Marissa Mayer's recent appointment as Yahoo CEO has caused quite a stir, and rightfully so. She is the youngest current Fortune 500 CEO and one of only 19 females who hold such a position. Mayer's appointment has sparked a lot of debate, and it's not about her resume, or what she's going to do with this Yahoo turn-around story. She is a female CEO in the male-dominated tech industry. She also happens to be pregnant. What should have been -- and is -- a landmark event is being scrutinized and pocked by skepticism.
Is two weeks of maternity leave enough?
For most, no. But for some, it works and suits their style. In spite of the complaints from the armchair critics, there is no evidence to suggest that the children of ambitious professional women turn out any worse off than those of the stay-at-home mom's -- or vice versa. The critique seems a continuation of the tiresome "mommy wars," which don't help children or forward women's agenda.
For some people, taking time off when you have a child (or at any other period(s) of your child's development) is the right choice. For others, it is a great choice to pursue a new career out of the home. And for still others, it is a fulfilling choice to be an ambitious professional staying in the workforce while raising a family.
The hoopla around issues like Marissa's maternity leave contribute to the "mommy wars," which are a setback for women. The feminist movement is not about how you are "supposed to do it"; It is about women having choices, the societal support to make those choices work and each woman being empowered to make the decision that is best for her and her family.
Does Marissa's choice hurt women?
Marissa Mayer's decision to take only a few weeks of maternity leave has sparked spirited controversy and anger. Among the fury is the concern that a dangerous precedent is being set -- with worry that it may impact how people perceive maternity leave as a cultural and business norm.
CEOs of both genders make a whole host of personal decisions that are altogether inconsistent with those made by, or right for, most of the workforce, or even other CEOs. Those decisions are not reshaping the cultural norms.
Can women have it all?
Marissa's rise to the rank of Fortune 500 CEO adds to the discussion of equal opportunity for women recently sparked by Anne-Marie Slaughter's article, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." She pointed out in her article the distance we have to go as a society with this issue. I look at this issue from another angle.
While Anne-Marie Slaughter attacks this important issue from a societal standpoint, I approach the problem from that of the individual at work on making her life as fulfilling as possible given how far society has come -- and how far it still needs to go. I find this is a pervasive issue faced by my clients. While it's true there are many things in life we don't control and that are not how we want them, there are far more things than we commonly relate to that we have the power to positively impact in our individual lives. And when we refocus our attention and start making adjustments to the things we can have an impact on, it's shocking how much happiness we find.
Here are a few suggestions for finding "enough" happiness in your life:
1.) First, distinguish between the things you dream about (be it a private plane, a billionaire spouse, being a stay-at-home parent running a large department of a Fortune 10 Company, etc.) from what is just enough for you to feel actually peaceful.
The more resources a person has available to them, the more choices they can make. The millions of working women who are struggling to get by have different circumstances and choices than women in the corporate world. Women in corporate America have different choices than those available to women in the sometimes more amenable arena of higher education, and women who are entrepreneurs have still different choices available to them. With added choices often comes added ease. But in each arena, women are faced with assessing what best serves them and their family given their available financial and non-financial resources (such as societal and familial support).
More often than not, when looking at what best serves us given the realities of our life, we can make adjustments that may be very far our fantasy life, but get us surprisingly close to pretty satisfied.
2.) Put in the work and effort to push yourself to implement your goals in baby steps to re-balance your life, given the resources available and the circumstances you're in.
Women are navigating families and careers and are making choices about their values and their desires. That means some women are choosing to step out of the workforce or make lateral moves or planned temporary downward steps as part of their overarching career trajectory to accommodate the sum total of their life choices. Others choose to stay in an ambitious arc and are making time to be with their family in step with that. For women who know it's right for them to stay on their current career path but want more time with family, they are assessing what nuanced adjustments get them to "enough" time in the office and "enough" time with family to feel peaceful about the juggle.
While we still have a very long way to go as a society, within the confines of our circumstances we can continually exercise choices and we can support other women in their choices.
3.) After adjustments are made, reevaluate at regular intervals, because life circumstances change and personal needs change.
The desired balance that you achieved in one week or month may not work down the road. Circumstances change. If the steps you have taken are no longer working for you, make further adjustments to keep you feeling that you "have enough."
Meredith Haberfeld is an Executive Coach and co-founder of the Institute for Coaching, a wife and mother of two young children. This post was written with Ryan Flynn, manager and writer at the Institute for Coaching.