Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Now You've Gone and Done It

Since having kids, I generally avoid posting on the "mommy war-are-you-mom-enough-women-can't-have-it-all" nonsense, largely because my reaction to these kinds of articles is a contradictory combination of getting really fucking annoyed and not caring at all. It's impossible to write in that mental state, so I don't, plus the "not caring" always trumps over the annoyance, so I don't even write many blog posts in my head like I usually do when I'm annoyed about something. But this article on Marissa Mayer, which I unfortunately read during work today, has forced me to come out and step into the arena because if I don't get my highly irritated reaction down on paper my head will explode.

By way of background, before I had kids, I worried obsessively about what others thought about my plan to be a working mom and the impact they claimed to fear it would have on me, my spouse, and my children. But once I had those children, I never worried about it again. My philosophy towards being a working mother essentially boils down to: I know myself better than you, I know my husband better than you, I know my children better than you, and I know that all four of us have more love, laughter, and general happiness in our lives than I ever imagined possible, so if you think the fact that I work has an absolute and all-encompassing negative impact on our lives, you're an idiot and I can't be bothered with you. Truly, all the angst and yelling and blogging and writing on the issue just seems like a bunch of white noise. Women work. Women have always worked. Millions of American mothers have to work and they do it without half the support, assistance, and luxuries that I (and most of the people yapping about it) enjoy. Talking about it can be helpful in relation to work-life balance and increased choices and tracks for men and women to take with regard to their career, but in general, I can't imagine why anyone cares very much what other people choose to do.

But it seems that people do care, at least about high-profile women's decisions. Which leads me to the reason for today's post- the internet's reaction to Marissa Mayer's maternity leave plans. For those who haven't read about her, Marissa Mayer was just tapped by the Board of Directors of Yahoo! to be the company's new CEO and she started work yesterday. She has a B.S. and Masters from Stanford in computer science, specializing in artificial intelligence, and was previously an engineer and VP at Google. She's also 2-3 months pregnant, due February 5th, and will thus be having a baby about 7 months into her new job. She informed the Board, they hired her anyway, apparently feeling she was still the best person for the job just like they had felt right up until she shared the news. So, yay! Progress, right? Apparently not. Despite the fact that Mayer is 37, quite bright, and has likely watched many friends and family members have children, a few people (fellow working mothers no less) have taken to their webpages to write open letters explaining to Mayer why she's wrong about her plans, her goals, and anything else she thought she knew about herself. I took issue with nearly all of it.

I wrote about this topic 5 years ago before I even had Landon, but I personally do not believe that having a baby changes everything about you and your world. Parenthood is a huge amazing thing. It has made my world wider and deeper, but it did not BECOME my world or change everything in it. I am still me. Things that mattered to me before I had two children still matter. I am still very professionally driven and take enormous pride in my work. While it's true that my heart bursts with love and pride when I see Landon repeat something I've taught him, or when Claire runs up to me and says "wuv you mama, wuv you SO MUCH," that does not mean I do not still derive joy and satisfaction from a "you kicked ass in there" email from my boss at work. Mothers, parents, people generally-- we are not defined by one thing. It annoyed the crap out of me when people (particularly people who knew me well) said things like, "just wait, you don't know how you'll feel when you hold that baby in your arms." Because no, I will not wait to hold a baby before continuing to take steps on a path I started years before and worked very hard to achieve, and I don't see why the hell Marissa Mayer should have to either, at least not if being CEO of a $10 billion company is something she'd like to do (and why wouldn't it be?).

But back to the article. Pretty much every patronizing word made me increasingly furious (JP just endured my reading it allowed, with much commentary, with a vaguely amused expression because I so rarely get mad about internet stuff), but these two quotes are particularly annoying:

"Would it be so bad to spend a couple more months in the comfort of your home, un-showered and wearing sweats like the rest of us? I know you're used to working long hours. But "all-nighter" takes on a whole new meaning when you become a mother."

and

"The cheers or jeers of other moms may not sway you, but don't discount the persuasive powers of your baby boy. You're a powerful woman, but I have a feeling you're going to be putty in your son's little hands from Day One. I can't fully explain the extent to which your priorities will shift when you have a baby. I predict you'll soon consider him the greatest accomplishment of your very accomplished life."

