012 | 11:16 am
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The newly appointed CEO of Yahoo is finding out something expectant moms quickly learn – you get a lot of unsolicited advice. All manner of well-meaning people have jumped on twitter and blogs to tell Marissa Mayer how she is going to feel after birth and how much maternity leave she should take. It makes me feel vaguely queasy.

For the record I have two small children. I took three months maternity leave for each and it wasn’t even close to enough. I struggle every day to balance work and children and many days feel I am failing. But that is my experience. It is personal to my life, my kids and my work ethic. I wouldn’t imagine telling anyone else how it is going to be for them or how they should conduct themselves.

Discussing the potential pitfalls of CEO moms and challenges facing every working mom is a very good thing. What I take issue with is the personal and judgmental tone of some of these open letters.

“Those giant mesh underpants they make you wear post-partum? They should NEVER come into contact with Oscar de la Renta. Nor should leaking breast milk ever have the opportunity to stain your favorite cashmere cardigan. Anna Wintour would not approve,” writes one Seattle mom in her open letter. (Does it sound like she is sneering….or is it just me?)

“You can’t outsource motherhood….listen to your colostrum,” penned my colleague Kristi Lu Stout. And on it goes. You have no idea what you are in for, they say over and over again.

C’mon. It is true Mayer is a first time Mom, but she isn’t from Mars. At 37 I am sure she has friends and family who have shared their newborn war stories. As a manager, she has heard first hand from her employees the pressing need to balance work and family. She spoke at length at a conference about trying to help a team member Katie make it to her son’s soccer games on time.

I am sure Mayer thought long and hard about taking on the dual role of mom and CEO. Does that mean she will succeed? No. She is not just going to be running a company; she has to turn it around. But if she thinks she has a vision on how to bring Yahoo back to life, should she really NOT try because she is pregnant? Life is messy. It is hard to time things perfectly.

You want to sound off about working moms, great. But let’s broaden it out away from Mayer’s personal decision. Let’s talk about the fact that 61% of women with a child under three are in the labor force and yet many feel their companies don’t support them when it comes to family balance.

I got assigned this story, ended up having to put in a long day, missed tucking my kids in bed and no one but me noticed or cared. Maybe, just maybe, if there are more women with young kids or babies at the top things will start to change. A girl is allowed to dream.


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