Okay, that headline was a trick to get you to read this post. Our contributing editor Chris Brogan, social media expert extraordinaire, gave me the idea (thanks, Chris!).
The truth is I love Marissa Mayer. I love her brilliance, her joie de vivre (she’s famous for her parties), and her femininity (I flatter myself that, like her, I’m a clothes-loving femme but still a tough executive. Not an executive on HER scale, but well, you know).
And now that she’s a new mom (Congrats, Marissa!), I also totally understand her attitude on her maternity leave. She’s got a HUGE new job and to take significant time off now would be really, really difficult. I was the executive editor (the #2) at a very large and successful women’s magazine when I got pregnant with my first child. Since I had gone through life doing well at school and in the workplace, I figured I’d ace the parenting thing too. I asked my staff to send me every story; I would work throughout the leave.
Here’s where the me vs. Marissa comes in. Nicholas Kane Doelger, all 8 pounds 9 ounces of him, kicked my butt like no other challenge ever did. There’s reading and hearing about having a baby and then there’s having a baby. A tiny, scrunched up, fragile ball of endless needs whose only way of communicating is to scream. Nursing him was so tough we both were bawling through each session. Nick was colicky and cried for hours. Nothing I did made him feel better. The doctor had the audacity to LAUGH at me and wave it off with an “it will pass” (I fired him a few months later once I got my mojo back). Every night when my husband and I got ready for bed I sobbed and sobbed. “I don’t think I can make it through another night,” I remember saying to him. I was so sleep-deprived I felt I was going mad—and I have since learned that one of the most common methods of torture used around the world is simple sleep-deprivation. It induces a kind of psychosis. It can make the toughest soldier crack.
Then at 8 weeks, when I had originally planned to be back at work, everything changed. Nick started sleeping 6 hours at a stretch. I was bottle-feeding as well as nursing so my husband and friends could give me a break. My son and I had found our rhythm. And I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with my child. It’s a love no one who hasn’t had or adopted a baby can understand. As Edie Falco recently said when we interviewed her for SUCCESS, she “didn’t know her ribcage was capable” of holding such a huge emotion. I took four more weeks off and bonded with my son. I was there for the first smile, the first laugh. I was an editor in chief by the time my second baby, my Darcy Nanette, came along. I delegated my entire job and took 12 delicious weeks off with her.
This is a personal blog. I’m not saying my choices are right for everyone, and I’m privileged to have been able to financially handle 12 weeks of leave. But I spent over 12 years as the editor in chief of Babytalk and/or Parenting magazines, and my experience as a new mother was pretty typical among those millions of readers.
Marissa, I’m not getting up on a pulpit to say you’re setting women back. You’re the top banana at a huge company and you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Maybe you’ll get a great baby nurse and your mom will be able to stay with you and it’ll all be great from the get-go. Just know: You are in store for the most magical, most sacred days of your life. Take the time to honor that, and there’s no more “vs.” between us.