Dear Lisa Belkin: Please Leave Marissa Mayer Alone

Last week I read a Huffington Post article ragging on Marissa Mayer, CEO of yahoo, for saying that her baby has been “easy” and transitioning back to work has been fine. The first time I gleaned it, I couldn’t finish reading it. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was cringing. Was I upset with Mayer or was I upset with Lisa Belkin, the author of the article. I took a step back and realized it was the latter. Belkin just seems so damn bitter, taking it out on Mayer.

I wonder if Belkin felt she was helping the “working mom cause,” by not wanting Mayer to come out and say that being a working mom is going great for her. Pure speculation on my part, but I just know from personal experience, from watching middle school students interact, and from watching how my three-year-old acts, when you are upset or frustrated, you tend to want to take it out on others instead of looking more deeply at yourself. This is what I infer.

What also ticked me off about Belkin’s piece was that she continually used the plural pronouns “we” and “us” as if all working moms felt the way she did. She put the weight of the working mom on her shoulders and spoke up for all of us. Thanks, but no thanks.

“Putting “baby” and “easy” in the same sentence turns you into one of those mothers we don’t like very much.”

Who is Belkin to say that I want to harp on a mom who maybe had it easier than me in those early infancy days? I may have felt frustrated at times with my own situation, but never did I look down on a mom because her child wasn’t as difficult as mine. It doesn’t help the mom cause, take out the “working” part, to judge others. It just doesn’t. Counterproductive, really.

“It’s just that we don’t have a lot of other pregnant Fortune 500 superstars to look to, so we held you up as a role model and now we worry that you’re modeling the wrong thing.”

I don’t know about you, but it never crossed my mind to hold Mayer up as my role model. Did you? I have no desires to be a Fortune 500 superstar. Is it great to see a working momma as the CEO of a very powerful company? Absolutely. But Belkin, don’t mistake this for thinking that all the working moms in this world will now hold her up as their role model, though Mayer has mentioned in the past that she will be viewed as a role model as a women CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It just doesn’t mean every damn working mom views her this way. And for those who do look up to her, how is she modeling the wrong thing by being positive?

Overall, there’s just this huge hostile tone to Belkin’s piece.

“We don’t wish you any problems, just as we don’t really wish bad things for the woman in Mommy and Me whose jeans are a size smaller than before she gave birth. Or the one whose infant slept through the night at three weeks. It would be petty of us to hold that against anyone.”

The tone. Hostile, right? She says it would be “petty” to “hold that against anyone,” yet isn’t that exactly what she’s doing in this piece? If you ask me, Belkin is not helping the “working mom cause,” but rather hindering it. Yes we have obstacles to overcome. It’s true that my life isn’t rainbows and unicorns 100% of the time. But that doesn’t mean that I deplore my life on a daily basis because my days aren’t pure perfection. And you know what, I bet that Mayer’s life isn’t pure perfection either, but as your supposed “role model,” perhaps she’s choosing to not make statements about how many times she changes her power suit during the day due to baby spit up or how she’s not sat down to dinner at home in a while because baby always needs to be moving and only wants momma, because she knows that you and others in media have hoisted her up on a pedestal and knows that her every move is being analyzed to no end. I mean, her choice to be on the cover of Fortune sans her pregnancy bump received gobs of scrutiny.

NOTE THE IRONY: Click on the link just above and you’ll hear Belkin chatting about how people need to leave Mayer alone. “Too much is being made of the cover,” Belkin said. “She doesn’t stand for all women,” Belkin continued, “She doesn’t have to represent us all the time.” Now that is hysterical.

Belkin tries to qualify her stance a bit in this piece; however, it’s heard on deaf ears because once again, she’s speaking for all of us after chatting about how the rest of us are “ordinary” compared to Mayer.

“Yes, we understand that this is partly our fault. You didn’t ask us to watch your every move. You never declared yourself the standard in working mommydom.”

Hmmm…I don’t look at any part of my life as a working mom as my “fault.” I’ve made choices to lead me to where I am in life, and none of those choices would have ever led me down a path to being a powerful business woman as Mayer has done. The minute Belkin says that “we understand that this is partly our fault,” she has just destroyed so much of the progress of the working mom, and really working women.

And you want to know a little secret? My Abby, she was an easy baby, sleeping through the night pretty early on. But shhhh…don’t tell anyone. I wouldn’t want to be looked on as a bad role model for the rest of you.

What are your thoughts on Belkin’s piece? Anyone else find it hysterical that you can find her chatting about how we should leave Mayer alone, then she goes and writes this piece?

Photo via Giorgio Montersino on Flickr


  • Jessie says:

    Thank you for writing this. I read that article and I have to say that I was more than a little irked. Is it not enough that some people feel the need to judge other mothers for bottle vs breast and working vs stay at home, but now some are also judging for saying that they have been blessed with an easy baby?!?! Why can’t we just support each other, be happy that Melissa Mayer has had such an easy time transitioning to the difficult challenge of new motherhood and wish the same for ourselves, our friends, and any mother out there.
    Twitter: jessieyeager

  • Shannon says:

    I am with you. That article seemed either like a major straw that broke the camel’s back in the bitterness category or a dire need for inspiration for her writing or both.

