No matter where you look lately, you can’t help hearing the buzz about Marissa Mayer, former Google exec turned Yahoo CEO. Hey, any news that puts powerful females in a positive light is good news to me. The bigger news that was released shortly afterward is that she is six months pregnant and plans to take an abbreviated maternity leave and even work through its entirety. While it appears to be almost impossible to many, she made a personal choice in wanting to get back to work as soon as possible. So, what’s the big deal?
Many women worry that Mayer is setting an unrealistic expectation for all expectant mothers—work until your water breaks, squeeze the little one out, then back to work, pronto! With enough pregnancy discrimination in the workplace as it is, many wonder if Mayer’s overpublicized choice will pave an even bumpier route for new mothers in the future. However, Mayer is not the first woman who has decided to put her career on an equal pedestal as her child—Ivanka Trump was off on business just 8 days after giving birth. French MEP Rachida Dati was criticized for returning to the European parliament after only 5 days post partum after saying it was a personal choice. When I found that one of Forbes magazine’s headlines read: “Should you hate Marissa Mayer?” I was perturbed to say the least. Why do we hate power moms?
One point we may be forgetting is that there are many different types of mothers out there—there are those who get so wrapped up in all aspects of mothering that they can’t imagine doing anything else (admittedly I fall into this category), and there are others who see being a mother as just another challenge added to their plate. I had a close friend who was so anxious to go back to her job with the city of Chicago that she barely shed a tear when she sent her 4 month old daughter off to daycare for the first time. No two families are the same, so it sets an unfair expectation of women to be wrapped up in their snuggly new baby for weeks or even months if it’s not where they feel they need to be.
While it may be an easy transition for some, many women feel that the balance between family life and the working world is more difficult than it seems. Personally, I cannot fathom getting any work done just weeks after giving birth let alone days. Heck my son is 10 months old and I still have a hard time finding the time to sit down and start writing—but that’s just me. I also admittedly have very poor time management skills and end up spending an hour on Pinterest when I have a deadline. It can be a big struggle though, take for instance Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli who created quite a stir when she arrived at a meeting at the European parliament with her 7-week-old daughter nestled to her chest in a sling. “It was not a political gesture,” she says. “It was first of all a maternal gesture – that I wanted to stay with my daughter as much as possible, and to remind people that there are women who do not have this opportunity [to bring their children to work], that we should do something to talk about this.”
The real point of the matter is that no two mothers are the same. If you have the opportunity to have everything you want in life and are able to balance it all, then by god go ahead and have it all. No mother, no woman, no person should have limitations set for them. If we tell Ms. Mayer that she is working too hard when she is perfectly happy and capable of doing so, we are only continuing the cycle of discrimination.
No matter what path a mother chooses, she is still a mother. Many mothers get this idea in their head that they need to be there for everything, but even if you’re not the one to kiss them goodnight every day you’re still a mother—nothing will ever change that. “It’s a very personal choice,” says Ronzulli. “A woman should be free to choose to come back after 48 hours. But if she wants to stay at home for six months, or a year, we should create the conditions to make that possible… Everyone must decide for themselves.”
So who says women can’t have it all? “Having it all” is merely a perception. A single woman with a great career like Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw could think she has it all. At the same time, a suburban housewife with 3 kids might feel as though she has it all. So those who say “women can’t have it all” are putting unnecessary limitations on themselves. If you really want something in life, you’ll figure out a way to get it. If we all lived under the perception that we can’t have it all, what would this world be like?
Written by Sarah Antrim