Dear Marissa Mayer,
I am writing to you from a hotel room in a conference center, hooked up to my breast pump, in between class sessions of the Executive MBA program in which I am enrolled. I am on the last days of my maternity leave. I plan to return to the office on Monday.
Like you, I am a businesswoman. I have a full-time profession in a management position and I’m dedicated to my company. Like you, I want to see balanced gender leadership in the corporate world. And like you, I too planned to work through my maternity leave. Now that I am nearly three-months into motherhood, I must admit that I have not checked my work email while I have been gone. Not once. My Blackberry is tucked away in a drawer where it has been switched to OFF since April 23, the day I emailed my team to announce that over the weekend, I had given birth to a healthy baby boy. My leave would start that day.
Since then, I have continued my MBA studies, which require me to be in a different city bi-weekly, overnight. At 6am this morning, my husband called me. The baby had woken up hungry and crying, but wouldn’t eat. What should he do? I asked him to login to Skype, where I video chatted with my son who has just started to see shapes and colors. The baby cooed and gurgled back at the sound of my voice and even managed to smile into the webcam. He then happily gulped down my expressed breast milk from the bottle. It was the closest thing to nursing for both of us.
Before I became a mother, I couldn’t imagine anything more challenging than managing two short-staffed departments, pursuing an MBA part-time, and balancing my other obligations: serving on the Board of my Co-op building, dedicating time to my yoga practice and of course sustaining a great relationship with my spouse. They say that being a mom is one of the hardest jobs. Being a mom on hardly any sleep with leaking boobs, with ambitions, an education and the desire to change the world, is nearly impossible.
Transitioning into your new position as a Mom will require change. And strength. The first weeks at home do not compare to the worst days (and nights) in the office. I wish someone would have told me that earlier. There will be moments when you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, even though you’ve gotten advice from 50 different people. Taking a shower will feel like a luxury. A walk down the block will be an Olympic feat. Some days, he will cry inconsolably. So will you. Being a mom will be more challenging than any business venture you’ve encountered. Your primary customer is someone who has your eyes, your husband’s nose and your grandmother’s smile. He will be demanding of your time and focus. But the effort will pay dividends. He will redefine your understanding of love.
I’m not writing to tell you what you should do in the weeks that follow your child’s birth. Only you know what is best for your career and your family. I do hope you realize, however, that your position as CEO of Yahoo! allows you to not only disrupt the technology industry, but the entire corporate landscape for working moms. Paid maternity leave is still not legally mandated in the United States. Because of that, many of us have had to make hard choices, returning to work before we are physically, emotionally and psychologically ready, simply because we still need to pay the bills. Whether or not you realize it, you’ve become a role model for all professional women and you’ve set a new standard for Corporate America, proving that successful women can have babies. However, your decision to take a short leave might be premature – who knows what might happen when you receive your next title: Working Mom.
On Monday, I will return to my role as a businesswoman. I will attend meetings, drive strategic decisions and manage my teams. I will have taken the full 12 weeks to which I am entitled under the Family Medical Leave Act. To be honest, it still doesn’t feel like enough.
I have no idea what my life will be like as a Working Mom. I’m excited and nervous about being able to maintain my ambitions while still making it home before bedtime. I’m anxious about sustaining my relationships in the office, as well as the ones at home. But I am a mom, I will make it work. I’m sure that you will too.
I wish you the very best,
Note: This post was written last week. Apologies for the delay in publishing - was busy juggling all of the above. :)
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