By now we all know that Marissa Mayer was just hired as the new CEO of Yahoo!. I had never heard of Ms. Mayer, and I barely remembered what Yahoo! was, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing about either of them, except for one thing.
Ms. Mayer is knocked up. And Yahoo! knew about it when they hired her.
Mothers around the world rejoice whenever a preggo gets hired, and I’m happy to march in that parade. But that’s not what interests me about this story. No, what actually brought me back to the keyboard was a post I recently read about Ms. Mayer’s plans for her maternity leave. According to the author, “She’s planning on taking a mere few weeks, and she’s been vocal about the fact that she plans to work much of the time.”
Excuse me while I mop up the coffee I just spat all over my computer.
Seeing as how Ms. Mayer lives in a luxury apartment at the Four Seasons Hotel, she can probably afford a nanny. And a night nurse. And a chef and a housekeeper and a driver and a person to follow her around all day and alert her to the giant leaky bulls-eye over her left nipple, and every other sort of helper I fantasize about on a daily basis. If Ms. Mayer chooses to completely relegate her childcare to someone else, then, sadly, she will most likely get a lot of work done on her maternity leave.
Hopefully, however, she will embrace the role of motherhood, in which case she will learn that painful lesson that so many of us also learned the hard (oh so very hard) way.
You can’t get shit done when you’re taking care of a newborn.
I remember my plans for my first maternity leave. I was going to work two part-time jobs. And clean out the house. I had a friend who was going to write a book. Another one was going to revise her resume and head out on job interviews. Another one was going to finish her dissertation.
We were all completely delusional.
Even if you can get your little digestive tract with vocal cords to rest quietly on their own for a few minutes (which mine rarely did) or relax in a sling (mine hated them), you will likely be so foggy with fatigue that you will end up brushing your teeth with zit cream or making coffee without a filter only to remake it again before you realize that you can’t drink coffee anyway at which point you will burst into tears. Forget reading important documents, attending meetings, or making decisions that will impact thousands of people. You’ll be lucky if you can put a coherent sentence together.
To be fair, not every day was that chaotic. There were days when I felt almost normal, almost in control. The problem was that my level of functionality was completely unpredictable; I never knew from day to day if the baby was going to sleep that night, if she was going to have a blow-out (or two) just as we were walking out the door to a meeting, if she was going to nap for longer than eight minutes at a time so I could get a little work done. My life became predictably unpredictable.
I’d like to think that even if we had won the lottery right before I gave birth, we still wouldn’t have hired a nanny or a night nurse. As brutally hard as life with a newborn was, it was worth it to fully immerse myself in the experience of motherhood. I won’t say that I loved every late-night wake-up or crying-jag of unknown origin, but the intimacy of those daily details were meaningful to me. They were an important part of connecting with my daughter, or letting her know that she was safe and loved and that I would take care of her.
Ultimately, Ms. Mayer will make her own choices, and I am in no position to judge. What I do know is that the challenges of parenting are unlike any other I have ever encountered, and I can’t imagine that will be any different for Ms. Mayer. While you can certainly have it all, you can’t do it all well. I hope Ms. Mayer finds a balance that works for her and her family.