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7/20/2012
12:06 PM
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Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges

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.

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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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lgarey@techweb.com
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lgarey@techweb.com,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 5:15:52 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
Exactly -- women should know better than to tear down someone else's choices.
ApoAk
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ApoAk,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 5:52:49 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
When her pregnancy was announced, I fully expected the backlash, but even then I was taken aback by the idiocy of it. There is something unique about mommy judging, which Tina Fey effectively wrote about in Bossypants. The fact is, any employee or CEO can request a leave of absence for personal, medical, or whatever reason. The employer can decide whether to grant that leave. It is true that a leave is often a work disruption, but if it is granted, then the company has to deal with it, and that is the end of it. If anything, we might question whether the *employer* made the right decision.

This was not a bait and switch. She informed Yahoo of the pregnancy and they decided to hire her. She will work it out somehow. If anything, she is in a fortunate position, because she is a person of means. Unlike most employees, she could have the infant on-site with a nanny, with frequent access through the day. That's not so different from farming communities where mothers tend the fields with the infant swaddled nearby or even on their backs.

Marissa Mayer is neither a hero nor a fool here.

moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
7/21/2012 | 12:51:14 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
Since the FMLA is in place it is not up to the employer to decide. The employer is mandated by law to allow the leave of absence. It will be unpaid leave and limited in time, but it comes with a guarantee for the employee to get their job back. And any responsible employer would not count that against the employee, but probably even continue to pay the base salary. This is something that happens once maybe twice while one is with a company, I am sure the company can get over that and keep a happy, motivated, and thankful employee.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
7/20/2012 | 6:12:43 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
I agree with you we each have to do what works for us. You probably already know this but the women that choose not to be CEO mommies aren't the only ones that sometimes try to justify their choices. CEO/VP mommy's do it also sometimes.

I won a book called "Mommy's Brings Home the Bacon" from a radio station last year, to me the book was an obvious attempt by the VP mommy to justify her choice. Her choice as you say was hers to make but she didn't have to write and self publish a book to justify her choice.
ApoAk
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ApoAk,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 6:57:11 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
Good point, I think that's why I am so "meh" on her pregnancy. If we say "go girl" for her pregnancy, it is just another form of mommy judging. I do think it's good to break the glass ceiling and become CEO (...albeit of an albatross of a company that might not be salvageable), although even that should be considered unremarkable in modern society. But I have neither positive nor negative opinion about the pregnancy. It is not like she is a close personal friend of mine (where I may have all sorts of opinions). Lots of moms have made difficult decisions and dealt with parenthood and working in the home or company for ages.
ElTwo
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ElTwo,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 6:38:31 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
So well said!

"I make my choices. You make yours."

And my favorite, and the most important

" At the end of the day there is, if you're lucky, a sweet child who appreciates something small that you did today."

That's what matters to me, ad I'm just a daddy.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/20/2012 | 8:56:59 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
Right you are. That is meaningful to moms and dads. Thanks for your comment-- Laurianne McLaughlin
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
7/21/2012 | 12:45:58 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
Women just can't win in that discussion. They are either thought of as putting their career over their child's well-being or they are thought of as professional drop-outs who just didn't make it in the industry and rather sit at home to watch the kids.
I think the position of CEO is an excellent choice for Mayer. She will be mainly a figure head that needs to show up at a few meetings and otherwise come up with clever ideas on how to keep the sinking SS Yahoo afloat. I think that can be done while playing with her baby, it may even be an excellent source of ideas. Until then she needs to make sure that the rest of the management team works well. Too often micromanaging presidents and CEOs cannot leave, because otherwise everything would just fall apart.
I don't know how Mayer will balance family and work, but for the excessive compensation that she is getting I am sure that anything that money can buy is in the cards. But if she will be the helicopter CEO that has to attend every low level meeting and has to sign off on purchase orders for pencils I wonder what the point is of having a family when she will never get to see them...unless when totally burned out crawling past them on the way to the home office to put in these supposedly essential extra hours that give people a heart attack at 40.

But what is totally amiss from this whole discussion is the father. Unless biology works differently in Silicon Valley there must be a dad. What does he do? Does he work? Does he take time off? Do they arrange their schedules so that one parent is at home at most times? Why is this discussion not about what Mr. Bogue does? He's in real estate, so right now that should not keep him that busy with the market dead as a door knob. I am sure that Mayer makes more income than Bogue does with his real estate business, so he might as well quit for a few years. No doubt they can afford it!

And all that may be moot once Yahoo files for Chapter 11.....
Tom LaSusa
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Tom LaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2013 | 4:42:23 PM
re: Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Vs. The Mommy Judges
The problem is that Mayer is looking alot less like a strong female fighting to juggle both work and personal life and more like an out-of-touch CEO.

The reason? Two words: Private Nursery.

Mayer had one built (admittedly out of her own personal expenses) right next to her office. In doing this, she's basically told both working moms (and dads) at Yahoo that while everyone now has to report to work in a physical building, dropping their kids off at a babysitter's or daycare center, she still gets to enjoy the benefits of having her newborn a few feet away from her.

As I understand it, Yahoo does offer in some of their locations on-site daycare. Mayer could have taken advantage of a real opportunity here, showing up to work and dropping off her baby at the daycare center. Instead all she's done is remind folks that she's the boss, and being the boss has perks.

If any regular Yahoo employee walked in and announced that they were going to rent the empty cube next to them and turn it into their own private romper room for their child, they'd be out the door faster than a Yahoo Yodel.

A controversial decision (ending work from home) coupled with giving herself this special benefit -- it's not surprising that she's gone from being lauded to criticized in a year's time.

Tom LaSusa
InformationWeek Community Manager
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