With the publication of the Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and the related decision by Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer to no longer allow working from home (she herself returned to work two weeks postpartum albeit with a nursery built for her son next to her office) there has been a lot of “feminist” stuff swirling around the media and my head. And it’s getting crowded in there.
I want to share some things that I have been considering. Mind you, these are just thoughts. The issues at hand are so broad, so complex, and so overwhelming, that I have decided to just throw out there my initial thoughts and reactions to the media storm swirling and see what happens next.
Here are “Five Things That Currently Don’t Make Sense To Me.”
1. Returning to work two weeks postpartum is not good for your body. You’re still bleeding from birth. That’s a pretty strong indicator to chill out and maybe not return to a corporate office. Two weeks is a time of tremendous hormonal upheaval. Your body is actively trying to recover from the significant event called birth whereby a tiny person who has been in your body for 40 weeks comes out from your uterus and breathes air and all of that newborn stuff they do for the first time. Whether you had a C-section or vaginal birth, medicated, natural, homebirth (woohoo!), whatever… two weeks is a ridiculously short amount of time.
2. Since when is having a baby something to check off the list? People are talking about women in this day and age having a baby as if it’s buying a car, or refinancing the mortgage, or borrowing a car to stop off at the market: “Did you have that baby you mentioned wanting?” “Did you find the right time to have a baby? There’s a narrow window in there you want to hit on, you know.” “When are you going to have that baby? ‘Cause I’m going to need you to get back soon.”
3. Not to be snarky (or maybe, precisely to be snarky), I wonder if Mayer wanted a baby or thinks she should have a baby? Or maybe it’s the same thing? Maybe it’s old-fashioned to be concerned about the distinction, but I sort of can’t help it. I think I really don’t understand women today when I hear about stories like these.
4. I’m glad Ms. Mayer built a nursery for her child in her office. I’m also glad Mayer’s decision to be with her newborn coincides with her financial resources and place of power. Maybe she can do the same for all of the women she is asking to work for her from their offices? Or maybe they should leave their kids with someone else while they help make her company successful? After all, maybe that’s what being the boss is all about: calling the shots so that it’s convenient and positive for you, but not acknowledging that the women who work for you might also want to be with their babies?
5. I am hearing a lot of “feminist” voices on various panels and news shows and what I hear overwhelmingly is that “real” feminists go back to work as soon as possible. “Real” feminists don’t let that little thing called motherhood slow them down. “Real” feminists know that their true value is in competing with men, being more hardcore than men, and being more “productive” than men. Since when has feminism become more authoritarian than patriarchy?! It’s as if questioning women like Mayer makes you an anti-feminist. I thought feminism was about embracing myself as a woman, with all of the complexity that entails; not about me learning the “right” way to be a woman. It reminds me of the attacks I (and other women before, during, and after me) have been the recipient of for advocating for natural birth, breastfeeding, safe bed-sharing/co-sleeping, and sacrificing personal desires/vacations/fancy clothes/expensive vacations in favor of budgeting so that you are your child’s primary caregiver. This fight about the polarity of desires and a search for our “purpose” is exhausting me.
So I’ll stop now. Because I’m exhausted.
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