by MIA FREEDMAN

The first time I was pregnant, I very confidently told my boss how much maternity leave I would be taking. “I’ll only need, like four weeks max,” I announced. “And I’ll work throughout that time. I’ll come into the office for meetings and the staff can come to my place and you won’t even know that I’m gone.”

She laughed. That’s because she had had actual children and knew I was talking absolute bollocks.

While giving me a warm, congratulations hug, she insisted I’d be taking four months off. At least.
I agreed. Reluctantly. I’d never been left alone with a baby before but how hard could it be? They just ate and slept, right? It’s not like they needed exercise or anything. At least I didn’t think they did.

What would I DO with all that spare time if I wasn’t back at work?

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Because then I had the actual baby.

Welcome to reality. Because suddenly, my days suddenly seemed to have only about 2 hours in them in which I had to do 10000 baby-related things (unlike the nights which seemed to stretch cruelly for 22 hours in which I was woken every hour or so FOREVER).

Marissa Mayer is the CEO of Yahoo and at 7 months pregnant, she’s about to have that same reality hit her too.

Marissa has told Fortune magazine that she’ll be back at work in a fortnight after the birth:

marissa mayer This new CEO is taking 2wks off to have a baby.

Marissa, as photographed for Glamour magazine in 2009

Mayer… expects it [her maternity leave] to be speedy. “I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” she says, referring to the CEO job that she is starting tomorrow. “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it….”

Mayer first disclosed to the Yahoo board that she is pregnant in late June, in a meeting with Michael Wolf, a member of the board’s four-person CEO search committee. A meeting with the search committee followed, and then Mayer met with the full board last Wednesday.

None of the Yahoo directors, she says, revealed any concern about hiring a pregnant chief executive. “They showed their evolved thinking,” says Mayer, who got the phone call last Thursday that she was the board’s choice to be CEO.

It’s good to hear that Yahoo have been supportive of Marissa (as they should be). I hope they continue to be because – as most mum can attest, your expectations rarely match reality when you’re a new mum.

4 months after my first son was born my terrific boss  sniffed that I was getting cold feet about coming back to work and suggested I work part-time for a few months longer.

And that was lucky because I hadn’t factored in was how much I’d be in LOVE with the little guy. How much I’d just want to spend hours gazing at his teeny tiny face.

When I had my baby, I wasn’t forced back to work sooner than I wanted to by financial pressure. As a former CEO, I suspect Mayer will also have the choice to return to work – financial necessity won’t be a factor for her as it is for far too many new mums in the US (and here at home).

Because as Forbes.com reports, the United States aren’t exactly leading the world when it comes to paid maternity leave:

Working women are granted 12 weeks’ unpaid time off to care for a newborn or adopted child, with the guarantee of the same job when they return.

To qualify, they must have been employed for at least 12 months at the same firm before the time off and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the same period.

The statistics are revealing. A 2008 report from the Families and Work Institute indicated that 16% of companies with at least 100 employees provide full pay during maternity leave.

This is down from 27% in 1998. Even for those who get some compensation during maternity leave, the norm for most women tends to be a patchwork of unused sick or vacation days.

And since the majority of women can’t afford not to work for a full three months, they also tend to return to work sooner than the law dictates. Perhaps that’s why in May 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 55% of first-time mothers were working six months after giving birth.

How soon did you go back to work after giving birth? Did you end up taking more time off than you’d planned?



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