Anyway... here are some things I've said in comment sections that I'd like to pull up to the level of a blog post- I'm not sure why, since they all come from active comments sections. Maybe I just don't want to think about the news right now, despite the thoughtful posts about it that are piling up in my blog reader, and am looking to distract myself. And it is my blog, so I can do whatever I want! I'll post them in the order in which they were written.
First, from Anandi's post on the topic, I had a comment replying to the idea that the Swedish model of maternity leave would solve all of these problems, which had been hinted at by one of the other comments:
The problem with the Sweden model is that it essentially forces all women to take long leave- if there is a powerful social stigma against going back to work in less than a year, like Susan mentions above, then it would take a very strong first time mom to buck that expectation and expose herself to a bunch of judgment and go back earlier. Plus, since "no one" does that, she'd probably have to scramble to find infant care.
Now, I think that is better than the current US scenario where most women don't get as much leave as they want, but I do want to point out that it isn't utopia, either. For me personally, being out an entire year would have been the wrong choice. I'd probably have needed professional psychiatric help the first time around. Going back to work really, really helped me adjust to motherhood. It just did. Both times, I was out for 3 months, and worked part time for the 4th month. I don't know what my ideal would be. Maybe 4-5 months off- because why do we insist on sending moms back to work right when growth spurts hit (6 wks, 3 months) or right in the middle of the big separation anxiety phase (9-12 months)?- followed by 3 or so months working part time. But I would have wanted to keep some contact with the office in those 4-5 months, like I did during my 3 month leaves.
(And, for what its worth, neither of my kids slept through the night in their first year. My husband and I were still up multiple times per night with the first one well into the second year- until she suddenly just started sleeping through the night at about 2 years old. My second was up less often in the first two years, but still doesn't sleep through at 2.5. There is no amount of maternity leave that will guarantee you won't have to figure out how to work while also dealing with a child who doesn't sleep through the night. But... back in the really rough early days with baby #1, when my husband and I were both working part time, the person who was staying home with the baby the next day was the one who got to get a little more sleep. We thought that was harder than either of our jobs.)
In my perfect world, we all really, truly accept that different arrangements will be right for different families, and set up our institutions to handle that. Some families will want the mom or dad to take a year off. Some families will want to split time between mom and dad. Some families will want both parents to go back to work within that first year, and will want to use outside help to make that possible. Some families will want one of the parents to stay home until the kids start school. Some families will want one or both parents to work part time. Etc., etc. All of these are valid choices. Each choice presents problems. The best approach isn't to pick one option and "bless" that by making society work around that. The best approach is to recognize the diversity of needs and wants, and try to set up society to provide the basic building blocks that families need to build their own solutions. So, good, quality child care at prices everyone can afford (probably a sliding scale). A protected right to pump. Maternity leave options that make it possible for a new mom to stay home a year if she wants, which requires better temporary labor markets (i.e., ones that don't deprive the temps of benefits). Better "on ramps" for people coming back in after multiple years off. Heck, we're dreaming, so why not make it possible/more accepted to bring babies into the workplace and/or have better asynchronous work from home options?
And while we're in my perfect world... yeah, Marissa Mayer can be one type of role model. And someone who took 5 years off and then came back in and went on to a great career could be another type of role model. And someone else (like you, Anandi!) who worked part time for awhile and still had a great career could be yet another type. And so on and so on. There is not one path to a successful life- heck, there isn't even one definition of what a successful life is. The problem for women is that there are so few role models in the public eye, so each new prominent woman is elevated to an impossible pedestal of being THE role model. That is BS.
Next, in the comments on my own post, an exchange with an anonymous commenter who also works in tech and with Nicoleandmaggie helped me clarify my position about whether or not it matters that Mayer does not identify as a feminist (edited to fix an egregious mistake in which I mixed Larry Page and Sergey Brin into a single "Larry Brin"):
Finally, a short comment over on Moxie's post, responding to the idea raised in the comments that the example Mayer is setting by not taking a long leave will make it easier for bosses to deny their employees' leave requests:
Look, if some asshole boss holds up what a CEO worth millions of dollars does as a reason for denying leave to one of his or her employees... blame the asshole boss, not the CEO who is presumably just making the decision that is right for her and her family given an unusual set of circumstances- namely the fact that the job of a lifetime came up for her when she was already pregnant.
[I would add: this is why we need LAWS about leave. Whether or not you get adequate parental leave should not come down to whether or not your boss is an asshole.]
I'll also note that Hush! has an interesting post on the topic, with a perspective I haven't seen laid out so clearly elsewhere that we should hate the game that many of our institutions make us play rather than blaming Mayer for how she's choosing to play it. Spot on, I think.
So, feel free to comment on any of my comments... or just roll your eyes and turn away in boredom with the topic. Posts on other topics coming soon! But now, I need to go do the dishes. Because I am not worth millions of dollars and do not have someone to do them for me. Perhaps I can ponder whether or not I would actually spend some of my millions on household staff to do my dishes if I were to ever find myself that wealthy. An interesting question that I will leave for another post!