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The Marissa Mayer Dilemma: Is There a 'Right' Time to Have a Baby?

Posted by Kara Baskin  July 17, 2012 12:00 PM

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According to a CNN bio, 37-year-old newly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is just like you and me (except for the paycheck). She enjoys fashion. She enjoys cupcakes. She held a high-school job as a grocery store clerk. Also, she’s exceedingly pregnant. According to reports, she was completely transparent about her pregnancy when in talks with Yahoo’s board about her new role, and nobody expressed concern. “They showed their evolved thinking," she told Fortune.

Mayer definitely seems to have it all (luxury penthouse atop the Four Seasons San Francisco; the Killers made a “surprise” appearance at her wedding), except for one thing: maternity leave. She’s planning on taking a mere few weeks, and she’s been vocal about the fact that she plans to work much of the time. (She expects the whole process to be “speedy” and doesn’t want to get out of the “rhythm of things.”) Apparently everyday women aren’t the only ones who have to compromise when it comes to taking time off for a baby.

On one hand, it’s fantastic that Yahoo hired a pregnant CEO. Hopefully she’ll serve as a role model for other women who feel like they have to make a choice between family and corporate success, so eventually “Pregnant CEO” won’t sound like its own bizarre subgenus next to Working Mother and Stay at Home Mom in the stereotype dictionary.

But I also feel sort sad, because for all her success, she’s clearly unprepared for the reality of caring for a newborn. I can’t help but think that something is going to get short shrift from Mayer, whether she likes it or not. I remember thinking that I could work during my maternity leave—and I did, a bit, because the extra freelance income was helpful. At the same time, the entire process was not “very quick” at all, and I felt completely and utterly out of the “rhythm of things.” Granted, I wasn’t trying to run a company—and thank god I wasn’t. I spent much of those first three or so months in a hormonal fog, confined to yoga pants and milk-stained T-shirts that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1999.

I’m sure Mayer will make the situation work for her however she can, whether that means hiring an army of nannies or installing some kind of high-tech baby-cam from which she can run meetings while playing virtual peek-a-boo or, you know, trying to work flexible hours. Still, she sounds awfully optimistic about her ultra-short maternity leave. Forget nice things like wanting to stay home and bond with your baby for a little while: After pregnancy, you’re emotionally drained, you’re tired, you’re wrung out. You want to lie around and stuff your face with chips and have people bring you things. Surely she’s Googled this.

So I’m a bit skeptical. Can she do both? She’s smart and used to success. But parenthood has a way of leveling even the grandest ambitions. At the same time, though, her announcement underscores a fundamental truth: There’s never a perfect time for anything, including babies. Life happens when it happens, and you have to make the most of it. Hopefully she’ll be able to do just that. And, if she does, it'd be nice if she ran an instruction manual on Yahoo! Shine for the rest of us.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Kara Baskin (@kcbaskin) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and mom to Andy. She thinks Sriracha and garlic make everything tastier. She loves Steely Dan and "Murder, She Wrote." Her More »

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