No, it would not be "so bad," and Ms. Mayer is not saying it would be (though the "unshowered sweat pants" thing does sound bad to me; I've had two babies and I had one that never slept ever and I still took a shower every day and never wore sweat pants, but I digress). What Mayer did do is accept a pretty incredible opportunity to take on a demanding job as Chief Executive Officer of a large public company, a job that is by definition a very individual one, and accept that she can't just drop off the face of the earth for 3-6 months after having a baby, nice as that may be (and oh maternity leaves are so nice; I watched 6 seasons of the West Wing while snuggling Claire on the couch, delightful). But unlike 3rd year attorneys, CEOs are not fungible, and that's why they're carefully selected and paid a bunch of money- because the Board of Directors has decided that individuals background and personality and vision of the company will lead that company to bigger and better things. What would have been ridiculous would be for her to have accepted the job and then taken a long maternity leave- I think that would have actually hurt women more (not hard, since I don't think this current thing is hurting them at all), because why would a Board or upper level management not continue to handicap women of childbearing age in selecting these positions? It's true that having a baby has a physical and medical aspect to it, but I could have easily returned to work at 3 weeks after having both of my kids, provided I had sufficient help at home, and she will likely be able to as well. And if not, she'll take more leave, just like any male executive would do if a medical procedure had unforeseen complications. Her plan to come back to work after 3 weeks, does not mean she thinks it would be terrible to sit at home and hang out with her baby. It means she made a choice to accept a job opportunity she's worked very hard to be eligible for and that choice comes with the (I think realistic) sacrifice of a shorter maternity leave. Will she regret it later? I have no idea, but I don't see why people who don't know her need to be telling her she will. You're allowed to have multiple accomplishments in life- hers could be her baby and her CEO-ship. Men get to have lots of accomplishments and nobody writes them open letters to let them know how they'll feel about it.

I just found the whole letter so damn patronizing. (This one, too: "Think about your colostrum over the company for more than just a few weeks. Please." Are you kidding me? Male CEO's will never have to put up with this crap.) I tried not to, I didn't want to get all worked up at 2:30 in the afternoon, but it brought back all those months as a pregnant law student when people tried to tell me how I'd feel (and how I wouldn't want to stay in school or be a practicing lawyer), and then even worse, ended up making me feel bad after I had Landon because I didn't feel a tectonic shift in the universe and rethink every priority I ever had the moment I became a mother. I was still me, maybe me+, now with greater empathy, capacity to love, and patience, but still the same basic person I'd known for 24 (now 29) years.

So do I think Marissa Mayer's plan to take a 3-week working maternity leave is "good"? I don't know, I guess it depends on what or whose "good" you're talking about. But I don't think it's bad, and I do think it's realistic and possible. She's the CEO, she may need to make decisions and lead some meetings, but as the boss, she will also have an enormous degree of flexibility to help in those first several months, as well as the ability to hire full-time help. Prior to reading some of the internet furor over that aspect of her hiring, I just thought it was great that she was hired- that if the Board thought she was the best candidate, they didn't let her impending motherhood stop them from offering her the job.

This relates to another annoyed reaction I had at an article- the terribly titled, but containing some (some) good, thoughtful content, "Women Still Can't Have It All?" My thought was, of course we can't. No one ever said we could. But that's okay- men can't either and neither can stay-at-home moms or dads. No one can have it "all" - "all" is not something I even think exists. The point, the goal, I always thought, was that we get to have choices. If it makes more sense for me to work and my husband to stay home, I want to be able to make that choice- I want employers to hire me as they would an equally qualified male candidate, I want them to not ask or care if I have children, and I want to be paid what another household-heading male would be paid. Choices are what matter to me. That there are sacrifices that accompany those choices is both inevitable and deeply personal. To me, Marissa Mayer's new role of CEO and mother is a positive thing for choices. She had them, she made them, and I'm not going to tell her that giving birth to her baby will render all those choices meaningless.

Now I need to go kiss my children and re-tuck them under their covers, go to bed and nudge my already-asleep husband into cuddling with me, and get some rest before another day of following through on my own choices, and perhaps not clicking on anything "mom" related on the internet for a while.

51 comments:

  1. I agree with all of your commentary to these silly articles. Each woman is different and there is no one size fits all when it comes to work and home life and maternity situations. Women need to stop critcizing each other's decision, period. It's so ridiculous.

    That said, I think it is REALLY ambitious to agree to return just 3 weeks after having a baby. But obviously, she is an ambitious person so it might work out. I would never have been ready. I wouldn't have wanted to be ready. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I was still adjusting. But we can't criticize her decision because it's hers to make. No one, not even her, will know how she will feel after the baby.

