What I really want to say is that Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo who announced shortly after her landmark appointment this week that she’s pregnant and due to give birth to a baby boy in October, is my hero. She is, after all, taking a sledge hammer to the glass ceiling—grabbing the corner office of a Fortune 500 company with a baby in her belly and vowing to take only a short working maternity leave with her firstborn so that she can get down to the business of ruling the world. Clearly, Mayer is convinced she can have it all, and to prove it, she’s going for it, critics be damned.
Still, the raging debate about whether Mayer can balance her new gig with being a new mom and whether Yahoo’s decision to hire her despite her pregnancy signals a sea-change in the way pregnancy is handled in the workplace, leaves me queasy and a tad ticked off that some very real issues are totally being missed here. Let’s be clear: Mayer is a BOSS. She will slip into her new role at Yahoo and then she will go away and birth her baby in October and she will have her son on her breast and a husband by her side and a cell phone at each ear and enough money, flexibility and staff at her beck-and-call to miss not one beat as the head of her company. It won’t be easy, mind you—any woman who’s pushed a baby from her loins, woken up at 1:27 a.m., 3:01 a.m. and 4:15 a.m. for diaper changes and feedings, and felt post-pregnancy hormones take over her body like the demons in The Exorcist, can attest to this. But Mayer’s got the resources to make it work. And, most importantly, the ability to make a choice to do so.
The debate, then, isn’t really whether she can or should do it. The very real question is why do we still live in a presumably civilized society—one that stands so morally and righteously on a platform of “family values”—where a majority of mothers are still being denied the choice Mayer enjoys? What she’s doing isn’t new or revolutionary: every day, mothers across America with limited resources, incomes and physical, mental and emotional support squat in the fields of this land, birth their babies and then head back to the assembly lines and the secretary desks and the fast food restaurants without benefit of choice—the choice to either spend precious time with their newborns, head back to work quickly because they want to do their jobs, or pull together a combination of the two so that they can be moms and good workers. America’s ridiculously arcane maternity leave laws, which benefit only a slither of our country’s moms, make the balance impossible—especially for regular moms with regular jobs. Basically, most working moms.
So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not handing the “hero” cape to Marissa Mayer. It’s much to tattered with the blood, sweat, tears and breast milk of working mothers who are barely hanging on, who don’t have choices, who lack the support system and the money and the status to enjoy their ideal mom experience—the one that works for babies and the women who birth them. How much you want to bet that the DNA of a Yahoo secretary or janitor or cafeteria worker is on that tattered cape? Marinate on that. Discuss.
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