What I'd Tell Marissa Mayer About Her Maternity Leave Plans...and More
I’m imagining being Marissa Mayer's best friend and we're sitting together at a small, out-of-the-way café. We’ve known each other for 30 years but rarely get this kind of quality time together. Our lives are simply too busy.
We talk about the usual…family, work, recent vacations (or lack thereof), exercise routines (never enough time)…the things best friends talk about when it’s only us. We know a lot about each other -- our hopes, secrets, and struggles over the years. This time together is special…and we both know it.
It doesn’t take long to talk about her pregnancy with twin girls. I tell her how thrilled I am about this news and begin to mentally plan details for this baby shower. This is the “good stuff” of life.
We talk about everything. Bad hairstyles. The final season of Downton Abbey. Her maternity plans. It's just us.
I tell her – not the first time - that it makes me proud to know how far she’s come. I knew since middle school she was smart. Stanford saw the same.
I tell her that I knew she was poised to do amazing things, but to be the first female engineer at Google? And then being named the 16th most powerful businesswoman in the world? It's still cool to know that things like this happened to someone I went to camp with and who used to sleep with a goofy stuffed giraffe.
I tell her that she continues to break new ground for women and as a trailblazer, young women look to her to see all that can be. It's a lot of pressure, yet she's up to it.
I tell her that she’s a wonderful wife and mother, and that I don’t know how she juggles it all.
I tell her that because of her position and role, the business world looks at how she addresses her work and family responsibilities (among other things) and where the bar may rest.
I tell her that because of this, she may have made a misstep.
I tell her that, as always, I support her choices, yet want her to know that her decision and public announcement may have harmed the very people who need her support the most.
I tell her that deciding not to take her full leave puts extra pressure on parents, particularly new mothers, who may now face expectations to do as she plans to do. The expression that actions speak louder than words is on display here in spades.
I tell her that the strides being made by companies to, in this case, support new mothers - whether by birth or adoption - by expanding paid leave, increasing flexibility, and even limiting travel may have just moved in the wrong direction. For fathers as well.
She listens. I think she understands the responsibilities that come along with being a business pioneer and that her actions are under a microscope.
She recognizes that she needs to carefully consider what personal choices require public announcements and the damage that may have been done by stating today what she plans to do tomorrow.
She understands that her business decisions -- and personal ones if she makes them public -- are being scrutinized and that this requires her to be careful of what she does and says. The ramifications may be seen and immediate or may fester just below the surface.
We end our time together with a hug, a continued promise to keep in touch, and my reminder that people are watching. For while everyone's life decisions don't become fodder for the media, hers do, particularly when she makes it so.
And as we begin to walk away, I turn to remind her to reach me at home in a few weeks. I'll be taking every single day of my newly-expanded paid leave with no regrets whatsoever. No one is watching me or really cares what decisions I make, yet this precious period of time in a world of sacrifices and compromises is not up for grabs. And certainly not to be altered by the decisions of one. Even if she happens to be my best friend.