    And my William was an easy baby. Still is. He slept through the night at 5 weeks. He has made every transition so easy for me and actually takes stress OFF of me at the end of the day, all things I never ever imagined. Sue me.
    Shannon recently posted..Unpaid Maternity Leave and Human RightsMy Profile

    • Tracy says:

      Yeah. The more I read it, the more I just kept thinking that Belkin perhaps holds tight to some bitterness.
      Twitter: wa_tracy

  • Jes says:

    I do find it interesting, and I agree that just because you have an “easy” baby doesn’t mean I’m going to hold it against you. I think Marissa is doing what is right for her and her family and as far as women who may want a role model who is in a powerful leadership position like hers, that’s great, and it shows that it is possible (probably with a lot of help!). I like how you point out that Marissa is probably not telling us every time she has to change her power suit :) I think there is something to be said for being positive and embracing the life you want, so that’s a great example!
    Jes recently posted..Work Life CrunchMy Profile
    Twitter: jessicapeterson

    • Tracy says:

      That’s what I was thinking. She knows she’s been thrust into the spotlight and knows people will look to her as a “role model” and I wonder if she’s trying to be positive. I mean we all know what being a new mom is about. It isn’t all nicely tied up in a package with a perfectly tied bow. She doesn’t need to tell us that.
      Twitter: wa_tracy

  • Observacious says:

    There will always be overachievers, those who seem to do more in a day than the rest of us do in a week…or month. Marissa Mayer is clearly one of those people. Most of us are not. Lisa Belkin (and everyone) should applaud Mayer’s achievements but not expect them to be representative of the norm. I don’t measure my career against Marissa Mayer the same way that I don’t measure my holiday projects against Martha Stewart. Those people are so different from me that comparisons are worthless.
    Observacious recently posted..List 21: Christmas to do list shame spiralsMy Profile
    Twitter: observacious

    • Tracy says:

      That’s what gets me. Belkin called “us” “ordinary,” yet she says that Mayer is our role model, yet she holds all these super powers? Shit, I didn’t even know who Mayer was until all the controversy spread about her Fortune cover sans bump. I’m too busy with my life and trying to live it the best I can.
      Twitter: wa_tracy

  • KeAnne says:

    I do agree that there was an overly bitter tone, but I think Belkin has a point even though it was made badly. Mayer being scrutinized as a high-profile working mom has implications for the rest of us in how the story of being a working mom is told. If she says it’s easy and her baby is easy, then the message the media absorbs (because we all know that critical thinking is not the media’s strong suit) is that being a working mom is easy, and if you don’t have it together like Mayer does, then you’re doing it wrong. Plus, I dare say Mayer’s experience as a new mother and working mom is very different from the average woman’s.
    KeAnne recently posted..NaBloPoMo, C’est Fini!My Profile
    Twitter: KeAnne

    • Tracy says:

      I agree her experience is completely different than the average person…so why should we look at her as our role model? I guess I just hate when the media does this. It’s not fair. Because there are so many people out there who don’t think critically, who look at the media for news and don’t question, that I’m concerned what the rest of the world may take away from this…thinking that being a working mom is the complete opposite of “easy.” I just hate that the media does this and people take it for what it is. But you, you’re a critical thinker and I so appreciate that about you. I know that many look up to Mayer…I just wish they wouldn’t hold her as the standard for the working mom is all.
      Twitter: wa_tracy

  • Mary Beth says:

    I purposefully didn’t read the article. It’s part of my new tactic of ‘avoiding the noise.’ Seems like a lot of noise to me. She has an easy baby – great! Now let’s all do what we can to make sure we help ourselves and others have a great mommy experience.
    Mary Beth recently posted..Obama Rally in Richmond Virginia – a Photolog {10.25.2012}My Profile
    Twitter: bloombing

  • Liz says:

    The thing is, she may NOT actually have an easy baby. How many of us would tell the press, when we’re being honored as a powerful woman who has everything under control, that the baby was up for however many hours and we really don’t know what we’re doing and we want to cry on a daily basis? How many of us would tell a boss or a client that? Her job is not to tell the world about the ups and downs of motherhood (and I’m sure they exist for her even with a 24-hour nanny team or whatever support she has), it’s to run a company. And I agree that we really don’t need to care so much. She is probably doing the best job she can, given her family’s situation, and even if she’s not, it has basically ZERO relevance to my parenting choices. I think all of this “role model” stuff has more to do with schadenfreude and judging other mother’s choices in order to feel better about the trade-off’s and tough choices we ALL deal with on a daily basis. I wish her all the best and agree with the author’s wish that we as moms can start supporting and validating each other’s choices, rather than judging and wishing a fussy baby on someone.
    Twitter: Hungry_Lizzie

    • Tracy says:

      WORD! I just think this is one more thing out there to cause drama and there doesn’t need to be any ;)
      Twitter: wa_tracy

  • Cam says:

    She took telecommuting away from working Yahoo mothers, yet built a nursery in her office for her baby and nanny, and had a team of assistants in those two weeks of maternity leave that everyone carries on about. She didn’t have an easy baby; she had easy access to a mountain of help while she tended to business as usual. While Lisa Belkin doesn’t speak for me, and I hardly look up to Mayer as a role model (although we are the same age and became mothers in our late thirties), I thought she acted like a jerk who essentially threw her good fortune in the conference’s face.

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