Newly named Yahoo CEO, and former Google executive, Marissa Mayer, is taking all kinds of flak for indicating that the impending birth of her child will not stop her from doing her job when she said, “I like to stay in the rhythm of things” and added, “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long, and I’ll work throughout it.” Blogs and Facebook posts are blasting Ms. Mayer for her decision to keep working and for apparently underestimating the challenges of being a parent.
Marissa Mayer (courtesy money.cnn.com) Working through maternity leave - oh no.
People need to relax. Why is it such a surprise that a woman with the vaunted position of CEO of a huge, multi-gazillion dollar company would anticipate that she could work throughout her maternity leave? Is she really going to be the one changing diapers throughout the day and handling the multiple feedings required for an infant? Isn’t Ms. Mayer really the envy of many, if not most, new parents because of her wealth and status because she can afford the help that she will need to do everything that is necessary when taking care of a baby? Hell, how many times have people said, “Sure, I’d have more kids if I could afford 24-hour child care?” Ms. Mayer is that someone who can afford it.
In addition, why are people surprised that anyone, a Yahoo CEO or otherwise, would be able to work throughout maternity leave? Today, the “new normal” of business can be seen in any airport or hotel, at the swimming pool or along a beach. Everyone is checking their smartphones, iPads, and laptops at all times of the day or night. And, they are on vacation.
Sadly, vacation is no longer vacation. Business owners and bosses operate under the assumption and with the expectation that us employees are reachable and available wherever and whenever is needed. Consistent with the demise of vacation is the ability of a mother on maternity leave to be accessible whenever it is necessary or desired. For Marissa Mayer to say that she will work throughout her maternity leave can be as simple as checking her iPhone on a regular basis, responding to the e-mails she pulls up and answering calls when she chooses. How many mother and fathers already do the same when sitting at home for 12 weeks while the baby gurgles and poops? And, who does the same while on vacation, while you're supposed to be relaxing? You’re just not getting paid a million dollars a month for that privilege.
One of my colleagues recently told me, “The only place I go on vacation anymore is a cruise. My phone doesn’t work on the ocean and I stay out of the Internet Café.” So, for those who think that Ms. Mayer should concentrate on raising her baby and keep her mind out of the office, send her a few cruise brochures or just mind your own business. She didn’t get where she is by being stupid. She’ll figure it out or, if not, she’ll hire someone who can do it for her.