I've never met Marissa Mayer but obviously she knows a lot of things that I do not. She now runs a Fortune 500 company. I work part-time and raise my kids full time.
But I know something she does not know. I know that being a working mother is a lot harder than she has bargained for.
This week Mayer said this to Fortune Magazine about her pregnancy and maternity leave:
"My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I'll work throughout it."
That is not a maternity leave. Note the word LEAVE.
This is the kind of thinking that I had before I had Miles. I was such a fool. I thought I could do everything with the baby that I used to do without. It was a rude awakening to realize I could not - or if I could, then it would mean someone else mothering my child.
I'm not calling Mayer a fool - clearly she is not. But when I read this quote, I thought to myself, "Chick, you have no idea what this is going to be like."
Maternity leave is the best vacation you will ever take. If you casually work for the duration, you are cheating yourself and your child of a beautiful honeymoon spent falling in love with your baby. It goes way too fast and you never get that time back. I learned that the hard way with Miles and made an effort to enjoy it the second time around with Ava.
Maternity leave is wearing clothes that feel like spit-up papier-maché. It is raccoon-style eye bags. It is sticking your finger into a diaper to check for poop and pulling it out with treasure. It's beautiful chaos.
Can Mayer pull it off? No doubt. She will do great things for Yahoo, that is certain. But at what cost to her son? If she isn't able to give him her full attention for the few short weeks of her leave, what precedence does this set for her life as a parent?
I don't like to question other people's priorities. I don't mean to say Mayer won't be a good mom. Surely she is the most qualified person to be CEO to Baby Mayer. But this "working while I'm on leave" thinking is endemic and not good for our kids. We owe them our undivided attention at the very least during maternity leave and as often as we can when we finish work each day.
This thinking is why we feel so bad when we shoot for the elusiveness of "having it all." It's hard if not damn near impossible and if you have it in you to mother and run a huge corporation, you have to concede to a lot of help, paid or otherwise.
Then again, Meyer can probably afford a lot of help and she has the experience to manage all of that help. Whereas my babysitter when I went to work today was Clayton. And I don't manage him. We just try to manage together.