Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer: Please Don't Minimize Being a Working Mom

Yahoo!'s new female CEO Marissa Mayer spoke out for the first time about juggling the demands of tending to Yahoo! and a baby. But she made it all sound easy -- should she have?
11/28/2012 05:27pm ET | Updated January 28, 2013
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FILE- In this Monday, April 19, 2010 file photo, Google vice president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, attends the 2010 Matrix Awards presented by the New York Women in Communications at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Yahoo announced Monday, July 16, 2012, that it is hiring longtime Google executive Marissa Mayer to be its next CEO, the fifth in five years as the company struggles to rebound from years of financial malaise and internal turmoil. Mayer, who starts at Yahoo Inc. on Tuesday, was one of Googleᅡメs earliest employees and was most recently responsible for its mapping, local and location services. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

Yahoo!'s new female CEO Marissa Mayer spoke out for the first time about juggling the demands of tending to Yahoo! and a baby. But she made it all sound easy -- should she have?

Marissa Mayer, I think it's terrific that you took on the incredibly demanding job of CEO of Yahoo!, especially when you were six months pregnant.

Appearing To Be Super Woman

At 37, you are an inspiring role model for all young and not-so-young, working women.

But when you gave your first interview since giving birth to your first child, son Macallister Bogue, on Sept. 30, you spoke out in a way that may have made the hearts of many working moms drop.

It certainly wasn't intentional, but I think Marissa, in trying to be totally positive about your job, company and motherhood in general, you minimized the parenting demands you're under.

"I knew that the job would be hard, and I knew that the baby would be fun," you told an audience at Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Women dinner in Palo Alto, California on Nov. 27.

"And the thing that surprised me, and really puzzlingly so, is that the job is really fun! Yahoo! is a really fun place to work," you explained.

But then you said -- and this is the kicker:

"The baby's been way easier than everyone made it out to be. I think I've been really lucky that way but I had a very easy, healthy pregnancy, he's been easy. So those have been the two really terrific surprises -- the kid has been easier and the job has been fun!"

Is It Really That Easy?

Marissa -- I think you're an amazing trooper, but I'm sorry, I don't believe you for one second when you say that "the baby's been way easier than everyone made it out to be."

It's just that first-time motherhood for any woman is never "easy," no matter how much help you have. Babies are demanding. They need to be fed, often so many times a day that you barely finish one feeding when they're ready for another. Then there's the sleeping issue at night. And even if you have a night nurse who cares for the baby all night, if you're breastfeeding you still need to get up to feed. Sometimes babies are fussy and cry a lot. Sometimes they have colic. And no mom can help herself from wanting to comfort their baby.

Then there's your body changes. It's uncomfortable to even sit down for a while after giving birth; your milk comes in; your emotions go on a roller coaster as your hormones change.

All of this is manageable -- but it's not "easy," and especially when you're also responsible for running a $20 billion business. Plus, it's one that you only took over a few months ago.

You, yourself decided to only take two weeks of maternity leave after you gave birth because you clearly felt the weight of your responsibilities sitting on your shoulders.

That in itself must have been a tough decision. I'm a mom of four, who also returned to work quickly after giving birth to each of my babies, but physically, it's a tough gig and emotionally, it's just as hard I completely sympathize.

Nevertheless with 12,000 employees at Yahoo! and a board of directors looking for you to lead, plus your own enthusiasm to get in and get the job done, you felt it was important to make the sacrifice of returning to work quickly.

All of this is understandable and hugely commendable, but I think it's ok to let a little of your super woman image slip. Working women, and working moms especially, would appreciate you letting us know that you are "just like us," too.

The Reality Of Being A Working Mom

When you just say that it's been easier than you expected, most working moms simply respond "of course it is for her -- she's worth a fortune, she can afford 24 hours, 7 days a week babysitters, a cook, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, personal shoppers, assistants at the office, etc." -- you get my drift.

That's what most women are immediately thinking because they've been there, up with a sick, crying baby in the middle of the night, with bosses needing reports done, and trying to figure out who's going to care for their little one the next day, because they can't take them to daycare.

Most working moms may love their careers and babies, but mostly they just feel EXHAUSTED and overwhelmed.