I have been reading the myriad articles about Marissa Mayer’s planned maternity leave with a wary (and admittedly bleary) eye. The coverage has been especially interesting to me since I am on week five of my own maternity leave – I took off about two weeks before the baby was born due to prodromal labor, and now said baby is nearly three weeks old. So while I’m tending my own tiny person, I’m following the commentary on Ms. Mayer’s plans for her identical twins in the business and tech press.
And it’s just making me crazy.
The thing that’s killing me isn’t that Marissa Mayer plans to take only a very brief two-week leave after having her twins. I get the argument that she’s sending a bad (or at least mixed) message to her employees and the labor force in general (and you know I’m not shy about talking about our culture of overwork and its negative impacts). I see why people are riled, really I do.
But that’s not what bothers me.
It’s that people feel so entitled to express an opinion on her decision about leave. Seriously, it seems like everyone has some high-minded thoughts on the situation, and they all feel entitled to share those thoughts publicly. Some of them actually write like they’re trying to sway her choice – which is a bit comical, really, as I don’t get the impression Ms. Mayer cares that much about being a role model or test case. I think she cares about her specific job, and her specific family, and she’s making the choice she believes is best for her own personal circumstances.
Why isn’t that OK?
Why do we feel entitled to judge how she decides to parent?
Because that’s what this is. It’s people feeling absolutely entitled to weigh in on her parenting choices. And that, my friends, gets my goat.
(This is a tangent, but I have to mention that the judgement being thrown at Marissa Mayer is way worse and more robust than it would ever be for a man. A few commentators have urged Mark Zuckerberg to take a long paternity leave, but nowhere near the chorus of voices rushing to judge Ms. Mayer.)
I really wish, deep in my sleep deprived brain and heart, that we would do a better job supporting other parents, even when we disagree with their choices. This is back to my favorite Amy Poehler quote again: “Good for her, not for me.” Someone doing something a little differently than you yourself would do it? Good for her, not for you. The world will continue to spin.
We each make the choices that are best for our own families, working with all the information we have available at the time. Let’s give other women the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re doing the exact same thing, rather than being so quick to publicly judge and comment on others’ parenting choices.
Moreover, I think everyone in the western world understands that Marissa Mayer is not most moms. She is the CEO of a technology company with a $29.32 billion market cap, has a nursery custom-built into her office, and probably a fleet of very efficient nannies. Her circumstances are not like ours. They’re just not. (And thank goodness I don’t have a board of directors to answer to, for that matter.) Let’s let her make the choice that is right for her, her husband, her son, her twins, and her company.
As for me, I plan to enjoy my time at home with my small new person. That is my choice; it brings me joy and peace of mind. I hope Ms. Mayer’s choices do the same for her.