The mommy judges couldn't wait to weigh in on Marissa Mayer. But in their quest for answers, the judges miss the truth.
I have been rooting for a strong, smart woman to tell off the mommy judges. It won't be Marissa Mayer.
If she asked me, I would tell her not to, because ignorant people would call her ungracious. But more important, as the new CEO of Yahoo, and as a soon-to-be mom, she has more important things to worry about.
As soon as news broke that Mayer is pregnant, the mommy judging began. The grabby headlines, opinions disguised as reporting, and reader comments flew. Some people questioned the length of Mayer's maternity leave, which she has said she plans (by her own choice) to be a few weeks. Some writers referenced the much-discussed article from The Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," which posed the question of when, ideally, a woman should have a baby.
Some bloggers asked: Is this the right time for Mayer to have a baby? Could she balance CEO-dom and motherhood? Recruiters, board members, and parenting advice authors offered their own opinions. My personal Facebook feed lit up. My professional community of technology journalists suddenly dipped its toes into parenting analysis.
Here's the truth: There's no right answer to any of these questions--regardless of whether you're a doctor, lawyer, cook, journalist, small-business owner, or newly minted technology company CEO.
There's no right-length maternity leave. There's no right time to have a baby. There's no right answer to who should care for your child while you work. There's no right answer to whether mothers should work outside of the home. There's no definition of "have it all."
There is only what works for you, and your baby. That also means what works at the time, to the best of your ability, with whatever support you have or don't have. In my wide circle of friends and colleagues who have had babies, I can't think of two who followed the exact same formula.
This mommy judging--of Mayer and everyone else--is not about women trying to help other women or children or humankind. This is about women trying to validate their own choices.
This is about women who think motherhood is some kind of class rank exercise, or contest, or standardized test.
Note to the mommy judges: There are many, many kinds of accomplished women.
I am not my grandmother, who came to the U.S. from Ireland at 17 by herself as a domestic and later raised four boys while running a rooming house. That is accomplishment of one kind. I am not Marissa Mayer, who won Silicon Valley's respect and became a CEO before she was 40. That is accomplishment of another kind.
I work hard to live up to my standards for work and motherhood. My standards may make no sense for anyone but me. That's fine.
I have met mommy judges since before my son was born. They had opinions on just about everything. Later, I met mothers at the park who told me they wouldn't dream of giving their children any foods with artificial colors. I smiled politely in the moment--and then watched my toddler enjoy the occasional Tootsie Pop.
Mayer will meet plenty of mommy judges, like it or not, on websites, in emails, in magazines, and in person. Unlike Mayer, I never had to see bloggers debate my choices. I never had to read tweets about them.
All of this mommy judging, all of this "can we have it all?" comparing, makes no sense. It's not about societal change or breaking ceilings.
I make my choices. You make yours. Let Mayer make hers.
Let her change her mind as she goes along, too--because as any parent knows, you can plan in one hand and have baby barf in the other in about 10 seconds flat.
No one needs to "beat" anyone else. This isn't a mother competition. There's no mother valedictorian.
At the end of the day there is, if you're lucky, a sweet child who appreciates something small that you did today.
And in Mayer's case, if her hard work succeeds, there will also be a child who one day understands that she turned around a deeply troubled company. Let's let her get to it.
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