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Modern Parenthood

Marissa Mayer: Take longer maternity leave – for yourself and us

An open letter to Marissa Mayer: Congrats on the job as Yahoo's new CEO. But maybe reconsider your plan to take only a couple of weeks of maternity leave.

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I respect your decision to return to work, but chafe at the notion that all will be fine if you try to work during those first weeks of maternity leave and then go back full-time long before most women would even consider it. Part of the reason of maternity leave is to give the new mother time to recover physically. Part of it, too, is to give the new mother the all-important period she and the baby need to bond. Yes, it’s important for the father to have bonding time, too, but mothers often play the key role in the first months, particularly if they breast-feed.

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Guest blogger

Linda K. Wertheimer, The Boston Globe’s former education editor, writes about religion, education, and family for various publications and blogs at Jewish Muse, A Writer's Blog on Faith and Family. She is a late bloomer:  In her early 40s, she celebrated her adult bat mitzvah, married, and had a son – in that order.

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You will never be able to get that time back with your new baby. After I read the news about you, I pulled out the three scrapbooks I made of my son’s first year. Yes, I overdid it. But in those scrapbooks, I see reminders of the beautiful moments I had with my son during his first year. My husband and I both wrote notes to our son during his first year of life, notes like this one I wrote when he was five months old:

Dear Simon,
You are absorbing the world more and more every day. It is so special to see your eyes sparkle as you discover something new. You are now so aware of your feet and hands, your parents’ faces, …

There is nothing unique about such moments, but they are everything when the child is your own. You may miss countless moments with your baby if you’re working more than you are at home during those first months. You may miss your baby’s first smile, first coo, and first laugh. You may miss the chance, for the first time in many years, to focus on the beginning of life, your child’s life.

New motherhood, of course, is not all bliss. Some of it is boring. Some of it is drudgery. Sometimes, severe complications follow. Six weeks into my maternity leave, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression. I never expected my past would make me a candidate for post-partum depression when I became a new mother at age 43. I did not know that getting depressed after my brother died in a car accident, plus being an older mother and a career woman could put me at higher risk for post-partum depression and the extreme anxiety and sleeplessness I experienced.

My post-partum depression was caught early. Within weeks, I was enjoying new motherhood to its fullest again.

Once your baby is born, I wonder whether you will back off your plan for such a short maternity leave. Will you decide that it’s better for you and your child to take even a few months off? If you do, there is no shame in that. When I asked for my year off from my employer, a wise supervisor said that I could come back early if I wanted. Maternity leave, she said, works differently for each woman. Some want more time off. Some prefer less. She is right. But she was referring to women who at least were taking three months off. I hope you will be more generous with maternity leave time for your employees than you are with yourself.

Best,

Linda K. Wertheimer

PS – As long as you’re working at Yahoo, could you resolve a glitch I’ve noticed? I cannot get Yahoo email to work on my Android phone anymore.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Linda Wertheimer blogs at Jewish Muse.

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