Working Physician Mothers Know What's Best

July 24, 2012

I know practically nothing about Marissa Meyer, but I support her decision. Who best to know how to juggle home and work than the one doing the juggling?

Working moms everywhere have read the inspiring story of Marissa Meyer, rising to the top spot at Yahoo while in a family way. While lauding her accomplishments and meteoric shot through the glass ceiling, numerous official and unofficial pundits are weighing in on her planned short maternity leave. Meyer is reportedly planning to take only a few weeks and to work during even this abbreviated time away from her job.

The outcry from mothers everywhere may be well-intentioned. After all, veteran moms know something that Meyer doesn’t - having a baby rocks your world in varied and unpredictable ways. Additionally, working moms often advocate for reasonable accommodations that will allow them to excel both at work and at home. Finally, there is concern that the precedent Meyer is setting may be re-framing the "having it all" mentality into having to do it all simultaneously.

As a working mom myself, I am completely sympathetic and supportive of the choice Meyer is making. While I enjoy, somewhat bleary eyed, the weeks or months of feeling insulated from the world with just myself, my new baby, and our family, I have chosen at various times during my maternity leaves to work. I’ve typed articles, composed presentations, and answered e-mail with a baby on my lap. I’ve voluntarily committed to extra projects and plans. I’ve over scheduled and overwhelmed myself. In short, I’ve conducted myself very much the same whether I’m on maternity leave or not.

I suspect that Marissa Meyer is bowing less to the corporate pressure that may surround her and more to what she knows to be true about herself. This is a 37-year-old, educated, professional, talented woman who was just selected as CEO of Yahoo, after all. I doubt she is much swayed at this point, by any type of formulaic rise-to-the-top strategy. Instead, I imagine she’s developed her success in a very personal way.

I know practically nothing about Marissa Meyer, but I support her decision. Who best to know how to juggle home and work than the one doing the juggling? I am sure this smart woman is knowledgeable, if not experienced, about the type of demands a new mother faces.

Each person’s own work-life balance journey is deeply individual. What works well for one physician or teacher or Fortune 500 CEO, may not be the right path for another. What I admire about Marissa Meyer beyond her professional success is that she is not submitting to the demands made by well-meaning people across the country who think they know her better than she knows herself. I respect that she is managing her new family with her new position in a way that is unique but completely right for her. After all, we all have to do the exact same thing. We can encourage each other better by supporting those choices that are right for an individual rather than heaping advice upon each other that may be well-meaning but misdirected.

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