July 17th, 2012
10:36 AM ET

Open letter to Marissa Mayer

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Dear Marissa Mayer:

First off - congrats on a double dose of incredible life-changing news!

I know you're incredibly busy adjusting to life after Google, cranking up your new CEO gig at Yahoo!, and finalizing your go-bag for the birth of your son in October. But please consider a few thoughts from a well-intended geek mom and journalist.

By all means, grant yourself more maternity leave.

You've told Fortune magazine that you plan to take just a few weeks off. Not only that, you plan to work throughout your leave. Like other working moms, I kind of wish you didn't say that... but I can see why you did. You want to prove yourself. You want to hit the ground running and keep up the sprint even through the so-called fourth trimester. But maternity leave is not a vacation or a cop-out from your new post. It's the first precious weeks to invest in a being who is completely dependent on you. The constant feeding, burping, soothing and changing will be tedious. Yes, we all know you'll have the help and support to assist with the demands of early childcare, but you can't completely outsource motherhood. Think about your colostrum over the company for more than just a few weeks. Please.

Don't be afraid to talk about work-life balance.

I know it will be annoying. As the new working-mom-to-be CEO of Yahoo! you will address questions about the performance of Yahoo! as well as how you manage to "do it all." But women and girls the world over are looking to you to inspire, set trends in the workplace, and establish what it means to be a young working mom helming a Fortune 500 company. Only one request: please be honest. Don't be afraid to mention or honor the individuals who cook and clean and nanny for you. This is not a sign of weakness. It's a valuable lesson for all young women - if you want to "have it all," make sure you have the support infrastructure of family, friends or staff to make it work.

This may sound odd, but a new-found empathy in early motherhood will be empowering.

After I gave birth, I was overwhelmed by a flood of emotions - boundless love for my infant daughter and (something that really struck me quite by surprise) and deep empathy for others. It was as if a third eye had opened. I started considering the circumstances of literally everyone around me. I began asking more questions about the feelings of others. I started tearing up at Hayao Miyazaki movies (don't get me started on "Ponyo"). Don't be afraid of a sudden widening of your emotional range. Embrace it to be more in tune with your colleagues, your staff, and especially your users. Yahoo! may have 700 million monthly users and one of the largest audiences on the Web, but you can attract more if you tap into a new-found ability to deliver what they really want.

Here's wishing you the very best as you take on the double whammy of rearing a child and reviving a neglected tech icon. Oh - and don't forget to pack a cotton yukata robe in your pregnancy "go bag." You can buy one in Japantown in San Francisco. They are far better than the maternity-ward wear issued after birth - the most momentous event of your life.

Best wishes,

Kristie Lu Stout
CNN International

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Glen

    Excellent piece. The amount of pressure on working women to return to work so soon after having a baby is just ridiculous. Those first few weeks are going to be tough, but there is nothing wrong with admitting as much. Good luck, Marissa!

    July 17, 2012 at 11:39 am | Reply
  2. JC

    The author sounds more than slightly jealous and bitter and seems to really be saying "I could have managed a big career if I had nannies..." The more interesting angle is what's a software engineer doing running an advertising company?

    July 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  3. SM

    As someone who is pregnant with their first child, works in a managerial position for a company, and is taking a limited maternity leave – letters like this are NOT helpful. I do not think that Mayer is taking a limited maternity leave to make the rest of us working mothers look bad. As I've approached motherhood, I've found more and more that instead of a supportive community of fellow moms to draw advice and guidance from, I've encountered a lot of snark and a lot of judgment. This letter is a prime example of the failure of moms supporting other moms. Thanks, CNN journalist.

    July 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  4. Guest

    As a woman, I can say that we will have "come a long way" when we can attain a position of power and influence and not have to deal with others (including other women) offering us unsolicited advice, as if we need someone to tell us what to do and how to do it, no matter how successful we've managed to become.
    While I agree that maternity leave is not a vacation or a cop-out, how presumptuous of this author to lecture another woman on the importance of bonding and nursing, and to assume that, for all women apparently, childbirth is the most momentous thing they can do, or that parenthood is the only viable path to a deepening of empathy and understanding of the world.
    Mayer has made it this far without your advice, so I'm betting she'd be just fine without it. Do you assume she needs your help because she's a woman, or simply because now that you're a mother, you suddenly know everything?

    July 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Reply
    • Dr. Warren

      Bravo! My thoughts exactly. Yet, when examined more closely, I think Ms. Stout is using the (totally unnecessary) advice-giving as an excuse to peacock herself as someone who belongs to the same rarefied air as this 37-year-old brilliant CEO. It is self-deluded on three levels: 1) Ms. Stout is a newsreader 2) Ms. Stout is mediocre, even awkward, at what she does, and one wonders about her qualifications for her job. 3) Ms. Mayer states overtly she does NOT want her success tied up in cliche associations with her "womanhood" and wants to be identified more as a computer science expert or "geek" as Ms. Stout says and uses so often about herself. That, too, has become a self-serving, annoying term that means anything but the sort, but that is for another blog.

      July 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  5. Dr. Warren

    This letter overflows with self-importance and pretension. It cries for a sensible editor, particularly the clubby part about the pricy robes. Ms. Mayer's achievements are impressive and far above those of this news reader. Let's face it: Ms. Mayer could be–perhaps should be–Ms. Stout's boss, many levels removed, of course.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  6. monkey.in.the.city

    To Marrisa: First things first. Please have that annoying search field on yahoo repaired. It's annoying because it's activated by default, and when users used the down arrow key to navigate downwards, it's the text field that goes down, not the page.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  7. Michael

    I admire CNN for granting free speech even to trolls like "Dr.Warren" (Doctor titles for trolling? Funny times!), but trolls like him shouldn't get a public space to degrade an honored, highly qualified, award winning journalist like the author, just cause he doesn't like her opinion.
    A little bit of (responsible) comment censorship would make the Web a better place and IS acceptable.

    And, dear "Dr." Warren, isn't replying to your own post (earlier posted as "Guest") bad style even among trolls?

    July 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  8. Bradshaw

    At first I thought this was serious, and then I read it again. I'm still not sure. The major point I picked up was, and I love this, is that she should be sure to acknowledge the servants in her life. Hey working moms, make sure you give a shout out to all your servants. So far, I haven't met any professional women in my life with servants to help them through this period but tomorrow when I take a poll at work I'm sure some of them they will agree that if they had practically unlimited wealth some servants would have been great. Cooks, cleaners, nannys, bodyguards, drivers... I think she really can have it all. And she'll need it before Yahoo follows RIM over the cliff edge. One person she can probably leave out is Ms Stout.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:08 am | Reply
  9. klustout

    Ahh. Comment trolls. It just wouldn't be the Internet without you.

    July 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  10. KNN

    Lets not be mean and make a personal attack. The woman has the right to make her choices and find her own path. Commenting on other's parenting is not legit. There are many women who don't work but I don't think they give much attention to their children. if we cant let them be, why target another hard working woman.

    February 26, 2013 at 5:15 am | Reply

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