Tag Archives: maternity leave

Mayer have a career please?

24 Jul

Mums get it in the neck. Sometimes they just can’t win. Debate is raging around Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, and her assertion that she’ll only be taking a few weeks of maternity leave and plans to pretty much work through it. Naive? Yes. (A newborn is bloody hard work.) But with lots of cash to throw at the situation? Well, yes, maybe it is possible to resume your career the day the baby and mother are booted out of the private hospital followed by a gaggle of muslin-clutching nannies ready to mop up every posset. Three cheers for the woman with a successful career! Hooray for the woman who’s having a baby! But a woman trying to have a career and a baby at the same time? Boo hiss!

Marissa Mayer is an amazing example of what a woman can achieve in business. What? Even wearing heels and lipstick? Well, yes. Patronising as it may sound to mark her out as something extraordinary, that – unfortunately – is the world we live in. Women at Ms Mayer’s level are still an exception rather than a rule. It’s still odd. It is even more odd – as the debate around her comments would suggest – that a woman could choose to have a baby and choose to continue her career at the expense of the precious time that not being at work allows a mother and her child.

Yet if you’ve already made sacrifices and worked flipping hard why would you want to give up any elements of what you’ve achieved? You’re still a mother regardless. Your child still needs you and in amongst the conference calls and PDA tapping you’ll make sure you meet that need. Many women don’t get the chance to spend a long maternity leave with their child and for reasons very different to Marissa Mayer’s. She may not need to go back to work for the money but plenty of women do and need to do so quick smartish – a sad reality, like it or not, of a world driven by filthy lucre.

A woman shouldn’t have to choose a career over parenthood (or vice versa). The midwife doesn’t send you out of the hospital with a placard saying “I’m a Mother and I aspire to nothing but burping my baby”.  Equally, if/when you do return to work you don’t wear a badge saying “Opting out – I’m just here for nappy money”. But  in a society where women are still the primary carers for children, making sacrifices (intentionally or otherwise) is inevitable. Even when you attempt to strike a work/life balance it can, speaking from experience, feel like you’re failing at both. Should you be able to have your cake and eat it? Of course, but for most ordinary women it isn’t possible to be Superwoman – and let’s face it Marissa Mayer isn’t ‘ordinary’.

Marissa Mayer would probably love to take a year off if she knew for sure that things wouldn’t move on without her and set back her achievements. Bringing up a child alongside the pressures of her career will be another achievement that she can be proud of. To me she doesn’t sound like a woman who would do things by halves.

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The mat leave blues

15 Dec

I love Christmas but this year it comes with a sprinkling of sadness. I know that once we’re into the new year it will be a slippery slope towards resuming life as a commuter and office monkey. When I started my maternity leave last February, the year ahead stretched itself out so long and gloriously that going back to work seemed too far away to be real.

Where have the last few months gone? How did a chubby, flailing bundle become a sparky 8-month-old who can go like billy-o if there’s a wire or plug to be had? If I ask myself what I’ve done since February I CAN’T REMEMBER. I must’ve done something to fill the days. I didn’t have lie-ins, ‘sleep when baby slept’, or watch more than a couple of episodes of Diagnosis Murder. (Oh Dick van D, you no longer remind me of chimneys but instead invoke the aroma of cheese on toast and the heady days of maternity leave.) I suspect 99.9% of my time was spent doing the following:

  • Being pinned to the sofa by a ravenous breastfeeding baby and then being too scared to move once he’d fallen asleep (at the same time as burning the batteries on my phone checking Facebook and email or tweeting – and never quite managing to reach for that pile of books I could’ve been working my way through).
  • Talking about babies with other parents, including good old percentile competition. (He’s on the 99th percentile don’t you know?)
  • Eyeing up other mums at baby groups and classes and generally feeling inadequate.
  • Eating cake.
  • Eating biscuits.
  • Retaining my baby fat (see two points above).
  • Trying to come up with a Dragons’ Den idea that’ll make my fortune before I’m due back at work.

I’ve performed magnificently in most of these areas. The last point is the only one I’ve been tremendously unsuccessful at. Sigh.

To be honest, I am finding it really hard to come to terms with this special time drawing to a close. I’m not planning a third child (Mr C&P has other ideas) so I’ve wanted to treasure every moment of these past few months. And this is where I feel I’ve failed. I could have spent less time being peeved about the lack of sleep, or worrying about what wasn’t getting done whilst I was in the midst of a mammoth two-hour feeding session, or panicking that other mothers were doing so much more with their babies. In reality I’m not sure I could have done it differently, after all those first few months are all about survival. I’ve decided not to beat myself up about yet something else but instead give myself a swift kick up the arse, treasure all the bits I can remember through the hormone-filled haze and look forward to all that is to come.

Invisible, fat and sex-free

12 Jul

Yesterday I received a letter from my employer thanking me for my ten years’ service and for my ongoing hard work. After the initial panic wondering where my life has gone, I conceded I was chuffed to get the letter (frankly, a bit of praise and I’m anyone’s). However, the thanks for my “ongoing hard work” worried me slightly because I have been on maternity leave for the past five months. Have they not noticed I’m not there? What that says about my contribution to the office I don’t want to think about. (Mental note to self: must work on raising profile when return to work.)

It started me thinking about where else I’ve become invisible since becoming an aspiring yummy (but more often than not ragged) mummy. (Aside from, that is, generally not being seen anywhere in the evenings near pubs, restaurants, cinemas, wild drinking sessions, etc, etc.)

Muscular young men touting gym membership no longer approach me and I’m sure it’s not because they think (a) I get lots of exercise pushing a buggy, or (b) that I look great already. However, I was approached randomly in the street by a postnatal personal trainer. Once I’d stopped feeling fat and offended I signed up to her pilates class. Excellent saleswoman, targeting the vulnerable. In fact, almost Rogue Trader material although without the conning aspect as she was darned right I needed to get sweaty. Those gym boys could learn a thing or two from her.

The orange women on makeup counters now turn their laden lashes away from me. (No facial expressions though – why’s that?) But thank god. No more running the gauntlet as I try to get to the products deemed important in my household – mostly baby wipes, tissues and cheap concealer. I’m clearly seen as one of those women who have let themselves go and wouldn’t know the difference between this season’s colour palette and what colour their baby’s poo should be.

I even seem to get less spam now from over familiar Russians trying to sell me Viagra and penis enlargers. How could a woman in her mid-30s with two kids (including a 14-week-old) possibly be interested in sex? Max Gentleman often used to be in touch with his special offers and I do so miss him. Shame on you Max for your fickleness – it’s the lithe, blonde, buxom ones who don’t need you in the first place, you know!

To quote the original Invisible Man: “my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own”. So hurrah for saggy bottomed jeans,  shaggy legs and ricecakes in your hair! And boo hiss to yummydom!

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