    And I know you've blogged about it before- the fact that your whole life didn't change (er, " tectonic shift" as you called it) after having kids. That awes me. My ENTIRE life changed. And EVERY SINGLE ONE of my priorities changed. I didn't anticipate that. I wasn't prepared for it. But it happened. And my kids ARE my life. As soon as they were born, every breath I took became about them. It's giving me so much hang-ups about being a working mom. I very much envy that you do not have that but I am very happy for you that you know precisely where you stand in your own life.

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  2. BrewingMama7/19/12, 1:35 AM

    Thank you for sharing your take on all of this Mommy Wars bullshit.

    I hate reading all of these articles because it brings up some terrible emotions and memories of my life as a working mom. I was treated like crap by my employer, but it wasn't until after I had a child that I realized how terribly everyone in the company was treated. I eventually ended up quitting after fighting for several months to be treated humanely. Now I have time to focus on things that I really care about like my family and my lifelong ambition to be a high school science teacher. My whole family is physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier now, but I would never have made that change if I had not had my son.

    Motherhood did not change my priorities. It reinforced them and made them clearer.

    I wish Marissa Mayer the best of luck in her two new positions. I really hope that she is successful in both, but even if she isn't, I will not think any less of her. I applaud Yahoo! in giving her the opportunity based solely on her merit. There are many companies that are still afraid to do that including my former employer.

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  3. There was a reaction I read to all of this info about Marissa and I think someone else, who was in a place of power, said something to the effect of, "just because she's going back to work, doesn't mean she's going backto work. She's not going to have to be in the office at 9am and stay until 3am. She's the CEO, delegation, taking the time she needs to pump, or hell maybe even bringing the baby into work with her won't be out of the question. Women have a hard time having kids and getting to the top, once you're at the time you have the power to make your own schedule." I think it's definitely true that in her position people will move heaven and earth to work around her schedule and I'm sure she wouldn't have taken the job if she didn't think she could be a great CEO and mom.

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  4. LL, you'll like Meg from A Practical Wedding's take on the same thing.

    http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/06/the-next-adventure/

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  5. I love your post. I am an attorney at a large consulting firm in Chicago right now. I just had a baby in November 2011 and returned to work a few weeks later, as I am the primary breadwinner in the family and proxy season starts in Janauary. I endured months of horrible comments from co-workers about how they could not beleive that I would not take advantage of the full three months of maternity leave, as well as questions as to whether I would likely become a stay at home mom. My situation should not have been anyone's business, but apparently people feel as though they provide such condescending advice whenever they want. Regardless of the comments, I have found that it is possible to balance having fun with a little one and still be successful at work. :)

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  6. For me the problem with both the Atlantic piece and the Mayer stuff is that we cannot extrapolate what works for these women to what works for average working women. Hilary Clinton's top policy adviser? Not an average job. CEO of a mega company? Not an average job-- and not really even comparable to being CEO of a "regular" company. (Although Slaughter made a great point about some big time jobs having enormous degrees of bodily autonomy and flexibility, which Mayer's new job certainly will-- no one is going to be monitoring her time card or staring at her cube while she pumps or has her baby/nanny with her on the job).

    I DO think that this example-- a 3-week maternity leave-- is hurtful for the average full time working woman b/c it allows companies to say "See? She didn't need a maternity leave, and you don't either." Maternity leave policies in this country suck from a public health perspective, and I don't think companies need an example of how to make them suck more, you know? But that's a very different criticism than the natural woman bullshit you are responding to which I also hate.

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    1. This second point is what worries me the most. Companies already treat this really badly in the US. Not all of us can have night nurses - it will be easier for her to return than the average person given her resources. That shouldn't be the assumption for everyone. And sure I had time and energy to do things while I was on maternity leave and could have worked part time from home - but in the end there would have been no way, with the overall lack of sleep, that I would have been highly functioning at a full time or 20 hr a week job. Work just doesn't take 40 hours out of your week either, it's more like 55-60 when you count breaks/commutes. Add in sleeping for 1.5-2 hours at a pop 2 or 3 times in the night and I would have been a pretty useless employee falling asleep at my desk.

      I do think, like many others, though, that it is all about choice and being able to make our own choices. I think in the end being able to do that is key. Everyone's situation is different.

