Yesterday on the Today Show, I saw coverage of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer making a speech (her first since the birth of her baby) at a Fortune Magazine “Women in Power” event. See video here
The stand out quote from this speech was, “I knew the job would be hard and I knew the baby would be fun…what’s surprised me – and really pleasantly so, is the job is really fun (laughter from the audience – mostly women)…and the baby has been….easy!”
I knew when I watched this that the crowd was expecting the exact same punch line I was – “the baby has been…hard!”. But no, over-achieving Marissa Mayer took the other approach – making those of us who feel babies are difficult, challenging, and surprising, and that having babies while working is even harder, look like slackers who just can’t handle it all. I was really annoyed with her speech, and was thinking about it all morning.
Later in the day, I saw this article on the Huffington Post and felt that Lisa Belkin said exactly what I was feeling! Great, great piece.
The Facebook response to Belkin’s article was double-sided (naturally). Many agreed with her whole-heartedly, while others claimed that babies CAN be easy, and why shouldn’t Mayer tell the truth?
I think those who felt Belkin’s article was “passive aggressive” are completely missing the point (and the back and forth arguments about the piece itself further this point) – the issue is not whether or not her baby is easy. Or if her baby may in fact seem a bit easier since she most likely has round the clock nannies/night nurses and is working all day rather than stuck at home with a crying newborn. Or if her baby is only two months old and hasn’t gotten fussy yet OR if she is just happily enjoying it all and that’s OK. The POINT is that we women and especially we mothers have it TOUGH in the workplace in regards to maternity leave. We did not CHOOSE to be the ones carrying the baby. Men get to be fathers without the whole burden/gift of pregnancy/post-pregnancy and don’t have to deal with this issue. When you have a baby, you need time to adjust, bottom line. Your baby needs you, bottom line. I personally found this time amazingly beautiful, touching, honest and yet extremely difficult, lonely and raw. I’m sure many moms feel the same as I do.
How her baby acts is not the point. She is in a role, as a powerful high-profile woman, to stick up for women as a group. To say, “Listen – we women and even we MOTHERS can be executives, and we CAN do just as good a job (if not a better) than men. But in the moment we have babies – a choice we make WITH A MAN – we need some time to recover. Things won’t fall apart, we will come back and everything will be OK, but the world needs to understand this is a necessary moment in time where we can’t be at the office, and women can not and should not be made to feel guilty about that. Employers should be understanding and pay for it because no one, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON ON THE PLANET OR AT ANY COMPANY GOT HERE WITHOUT A MOM… one who was, in fact, pregnant.”
But instead, Mayer has taken the opposite approach – the (dare I say ironically childish) approach with, “I had a baby and it’s easy and I’m fine and I’m back at work and anyone who claims otherwise is a sissy.” What’s even more disheartening is that this was an event specifically targeted AT women, for women. She should have gotten up and said something inspirational. She dared to quote Vince Lombardi, and yet Lombardi would have said something to rev up his gang – to promote the idea of TEAM. Something she doesn’t understand.
It’s not the way to move women forward. We have quite enough people working against us, thank you very much, we need some behind us. The women in power, those with a platform, should be working FOR us and we should all be standing together. If Mayer’s baby is easy – good for her, congrats. But maybe she can lend a hand to the other 95% of women who don’t have multiple nannies, easy babies, & “fun jobs” and try to make the corporate world more understanding to our position.