Recently, Yahoo!, Inc. introduced Marissa Mayer as their new President and CEO. Mayer is a brilliant, 37-year old former Google executive who’s–get this–six months pregnant.
Naturally, everyone wants to know how the young, charismatic leader will balance her role as head of a struggling company and that of a new mom.
In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Mayer summarized her plan, “I like to stay in the rhythm of things . . . My maternity leave will be a few weeks long, and I’ll work throughout it.”
[Cue the eye rolling, judgmental stares, and cries of outrage from offended people the world over who won't be impacted in the least by this perfect stranger's decision.]
Some critics complain that Mayer has a naive approach to managing the demands of career and family. Others assert she’s setting a bad example for working mothers. They fear women will be pressured into fulfilling their duties as employees instead of establishing enduring, emotional bonds with their infants.
Not that anyone asked for my opinion–and I assure you, you’ll never need to–but here it is.
It’s not like Ms. Mayer is a Walmart greeter. She’s the fifth CEO in five years of a troubled, multi-billion dollar corporation. And as it happens, Mayer also has a net worth of $300 million. Presumably, she can and will hire help.
“But, but, but, women need time to physically recover from childbirth.”
That’s true. If you told me you wanted to go back to slinging boxes for UPS a few days after passing an eight pound mass through your cervix, I most definitely would encourage you to wait. But unless you’re not getting enough sleep, answering emails and sitting in on conference calls likely won’t put any undue stress on your body.
Maybe it’s totally obvious, but for my own selfish reasons, I’m hoping Mayer kicks butt as the top box on Yahoo’s org chart.
Countless women have mastered child rearing. I wanna see more accomplished female CEOs.
But even if Mayer went on maternity leave, realized she couldn’t tear herself away from her baby, and decided to become a stay-at-home-mom, I’d respect her decision. Admittedly, I’d be disappointed, but still, I’d respect her decision. After all, she doesn’t owe me anything.
Besides herself, Mayer is beholden to her family and the Yahoo! stakeholders. That’s it.
During exciting times like these, the can-women-have-it-all debate really heats up.
Until recently, when asked, “Can women have it all?” my response would’ve been “No.” But I’ve given the question a lot of thought over the years, and finally, I have the correct answer.
Without defining what’s important to you, the only answer to this recklessly, vague question is, “It depends.”
First, tell me what “it” is, and I’ll tell you if you can have all of “it.”
If you aspire to
- maintain a 15% body fat percentage,
- home school three kids,
- have sex with your husband five days a week,
- bring home the blue ribbon every year for your county’s largest tomatoes, AND
- head a fast growing start up you co-founded two years ago . . .
Maybe you can’t have it all.
But if your bucket list reads something like this
- become CEO of a Fortune 500 company
- squeeze in the necessary amount of time (and not a second more) to raise healthy, well adjusted children
- make lesser moms feel like ants in my shadow
- refuse any work arrangement that interferes with motherhood . . .
You’re well positioned to “have it all.”
And you know what? Regardless of what others think, your list is your list, your desires are your desires. Don’t delete, add to or modify your priorities to conform to societal pressures.
Many stay-at-home-moms contend that they don’t feel valued by society, that their work is under appreciated or that people look down on them for not attaining career success outside the home. To that I say, “Who gives a crap?” The only people whose opinion matters about the work you do as a SAHM are you, your children, and your partner.
Likewise, if you drop off your baby at daycare and back flip through your office door every morning, you shouldn’t care what other people think about that. You feel called to do something besides parent for a large chunk of your day. So what?
We’ve got to stop apologizing for our choices. If you can’t have it all, more likely than not, it’s because you want too much. Of course, sometimes we genuinely want to achieve a long list of lofty goals. Other times, I think we convince ourselves that we should want certain things. Strangely, not obtaining something we never really wanted in the first place makes us feel like failures–and that’s just stupid.
Photo Credit: Giorgio Montersino