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  7. Love this post. Hadn't read the letter until I saw your post, but I so agree. Would a 3 week maternity leave be a choice I would make? Not likely (half of the desire to have a second baby for me is the 3 month break!). But, women... stop judging each other! What works for one might not work for another. It's so old. What irks me the most is the implication that because I choose to work, I must love my child less. I try to balance work and home, but, if push came to shove and I HAD to choose between working and my child, the decision... well, it wouldn't even be a decision. It would be a no-brainer. But, I do have the choice, and I exercise that choice and try to be the best mother and the best employee that I can be. It keeps ME balanced.

    What I find helpful in the midst of the "mommy wars" is having a good friend and a sister who are very non-judgmental SAHMs. We have mutual respect for the jobs that one another does, and we understand that it is what works best for each person. It allows me to tune out all the other nonsense.

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  8. Don't normally comment, but this post was fantastic. You found a way to articulate all the thoughts that have been swirling around my head. Above all, who are we (or other well meaning individuals) do judge or advise someone who is fully capable of making their own decisions. Overall, well said.

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  9. Totally agree with everything you wrote here. I took short maternity leaves with both my kids- one because I was in law school and one because I was just starting the second year of my associateship and needed to be "impressing" so that I would eventually get hired on as a staff attorney. My feeling, I'd rather take short leaves than have to put off having the babies until later when I am more able to take a longer leave.

    While I get that not everyone is ready that early, I think plenty of people are. Assuming you don't have a complicated delivery so much fo not beign ready comes from exhaustion- having $$ to afford help can, I am sure, really assist with that issue. I do understand the idea that it creates some unrealistic expectations from women in differnet circumstances who need to take the time - but honestly, I think that is such a miniscule part of what is driving maternity leave policy in this country. I don't think those of us who are able/ need to take short leaves should be looked down upon for doing so.
    I am beyond proud of Marissa Mayer, and all of us ladies who are making it work for our families and ourselves.

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  10. very smart post. I wish more people would realize there is no "all". Just do you own thing and let everyone else do theirs.....

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  11. amen. My feelings exactly. Very well said.

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  12. here here. great post.

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  13. Fantastic post! And how presumptuous of that open letter author to tell Marissa exactly how she will feel once her baby is born. It's such a shame that women are focusing on the pregnancy aspect of this story. 50 years ago a woman would NEVER have been named CEO of such a huge company. How about shifting the focus to what an amazing accomplishment that is!

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  14. Thank you for taking the time to write this response. I absolutely LOVE this line: "Men get to have lots of accomplishments and nobody writes them open letters to let them know how they'll feel about it."!

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  15. Wonderful post. I completely agree when you said: "Millions of American mothers have to work and they do it without half the support, assistance, and luxuries that I (and most of the people yapping about it) enjoy." Most of what I have read about this reeks in privilege. I had my daughter when I was 17 years old. I had absolutely no choice but to work if we were going to have a place to live and food to eat. I worked very hard to finish college and law school--for my daughter. She gave me such an incredible drive to better our situation. 11 years later, I am married, with two more kids, and a lawyer. I still work to provide for our family, but I am much more aware of the choice that it is now that I have a partner. I certainly don't think my children suffer at all because I am a working mother, and it makes me smile when my baby girl--now about to go into middle school--tells people that her mama is a lawyer. When there truly was no choice to work there was also little guilt felt as I went to school and work--and that is what I mean by the posts by others on this subject reek in privilege.

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  16. Well put, LL. Patronizing is exactly it. I recognize that often it comes from a good, or at least not-malicious pace- women who sincerely were surprised by how having children put into sharp relief the role their jobs played in their grander scheme of happiness, for example- but when you are still pregnant, and people are saying "oh just you wait, you're going to want to stay home longer", or "you're going to want to quit," or whatever, there is no retort. You haven't done it yet, since you are still pregnant, so all you can say is "I don't think so, for me," and take it while they smile at you smugly. SO IRKSOME.

    I take the point that companies may feel this gives them cover to say "if she didn't need it, you don't," but that's squarely on the jerkface companies, and it annoys me no end the amount of stuff I've seen in the commentary (not yours, Sarah, to be clear) that suggests Mayer is somehow obligated to fall on the sword so as not to give the companies that easy excuse. It's like people think that by making what she believes to be the correct decision for her and her (certainly hard-fought) career, she is selling out the sisterhood. Come on. Can't we do better than this?

