Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and one of the few women in leadership positions in the tech industry, is making waves. Not because of a particular acquisition or business decision, but because she is taking “limited” time off for the birth of her twins. The fact that this is news begs a couple of questions: Are there special considerations we should give women when they have children, and what kind of pressure are we putting on women to decide between work and family?
Women have fought for equal rights since the patriarchy party began, but not much attention is placed on the different and specific needs women might have. Not all working women choose to have children, but those that do are put in a unique position: They are asked to consider how their absence from work will impact their job and finances, and how their absence from home will impact their child.
Moms are constantly asked to sacrifice; they are always taking one for the team.
These are big questions with long-term ramifications, and ones not asked (to such a great extent) of men. Workplaces need to recognize these differences, and learn how to be more sensitive to the conflicting interests a new mother may have. Supporting her choices and withholding judgment, as a boss or coworker, is a great place to start.
Our workaholic culture demands we place our careers as the first priority in life, and gives women a six-week maternity leave (the shortest in developed nations and the only one that doesn’t mandate paid leave). This is preferable for many women, who look forward to getting back to their jobs and responsibilities. For others, it’s extraordinarily difficult to leave their newborns so soon, but they aren’t given an option to extend their time. This is a cross-party issue: Changing the length of paid maternity leave may be the one thing Megyn Kelly and Bernie Sanders seem to agree on.
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I’m not a mother and have no intention of becoming one, for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that I consider pizza a suitable meal for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. But I have watched as my sister has dealt with the implications of leaving her daughter every day as she goes to work, and the epic questions she has had to face. Am I leaving her too soon? Am I going to miss something? Is this going to affect our bonding and attachment? It seems to me that being a new parent is stressful enough without these additional concerns.
Workplaces as well as the government need to work together to find a solution. New mothers should have the option to stay with their children longer if they so choose, be paid during that time, and the rest of us should cultivate a society that respects that. Moms are constantly asked to sacrifice; they are always taking one for the team. Maybe this time, the team could take one for them.
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