Figuring out what to do with regards to your maternity leave isn’t as easy as one might expect. For the record, before falling pregnant, I didn’t have a clear idea on how long I would take for maternity leave – I thought that as soon as my uterus was no longer advertising a vacancy that I would just know, you know? It turns out though that all of the usual umming and aahing that we do about our careers isn’t resistant to pregnancy hormones. The two lines on the pregnancy test also happened to coincide with two little lines on an email –
“We really liked you at the first interview. We’d like to invite you back for a second interview.”
I’d been to an interview a few weeks previously at a company I really liked, whose ethos and manner of working were so me I felt that, as vomit inducing as it might sound, I’d “come home” when I stepped into their offices. I clicked with the directors and shared their values and vision for the firm. They also did some really cool shit. I now had a bit of a dilemma – I wasn’t legally obliged to inform them of my situation so could technically go to the second interview and accept the job (were it to be offered to me) without letting them know about my internal Hummingbird Bakery activity. On the other hand, the thought of doing that that made me feel dishonest, uncomfortable and a bit of a bitch. I find that when someone starts to italicise (verbally or otherwise) the word “technically” then they generally know that what they’re doing isn’t 100% above board. You know what I mean, it’s like when you tell yourself it wasn’t technically a lie when you said there was a problem on the tube when you arrive late. There was a problem – but it was on the District line, and you came on the Northern line.
So I told them. And, as they are legally obliged to interview me anyway, they still invited me for interview. Long story short, they liked me, I adored them, they offered me the job. I turned it down. I didn’t feel that I could take the job knowing that I would be on maternity leave within 6 months of arriving. It didn’t really seem fair on anyone. I felt that I would be judged for taking a job right before going on leave and, in typically dramatic and overly poetic fashion, I imagined my colleagues’ resentment growing alongside my unborn child. I’m not kidding. I was imagining their resentment with actual kidneys.
So it was pretty interesting to see one of last week’s big news stories about Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO. You may be more familiar with her being referred to as Pregnant Marissa Mayer, which is apparently her full name. For anyone who hasn’t heard the story, it’s quite a controversial one and Mayer has been alternately lambasted and held up as a bastion of feminist example, for accepting the job at Yahoo at 6 month’s pregnant. Yahoo has been praised for their “evolved thinking” of employing someone whose uterus is currently in use.
Except I don’t think that it is all that controversial. I mean, for one thing, Mayer is taking all of about 5 minutes of maternity leave. Well, okay, two weeks. So really, Yahoo is doing the equivalent of employing someone who already has a fortnight’s holiday booked. So not that evolved then. As for the amount of maternity leave, that is totally Mayer’s choice. To be honest, she could have it either way – she would be more than able to afford to take a more extended period of time; equally, childcare from the minute the cord is cut wouldn’t be a financial hardship either, with a base salary of $1 million. If I were in that enviable economic position, I reckon I too would play fast and loose with what’s regarded as “normal” up the duff etiquette.
And that’s it really – at the end of the day it is Mayer’s choice. I really don’t think she’s trying to make a point – for or against feminism – as has been variously claimed. But if what she’s doing is making the choice that is best for her and best for her circumstances then that’s got to be good for the sisterhood – regardless of whether those travelling pants are maternity or not.