When Yahoo! invited the perilously pregnant Marissa Mayer to captain its rudderless, waterlogged ship (hooray for nautical metaphors!), everybody collectively scrunched their brows and wondered why Mayer would want to give up a sweet Google gig to get in a time machine and go run 1999's search engine. Actually, what pundits, analysts, and soothsayers really wanted to know was how she was going to get Yahoo! back on track (yay for locomotive metaphors!) while simultaneously raising a baby. Much patronizing ensued, but now Mayer is facing criticism for her decision to "work through" her maternity leave from an altogether different observer — German Family Minister Kristina Schröder.
According to Spiegel, parents in Germany can take up to three years off to raise their kids and still have their jobs guaranteed, and, once they're no longer receiving paid time from their employer, the government will pay them commensurate with their previous salary for up to 14 months. Schröder, who's a member of Angela Merkel's cabinet with the conservative Christian Democratic Union party, is pushing for German mothers to take even more maternity leave, and thinks that a high-profile businesswoman such Marissa Mayer isn't doing working women any favors by assuring everyone she'll be working through most of her maternity leave. Says Schröder,
I respect this personal step being taken by Ms. Mayer. But I regard it with major concern when prominent women give the public impression that maternity leave is something that is not important. Maternity leave is absolutely important and not just from a medical point of view.
It would seem that Schröder has tapped into a new wellspring of Marissa Mayer criticism, that is, of course, until one realizes that the Family Minister cut her own maternity leave time short after she gave birth in June 2011. Schröder took just 10 weeks off instead of the mandated — mandated! — 14, and some people criticized her then for not taking more time. She defended that position, however, by calmly explaining that every mother's experience is different:
I was never of the opinion that a family minister should set the example for the country. Besides, the issue isn't such a big deal — I'm not, after all, the first woman to have a child.
Not the first, last or even 47th — it happens all the time, and women deal with childbirth in all different ways. Given the (subsidized) opportunity, sure, taking time off to raise an newborn is important to a lot of people (not just moms, btw), but everyone's priorities are different. Schröder does have a point that Mayer's reassurances of continuous work could negatively affect people's perceptions about paid maternity leave, but Mayer has her own agenda, which right now is intimately entwined with the anxiety of her new company's shareholders, whom she must convince that her company is capable of crawling out of the internet woodshed. However, even without that pressing need, a working parent should be allowed to take as much — or as little — time off as he or she needs because we are all snowflakes and the world is a stovetop.