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  17. Great post - completely agree. Also, as someone without kids (and who doesn't plan to have them), I can't help thinking, when I read something like that letter, that the author would disapprove of me even more than of Mayer - because not only do I not appreciate how COMPLETELY kids change your life, I'm not going to make that change. So am I stuck in some preliminary stage of life or something? I mean, if Mayer will ultimately believe her kid is her greatest accomplishment bar none, and I don't plan on even trying for that accomplishment, what does that say about me? (I realize this is a total tangent from your points, but there's something about that letter that I find intensely alienating even as a non-mother.)

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    1. I have never been able to understand the grief and judgement that people pour onto adults who know that they do not want to have children. I don't get it. I think, "Yay for you that you know that you don't want kids and so won't have them!". I've seen articles written that almost seem to condone stoning of people like you. I've heard it described as being "selfish".
      What in the world is "selfish" about not wanting kids .... and knowing that about yourself?!! How wonderful that you know what you want, and don't want, and live accordingly. How many neglected and abused children would have been spared if their parents had known this about themselves?
      Yes, children do change your life. Mostly for the better, but not always ... not for everyone. I have 6 children and I love and treasure each and every one of them. But that's me.
      I know that you didn't really mention the judgement you get (and maybe you don't) .... but I just wanted to say I think you rock.
      :)

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    2. My husband and I have also chosen not to have children. And nothing is more annoying than "oh you'll change your mind." Or, "wait until you hold a baby, you'll want one." And of course the obviously common "children will change your life, you don't want to miss that." First, do you seriously think I haven't held a baby before? I have, many times. And nope, still don't want one. And second, why does everyone care what I do? I'm pretty sure it's my decision. Anyway, long rant short, AMEN to your blog post, worry about yourselves people, I think the intelligent, successful CEO can take care of herself.

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  18. word. that article is terrible. and not thoughtful. i went back to law school 10 days after my son was born. so what? i was glad to get out of the house and have something to do. it doesn't mean i love my son any less. everyone has to do what's right for her. the anne-marie slaughter article is much better. i don't think it's crazy to ask to have it all. it hurts to make sacrifices, either for family or career. we are better for striving.

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    1. Amen to that. I went back to law school as a 1L after two weeks.

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  19. --that said, i don't think that these articles are all so silly. i think it is important to have dialogue. women love to hate women. but it is helpful and worthwhile to have common ground where we can.

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  20. Great post. I have always found your posts about "the balance" interesting. I am curious to hear you talk more about these issues given your new work situation. I know you took the new job because it is an awesome move career-wise, but this new job came with the added benefit of also giving you more time with your kids. I think it's incredibly rare for you to get more time with your kids for a job that is also a step up in your career, and I doubt many people will have that opportunity. But future steps up for you will likely mean less time with your kids - how are you feeling about that? (and I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on the same subject several years from now when it becomes time to actually think about that next step)

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  21. small factual correction - she is due in October, so she is 7 months along.

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  22. i guess my less diplomatic take on things (besides what i just wrote) is that some people are drama queens and/or very flummoxed about new baby stuff, and some people aren't. ya, sure, you sleep less. but i slept less in college, slept less while backpacking through europe, etc. - and all of those things were worth doing, and it was fine. bill clinton famously slept only 5 hours a night. and spit-up? people seriously thing she should be home relishing in spit-up instead of running the company while her loving and caring husband is with the baby? geez. Michelle at theunderweardrawer has a nice post about how the infant stage (assuming a healthy baby) is largely about expectations, and I totally agree with her. and kudos to you for the belief that you know yourself and your family better than anyone else. that statement is unassailable.

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    1. Wait, have you had a child? It's not about sleeping 5 hours a night. 5 hours would be a dream come true for a new mom. It's more like, sleeping two hours at a pop, combined with the stress of having to get up and feed and care for another person while you are dizzy from exhaustion, all under the stress of not really knowing what the hell it is that you are doing. I don't mean to be rude or mean, but really, caring for a newborn is nothing like being in college or backpacking through Europe.

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    2. I have had two and am pregnant with a third. I just really didn't think the lowered sleep was that disruptive. I feel like your reply kind of illustrates my point. (of and I EBF'd both and did plenty of night wakings. Just fell asleep pretty easily after).

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  23. I love this post! I work in higher education and one of our HR reps had a fit when we claimed that a senior faculty member was not taking any leave despite having just had a baby the week before. She wasn't teaching courses that semester, so she didn't have to have office hours for students, and she was just as capable of handling administrative and research concerns from home. If your job is literally to think about things, why can't you do that with a newborn? The professor in this case actually came up with a solution to a problem in the lab while she was in ACTIVE labor and insisted that her husband (also a professor) call her graduate assistants and tell them immediately. Should she really just sit around a coo at an infant all day instead of continuing to think about research that she's been working on for almost 20 years?

