Dear Marissa Mayer,
Kudos on your new gig. Becoming the CEO of Yahoo!, and one of only 20 female CEOs within the Fortune 500, is a pretty big deal. Also, congrats on your pregnancy! What an exciting and happy time for you. I’m sorry society seems to be up your ass about all this lately. Getting a new job and announcing a pregnancy should be two wonderful announcements to make – apparently, just not together. Sorry to say but, you should probably just get used to these pains in the ass… becoming a mother comes with a lot of them. (Reader’s Note: Yes, that’s another hemorrhoid reference.)
When I was pregnant, my biggest pet peeve was the unsolicited advice from other moms. You know, those “just wait until…’s.” You seem to be getting a lot of these lately so I’m sure you’re smellin’ what I’m stepping in. It starts innocently with things like, just wait until you feel that first kick. Or, just wait until you see them on the sonogram. But slowly, it morphs into the more negative and foreshadowing. Just wait until you have to pee every five minutes. Just wait until you feel the pain, you’ll be begging for an epidural. Just wait until you’re so exhausted you don’t know if it’s night or day. Just wait until he tries to write his name in poop on the wall.
I think the most annoying one I got was from a colleague that, after I shared that I was writing up my birth plan, said “Oh, just wait until you go into labor. You’ll want the epidural. And, you might as well throw away the birth plan now – the nurses will just laugh at you and throw it out for you.”
The funny thing about us moms is that we’ve been there and done that, and ‘that’ is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. So, our advice tends to come off as know-it-all-ish. That can be annoying to the new preggo who thinks maybe their child will be the one that will not tear their vagina to shreds, will sleep through the night, will not cry when cutting teeth, and won’t get sick at daycare every week. Or that they themselves will be immune to PPD, they won’t be deliriously exhausted after they settle in at home, and there’s no chance in hell that they’ll want to bring poor Fido back to the pound because if he tries to get into the dirty diaper pail one more time you’re going to go insane. It’s sweet how a pregnant first time mom has that glimmer of hope.
For the record, I followed my birth plan – sans epidural – only thanks to the awesome nursing staff at my hospital. So, that momvice couldn’t have been any more misguided. And that’s the thing – no one can predict how easy or difficult your labor, or your recovery, or your maternity leave, or your child will be. My Magic 8 Ball is broken so I’ll save my just wait until…’s for another day.
But I will tell you that, by becoming a mother, you are about to earn your way into one of the biggest and best clubs there is. Unfortunately, we are a group at odds as of late and your recent announcements have just added fuel to the fire. There seems to be an ongoing feud between Working Moms and Stay at Home Moms regarding who has it harder and who does it better. Honestly, that whole can of worms about “having it all” is exhausting so I’ll save it for another day. But I’ve got to be honest – I do have a bone to pick with you regarding that little comment you made about your maternity leave. You know the one, where you said that your “maternity leave will be a few weeks long and [you’ll] work throughout it.” Yeah, that one.
The working mom in me is very proud of you for making such a bold statement. You are successful, passionate and driven in a way that only about 1% of the population (men and women alike) is. I think the last time I had that kind of drive was in 7th grade when I decided I was going to marry Leonardo DiCaprio and I’d do anything it took to make it happen. (Clearly that ended in failure and perhaps I just was never the same.) Yet my inner cheerleader is glad that you’re taking on the role of the corporate supermom. Inside, I’m saying Yeah that’s right society, take that. Not even a 3rd degree tear and massive hemorrhaging can hold us down! Women, Roar, etc. etc.
But then I remember my own experience, and that makes me realize that I’m also a little T.O.’d at you.
When I got pregnant, I worked for a company that touted a work/life balance. Or, I should say, senior management touted it. Unfortunately, that company ideal didn’t quite trickle down through their middle management, and I soon found out what a struggle it would be to balance my new role as mom with my prior role as corporate doormat.
I work in the field of Marketing – you know, the inventors of churn and burn. But I was always career driven, and for a girl that never left her home state of Maine, I consider myself successful. Yet the reality was, I struggled with my workload when I wasn’t pregnant and hormonal, so balancing it on top of doctor’s appointments and added life stress (i.e. calling my husband to make him grab white onesies on his lunch break because we JUST DON’T HAVE ENOUGH!!!), I quickly became a mess. One day, amidst an anxiety attack and an embarrassing amount of tears (totally unprofessional, but hey, hormones will do that to ya), I was told “your workload will not change.”
When I was about 37 weeks pregnant, I came to the realization that my health and my baby’s health were simply an afterthought when it came to my employer. Due to health issues, every doctor’s appointment was a crap shoot as to whether or not I was going to be induced. At around 7pm, I was waiting for a phone call from my doctor with test results on my cell phone while my boss was blowing up my other line.
“Hi. I need you to send a press release and an email. I haven’t drafted the release yet. Can you get it to me in 20 minutes? How long will it take you to get the email done? Oh, and how was your appointment?”
I don’t think you’ll be shocked when I tell you that I severed my employment there shortly after returning from the 12 weeks of maternity leave I was rightfully owed six weeks of short-term disability combined with my horded year’s vacation time (what they felt was a “fair” compromise on maternity leave). My quick return to work was stressful, with my son bringing home a new illness from daycare every other week. I was still mentally exhausted and recovering physically. On top of it, my whole team was laid off in my absence and I was expected to pick up the work of 2 other people, all the while being told that I was not good enough to be promoted. I was asked expected to fly halfway across the country for 3 days, away from my breastfeeding newborn. I was exhausted and overworked. Changing diapers and taking phone calls at 10pm because a web edit just couldn’t wait wasn’t really my idea of a good time. You see, that whole corporate supermom thing just wasn’t for me.
I have moved on to bigger and better things since my former employment, and I’m proud to still be a successful working mom. And I get it. You’re a Stanford Grad and you’re all about climbing that corporate ladder. (Or, at least you were, since now you sit at the top.) You’re successful and rich and can afford certain luxuries. Like, when your baby arrives, I imagine that you’ll pull a Beyoncé and have a private birth suite and the best medical attention possible. And most likely, you’ll have a live-in nanny for those first few weeks to help get you through. You have the means and resources (aka, money) to work through a maternity leave. That’s you’re prerogative.
But, please remember, not all of the Mom Club is that lucky. Your circumstances are a rarity. You’ve not even been given the secret password to get into our Clubhouse, and yet you have already become the new face of working moms everywhere. I know you might not have intended to sign up to represent us, but the role has befallen you nonetheless, and with your new-found spokesmanship comes much responsibility.
So, I’m asking that you please remember who you are representing the next time you talk to the press. YOU might be able to work through a 2 week maternity leave, but that shouldn’t be the standard and the expectation for all of us working moms. And that is what your previous statement automatically infers. It’s simply not a fair bar to set and, trust me, you don’t want to piss us mama bears off. I mean, I know you’ve got a board and investors to keep happy, but you also have millions of women that may be willing to switch from Googling to Yahoo!-ing in solidarity. Just sayin’.
I’m excited to soon welcome you to our club. Motherhood is wonderful, exciting, stressful, crazy, joyful, hard, easy, and worth it. I wish you a speedy delivery, success in your new career, and a peaceful time at home with your new baby – no matter how much “time” you eventually decide to take.