Margaret Carlson at Bloomberg has juxtaposed the Marissa Mayer (new Yahoo CEO) statements on being a pregnant CEO with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s well read and commented article about having it all. Carlson raises some good points.
The author describes how being the CEO, though a decidedly time consuming position, may be one of the easier positions to have while parenting a baby and young child. It is just great to know that because of her executive status the child will not get in the way of the company’s business.
Having worked in the past for what is now one of the worlds largest oil companies, French Total, when they were smaller and called Fina in the U.S., and knowing the senior executives and the CEO because of office proximity, I can tell you that to be the CEO of a major company requires (as I wrote about here) that he of she erase the line that separates the individual from the company. It is way more than just being potentially engaged in the business 24/7; it is figuratively BEING the business 24/7. Most companies require that the spouse, and even the children become props for the business as well. They carefully craft a persona with the idea that there is a narrative to which they must keep.
Carlson brings to light some important points. She mentions that other women may like the imagery of what has happened but at the same time feel depressed because they are unable to accomplish anything similar.
Then there’s money, which is one thing that separates the happy working mothers from the harried working mothers. Mayer, wealthy from her time at Google Inc. and destined to be well- paid at Yahoo, may well change a diaper. But I bet she will never have to run out at midnight to Wal-Mart to buy a box of Pampers. Peek inside the household of a woman at the top, and you will find out that she doesn’t just have a great nanny, she has several. It’s a family version of outsourcing.
She does some justice in not laying that all at the feet of government, saying women choosing this path are torn.
We don’t know, and neither does Mayer, whether her energies and emotions will be divided in ways she isn’t anticipating. The crushing desire to be in two places at once doesn’t end with breastfeeding and frequent visits to the pediatrician.
This difficulty is not due to a failure of ambition, brains or effort, or of legislation (that said, better maternity leave, flextime and child care would help). There’s no legislation that will put more than 24 hours in a day or get you home for dinner and bedtime. If you have a child with problems — and who doesn’t at some point? — it’s even harder.
True, there is no legislation that will do that. But….there are choices women can make.
That makes me wonder, are those cheering the loudest mostly childless, or mothers who have already raised their kids years ago? Because mothers who very recently dealt with, or are in the process dealing with a new baby at home are feeling a little bit different about this…milestone or millstone.
I’ve done something you haven’t (yet): I’ve had a baby.
Trust me when I say, you won’t know what hit you. And I’m not just talking about projectile spit-up.
Then she tells Marissa how the cow ate the cabbage.
Three weeks in, I don’t think I could walk yet. That might be a slight exaggeration, but at 10 days I definitely couldn’t make it up or down stairs. Just sitting on the toilet was painful. I’ll spare you the details of my marathon labor, but suffice to say — with a shout-out to the Summer Olympics on NBC — I should win a gold medal in pushing. If you haven’t taken a moment to appreciate your functioning bladder today, you should.
But while she tries to explain to Mayer that the physical effects of childbirth, and the exhaustion of the early weeks of having an infant are not things to flippantly say you are going to simply work through, she continues to offer her praise for the accomplishment, albeit with the caveat that Mayer is making the thousands of regular working mothers, the ones who are not chief executives, feel lazy and inadequate because they did succumb to the effects of birth on the body and the exhaustion of sleeping on an infants schedule.
So in the end, Marissa Mayer has a broken and failing company to fix, one that has beaten that last four or five execs who attempted to rehab Yahoo, and she has a baby to raise. She has stated she will take a little time off but work through the leave. Some women across the country are chanting their approval as this new ground gets plowed. Others are feeling even more inadequate because they know that what is possible for the CEO is not possible for the mid level manager or the administrative assistant.
Throughout all the articles I have read about this, few if any have sincerely taken the child’s position or explored those revered words “best interest”. The focus has been on the plowing of new ground, and the ways in which the situation can work, that leading to the ever present calls for more codified relief for all mothers who work in the form of longer mandated job protected paid leave.
While blogger Pamela Sitt waxes a bit emotional about the profound effect a child has on his or her mother by suggesting that Mayer will likely elevate motherhood to the position of being her biggest accomplishment, that’s as far as she takes it. Frankly, I disagree. Its just a guess, but those of this level of professional drive and sacrifice see the child as something to carve out time for while working, not work as something to carve out time for while parenting. Hence we end up with a coddled surrogate raised child who, later in life, is saying things like “my parents were never there for me”. Mayer’s kid may well be just another 1 percenter poseur protesting with his or her generations occupy wall street wannabes one day. Or worse.