    The week after her son was born, she was back in the office. Not full-time, but she was never in the office 40 hours/week. Plus, she and her husband worked out their schedules so that one person was always home while the other was in the office/lab/classroom. This woman is now chair of a high-profile department that is nationally ranked and she just announced she's expecting her 2nd child.

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  24. I love your blog, but I have never commented. I was a lawyer at a Big Firm prior to baby #2 and my husband is currently a lawyer a Big Firm. Our second daughter was born with some special needs and it made it very difficult for me to go back to work after maternity leave. I (we) decided I should stay home to care for her for the first year (she turns one next month). I can honestly say this has been the hardest year of my life, but not for the reasons one might think. I miss work every day, but more than that I wonder about the message I am sending my girls. I want them to know that a woman can work and be a good mom, and who is going to teach them that if not me? I feel so fortunate that I was able to stay home this last year because I wouldn't have trusted #2's care to anyone else. As we move towards year two I am excited to go back to work. I want them to see a strong woman who shows them they can do whatever they want - stay home, work, whatever.

    Keep writing - I love your take on the mommy wars!

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  25. Yeah, different women have different baby experiences. Personally the time I spent with my baby on my 6 month maternity leave was akin to torture. He had colick and I was going out of my mind with boredom and loneliness. BUT, I'm grateful we had that time together to bond and shit. I think the older a kid gets, the more important bonding time is. I frankly didn't care if I saw his 'firsts'--the first time he sat up, the first time he rolled over, the first time he took a step, whatever. That stuff is really boring and not at all youtube video worthy. BUT, I do want to spend enough time with him that he knows who I am and feels secure in our relationship. And I want to be the one he calls 'mommy' and not some caretaker that I hired. I imagine most moms would want this too? All of this means I CAN work and have a nice career. But I can't disappear into an incredibly demanding job that allows me to see my toddler for only 30 min. a day, if that. Sleep, sanity, work, relationships--something's gotta give.

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  26. Many mommies here seem to agree that they don't need long maternity leaves or that maternity leave can be torture. That's fine for them but not all women feel that way. I love being with my babies. I go back to work in Aug and I dread leaving my 4 month old. That doesn't make me lazy or a drama queen or less intellectual. I just like being near my baby and I want to soak up all his babyhood. Good for ppl who are ready to go back after a week but those that aren't are not inferior.

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  27. From a woman who had the choice to be a stay-at-home-mom for all 6 of our children .... I say, "Bravo!!!" You hit it exactly on the head ..... it's not about having it all, it's NEVER been about having it all because NO ONE can have it all! It's about have a CHOICE.
    This was a really great post, LL.
    :)

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  28. @CP - I love being with my babies, too, and I love maternity leave - I didn't think it was torture at all. What i meant by the "flummoxed" comment was more that it seems like people say having a newborn is SO HARD and SO BAD that you couldn't possibly have the energy to work, and in my experience, that just wasn't true. Like you, I did crafts, went on outings, and did all kinds of things that required lots of energy (but that were not work) during my maternity leaves. i could easily have been working (I just didn't happen to want to).

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  29. @alice - i think your comment is along the lines of what Anne Marie Slouter says - that for the very most demanding jobs like M&A lawyer or policy advisor, or CEO, that level of stress and total encompassing of your life - it's not terribly compatible with motherhood as most women want it. I agree with you and with her on that point.

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  30. I know attorneys in Small Town that have taken three week long maternity leave, and worked through it. I don't know why people are freaking out so much. I think she's doing a fantastic job.

    Well said, LL.

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  31. I agree - irritated/don't care when it comes to things like this. I have zero doubts about working. I was compelled to stay home for so long and was *so* miserable the entire time, it is obvious to me that work is best. And you know? It's best for *ME*. I get to be a priority when it comes to choosing what I'll do with my life. The colostrum nuts can suck it (ew.). My happiness and my needs do not drop off of the list because I had a family, any more than they do for A.

