Freshly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, 37, gave birth to
her first child on Sunday and caught a small amount of heat from the press for
attempting to name her bouncing baby boy via
She’s also drawing
some ire because she’s planning an abbreviated maternity leave—like, 1 to 2
weeks abbreviated—during which time she says she’ll continue working.
Mayer isn’t the first woman to
shun mother-child bonding time after giving birth. Victoria Beckham was back
at work faster than she was back in her skinny jeans after giving birth to
baby Harper in 2011. Ivanka Trump had “meetings
on the calendar” two weeks after Arabella was born last year.
It might make some
postpartum women feel a tad wimpy for squeezing out every last second of their
6- or 8-week maternity leave when they read on the pages of People magazine about their more
glamorous counterparts taking conference calls from their hospital beds. But it
might also make them feel inadequate if they compare their homes and bank
accounts to those famous women. Or their gowns for the Oscars (oh, wait, most
of us don’t actually go to the Oscars).
To her critics, it’s apparently
not enough that Mayer ascended to one of the most high-profile positions in the
business world, or that she’s blazing a trail as a woman at the top of a major
tech company. Now she also needs to make herself into a role model for other moms in the workforce? Can’t she just do
what she needs to do to forward the company that hired her? Is it really her
responsibility to go above and beyond what’s outlined in her employment
We can talk all we want about women having it all, but how each woman defines “it all” is up to her.
Not every little girl dreams of becoming a mom. And even the
ones who don’t and still become one anyway don’t necessarily declare after
giving birth that their lives are complete. Some don’t want to lose steam in
their careers and are content paying for others to help rear their children.
Many of those children turn out just fine, and even better than the ones whose mom stayed
home to attend to their every need.
Mayer will figure out on her own
if trying to juggle a career and child is too much. She’ll know in her bones in
a few weeks’ time if the heartache of kissing her baby goodbye each morning is
too much to bear. Maybe she’ll weep in her office when she realizes that
pumping is more tedious than watching paint dry. Maybe she’ll let her milk dry
up before she even knows the difference. Maybe her son will resent her someday
because she wasn’t there for him in the early days.
We can talk all we want about
women having it all, but how each woman defines “it all” is up to her; it’s not
our place to force our values onto Mayer, or anyone else.
Sure, it would be a shame if other
bosses took a page from Mayer’s book and forced new moms to work during their
already-too-short maternity leaves. But there are some protections afforded by
law to postpartum woman. And it’s doubtful that anyone working at a local bank,
insurance agency, grocery store or school is paying close attention to what the
CEO of Yahoo is doing following her labor and delivery.
Ben Affleck recently admitted to Details
magazine that his career comes first, and even when he’s present with his
family, his mind is often on work, So why isn’t it OK for moms to do the same if
it’s the truth? Maybe Mayer has a well-vetted nanny waiting in the wings. Maybe
her parents or siblings live nearby and plan on spending quality daylight hours
with her baby boy. Is her husband taking an extended paternity leave, perhaps? Don’t
we all figure it out one way or another?
We seem to constantly decry a woman’s right to choose,
and we cry endlessly about trying to have it all. But sometimes we probably
just need to stop and accept that “it all” isn’t always possible, which is when
we then pick and choose based on what makes us tick. It appears as if Mayer has
chosen, and it’s simply not up to us to like or even accept her choice. That’s
the beauty of it after all, isn’t it?