I recently saw a number of tweets from parents and fellow pediatricians on Twitter criticizing Marissa Mayer for announcing that she’d return to work within 1-2 weeks of the delivery of her first child.
First off, I’ll start with my assumptions:
I’m authoring this post in the belief that Ms Mayer has access to quality health care–that is, she has the ear of a board-certified obstetrician, a board-certified pediatrician, and access to a lactation consultant as needed. My hunch is that if she needs info on evidence-based ramifications, from a health perspective, of going back to work 1-2 weeks postpartum, she can get the data she needs. Since she used to work at Google, I suspect she understands how to find what she needs online as well.
Assumptions acknowledged, I’d like to give Ms Mayer the respect she deserves. Faulting her for not making a traditional choice is devoid of context. She is lauded for her enormously successful career at a young age. She is the youngest CEO of any Fortune 500 company. To me it appears she has savvy and skill, invention and grit. Thanks in part to Ms Mayer as the first-female engineer at Google, we enjoy an entirely different electronic world with Gmail, Google search, maps, and images.
As we expect and work to have women hold an increased share of leadership jobs, academic or not, we must acknowledge we can’t have it both ways. “Women are still missing from medicine’s top ranks,” for example. We can’t want and wait for more and more women to have their hands at the wheels of powerful companies and organizations, only to question their commitment to their personal and their children’s health and well-being when they return to work. One week or 6 months postpartum …
I suspect Ms Mayer is making decisions in the context of what is right for her family. Her job security and her value in moving her company forward are a part of that. We make good decisions when we reflect on all those that are affected by our actions. Only we know how to prioritize our choices. I’ve yet to hear what her husband plans for the upcoming months. It’s possible he’ll be at the beck and call of this new baby. Why do we so often forget the realities of shared-parenting?
Further, this discussion misses a very important reality. Many of the new moms I get to see in clinic don’t work outside their homes. Women who work in their homes raising children often return to work within days of delivering a child. Stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) often come to the clinic 3-day postpartum visit alone with 2-4 children in tow. This reality reflects the SAHM commitment to career, too.
The banter continues today as Ms Mayer is criticized for using crowd-sourcing to name her child. I remain jaw-dropped that we could find another reason to fault her savvy, her nimble skill with technology, and assult her again as she begins the journey of motherhood.
The beautiful thing is this: none of us get access to the intimate bond she and her child will develop and cherish with their time together on earth. I also suspect she’s not looking for advice.
Congratulations, Marissa Mayer. May you delight in the most precious transition imaginable. May you inhale the health and vitality of your new baby and growing family. I am in awe of what you do for us all. And I trust you to make phenomenal decisions for your son.
Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician who blogs at Seattle Mama Doc.