    No one has ever dared to tell me that I ought to put Baz before my career (possibly because it is clear that we cannot expect to survive on a PhD student's stipend for long, and also that I will boob-punch at the slightest provocation). The open-letter stupidity to a woman who is CEO of a huge corporation, telling her to basically cut out everything she is intellectually and professionally because she's gonna be a mama.. oh my god. The self-righteous idiocy. The sheer volume of assumptions there, right? Even assuming that there is one way to feel about new motherhood, one experience of infancy... boob-punch. Aside from being idiotic, it drives that profound alienation that bedevils all of us who do not get that storybook glow or that cozy sleepy infant.

    Bleh, I say, to the idiots.

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  32. I don't disagree with your post, but I do want to point out one thing that I think a lot of women (and perhaps, you) have misunderstood the "having it all" statement. "Having it all" is/was proxy for being able to have the same career opportunities alongside having a family as men have traditionally enjoyed. It wasn't specifically about women having the choice to work or not to work. It was about equality, period. Over the years, "feminism" has become more synonymous with choice, but to the older generation (including Ms. Slaughter), it isn't about having choice so much as it is pure equality. So, in some ways, she is actually speaking about something slightly different from what all of us are talking about.

    But honestly? I couldn't care less about Yahoo, or it's CEO (male or female). It's a dying company and if the BOD thinks she can save it, more power to her. And Good Luck.

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  33. Ugh. I am WAHM/SAHM/WOHM/Whatever and I always take a shower, no matter which hat I am wearing. Hands down, that is the one statement I absolutely DETEST from the SAHM crowd. WTF? It takes all of 5 fucking minutes to take a shower. 5 Minutes! Sorry for the cursing, but I hate that statement from gals who act like they are oh so busy that they don't even have time for basic hygiene. /Rant :-)

    I think, overall, I resent the Having It All statement, because no matter which hat I wear, I find myself most certainly NOT Having It All. Earlier this year, I did work outside the home and I hated only seeing my kids for just a few hours in the evening. I hated us having to do all of our shopping/cleaning/housework on the weekends. I hated our daily struggle to get a healthy dinner on the table when we both had just gotten home at 6:30 and were starving.

    However, now that both of my kids are going to be in school in the fall, I am conflicted. My 5 year old will only be in morning Kindergarten. Not quite enough time for me to actively get a job, but also too much time for me to wander around the house without kids. So. I am looking for something part-time, from home.

    Regarding Marissa Mayer? I think her situation is interesting in particular because 1) She is pregnant 2) it is a CEO position and 3) Yahoo is often regarded as a sinking ship. Not only is she pregnant and all that THAT entails, but she has agree to hop on board an incredibly stressful situation. Furthermore, she is a CEO -- that is not a 9-5 job and carries a unique set of responsibilities. I have watched my husband assume that role 3 different times now and frankly, sometimes it sucks (I was relieved that with his new company, he "stepped down" into a CTO role instead.) Am I judging her because she took on the role? No. I really don't care. Sure, more power to her for wanting to do all that, but I would hesitate to hold her up as some sort of role model since she has access to the sort of support that most of us could only dream of.

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    1. Completely agree on the whole - no time to shower bit. Glad to see so many other women irked by this ... I don't know what to call it, martyrdom?

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  34. I agree with everything you've written. I am a full-time working mom. I have my paying career that I spend the bulk of my time at. I also sit on the Planning/Zoning Commission in the town where I live, I am the Vice Co-Chair for the Board of Adjustment - again, in the same town, I keep the books for my husbands business and I also sit as the Vendor & Event Sponsorship Coordinator for a nationally recogized car show that works to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. In addition to those things, I balance my marriage, my child, my household and my personal life. I would say I do I damned good job in all areas as well.
    When my daughter was born, I took a 12 week maternity leave. I fretted about going back to work, and leaving her in a daycare facility, too. What would people think? What mom does that? While I enjoyed those precious moments I was able to share with my daughter, I learned about myself that I am not cut out to be a stay at home mom. I enjoy a great deal the satisfaction of having a job outside of the home. I need this for me. When I went on leave, I daydreamed about staying home and never going back to work, but I quickly found out that I'm not cut out for that, and with the exception of the relative few days she clung to my leg and cried that she didn't want me to leave, I've never looked back.
    Ms. Mayer is newly pregnant, and while she's committed to a 3-week working maternity leave, because she thinks that's what she wants right now, that might not be the case once that baby is born. On the other hand, perhaps she'll stick to her guns and do what she's set out to do. The bottom line is, however, that at the end of the day, it's her decision. It's her life, her career, her child, and NONE of our business.
    More power to you Ms. Mayer, regardless of what you decide to do!

