- Marissa Mayer, new CEO of Yahoo, is due with a baby boy in October.
- Mayer's plans to work through a short maternity leave provoked an online debate.
- While some attachment parenting advocates fret over her choice, Dr. William Sears says that being a mom and a CEO makes an ideal combination.
When former Google executive and new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer mentioned that she plans to stay connected to work during a short maternity leave in her new role, she sparked an online debate about working moms.
"My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I'll work throughout it," she told Fortune.
That was enough to outrage some; others simply felt it was unrealistic.
Dr. Bill Sears, attachment parenting pioneer, says it's a win-win situation.
"It's a benefit, not a liability," he said of her impending motherhood. "The typical male attitude is going to be, oh my gosh, she's going to be so focused on the baby that she can't focus on Yahoo. The very hormonal changes that happen within a mother to grow a baby actually can work to her benefit to grow a company."
CEO moms have also helped changed the workplace to be more conducive to working moms, experts say. Most Fortune 500 companies now have lactation lounges for mothers to pump breast milk. When a situation becomes challenging, CEO moms go to great extremes to find a solution.
"A patient of mine who is the CEO of a law firm with a two-month-old baby had a case in New York last week," he said. "She lives in Orange County, so she took her breast pump along, pumped when she got to New York, and Fed Ex'd the milk back to dad. The milk comes the next day on ice, but FedEX delivered it to the wrong address. The dad had to break a window to get into the neighbor's house to get it."
Sears added that the physiological changes that go hand-in-hand with motherhood may in fact help her be a better boss.
"The neurochemical changes that go on in a mother to make her more sensitive and make better decisions for the benefit of the baby carry over into helping her be more keenly aware and make better decisions as a CEO," he told Discovery. "The CEO also becomes the CEO mom at home," he said. "They don't just put the baby on the back burner; they juggle both, and they do both well."
Indeed, Mayer and other women in her economic situation have an easier time than some others when it comes to making decisions about the care of their children.
"Her baby will be fine, because she has the resources to make sure that happens," said Sandra Aamodt, a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, co-author of "Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College." "The people who need our attention and aren't getting it are the working mothers who are barely hanging on economically, who don't have good choices. Women working through maternity leave is not a new thing."
Those who don't have a strong support system suffer the most from lack of good maternity leave policies, Aamodt said.
"Every baby is designed for four adults," said Lysa Parker, co-founder of Attachment Parenting International and a certified family life educator. "We were not designed to raise children in isolation. That's a problem in America. Our culture does not support this style of nurturing parenting … we present almost impossible obstacles in general, let alone for those without the resources."
The conversation since Mayer's statement has focused almost exclusively on moms, but the role of dads is central, Sears said.
"The dad needs to nurse also," he said. "Only mothers can breastfeed, but fathers can nurse. Nursing means comforting. It's extremely important for the father to help his wife get rest; otherwise, the mothers get burned out."