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  35. Wonderful post LL. I have been following you for a while, and at the risk of sounding over dramatic, I live for the posts where you give you're perspective on these issues. There is always a line or a thought that resonates with me, and I have several of your posts bookmarked to refer back to for when I am a working/studying/juggling mommy.

    I have girlfriends who had babies while in medical residencies who were also told how they wouldn't want to go back after, and of course a large part of them wanted to stay and play/cuddle with their babies, but they went back. These are some of the most driven women I know and I see them and they are still who they are before they had babies, just happier and cuddlier! Just because its hard to go back doesn't mean you throw away everything you worked so furiously towards. I get so tired of people telling me once I have this baby I won't want to go to law school. How do they know what I will want? Some days what I know I want is even in flux.

    Anyways, once again I really enjoyed this post! FYI I equally enjoy the Landon & Claire pictures posts too! Keep 'em coming.

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  36. Well said. I think a major part of the problem is that we women are so polite when we are the ones under attack. I wish I could go back in time to when I was pregnant and interviewers were giving me the "Oh, but once you hold that baby you won't want to come back!" crap. I would love to say "Who the F*&% do you think you are? You don't know me. You don't know anything about my family and our dynamic. Oh, and I don't want to work for a woman who is so sexist against women." We need to post things like this in order to stick it to those who would presume to speak for us, so way to go Liv!

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  37. Perfectly written post as always. Couldn't have said it better myself. Please continue to express your feelings on issues like these. I love reading them :-)

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  38. A great post, really!

    I'd like to point out something though, which is the whole crux of this "debate", "mommy wars", call it what you will. It is that is *still* is all about the mommies. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained in our culture, that we have here a classic case of women firing on women.

    Where are the daddies? And they're just secondary, actually. What really is at the heart of this debate is - tadaa, the children! If we're really concerned about the well-being of the children, we will completely disregard who of the parents is working their ass off. In this case, should the focus not be - "ok, she's working, so the dad is staying home for the rest of the parental leave" - right? Let's stop talking in terms of maternity/paternity leave, and talk parental leave, and focus not on the working mother, but the child, and who will take care of it regardless.

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  39. Love the post. My thoughts go to my former sister-in-law. She worked two jobs cleaning houses and bussing tables at a restaurant. Aren't we just special with our problems? SIL had to go back to work a WEEK after having her child. And that week about killed them financially. I would bet there are millions of women who cannot take any maternity leave and yet our outcries are for those who can not only take leave (or not) but could return to work on a flexible or part-time schedule at their whim? Come on... We have it good by comparison. The only part of this whole story I take exception to is her hubris that it will all go smoothly and she can race back to work. Sure, make a plan, put career in front but EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Like others have said, kids can be smooth or they can totally capsize your boat. And you just don't know which way it is going to go, nor can you control it. Agreed with Jennie on the daddy role. My husband is amazing and there is absolutely no way I could be as aggressive on the career/school front as I am right now without him backing me every step of the way and picking up the slack with the kids. Women definitely need good partners or other support systems so they aren't left juggling all the balls alone.

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  40. That particular "open letter" is so smug and inappropriately condescending. But in general, I think it's useful to talk about these issues and in particular, I loved Anne-Marie Slaughter's article (despite the "having it all" headline and her focus on working women rather than working parents). If the debate is about "should women work or be mommies," I agree it's a waste of time. But if it's "how can we have meaningful careers and family lives at the same time," I think there's a lot left to be said about that.

    On a separate note, I'm very interested to see what Marissa Mayer will do as the CEO of Yahoo! It's been a sinking ship for so long, but it still seems like there's a lot of potential there. And coming from Google, I bet she'll be willing to shake up their business model.

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  41. You know, I generally agree with 90% of what you said.

    Separately, though, I think if you are the CEO of an internet company and you decide to make a public comment about your plans for maternity leave, you kind of have to expect "the internet" to have an opinion about it and I think that is fair. Everything in life is a trade-off. Working as a mom means you give up some things and gain some things. Working in the public arena means you give up privacy. I'm sure she either felt as the leader of her company or was pressured by the board to speak publicly about her plans to keep investor fear about what would happen in that time at bay. That is a cost of the job she has taken. As a result of making her choice very public, there is a public opinion. Anonymous and semi-anonymous people get to be jerks and express their assinine opinions. It's silly for us all to be so shocked (SHOCKED!) about it.

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