The incoming CEO of Yahoo, Melissa Mayer, announced her pregnancy, which has provoked another round of the Having It All Olympics. Joanne Bamberger, a mother of teens who has already medaled in these events, has 6 tips for Mayer. You can read them here at HuffPost Parents. Tips 1-5 offer sound advice, but number 6:
Don’t listen to me. I know I’ve just given you all this advice, but don’t listen to me or other critics. Don’t listen to anything but your inner voice. If working through your maternity leave makes you feel energized and seems like the right path for you, go for it. But just promise me you’ll listen to that voice and take heed of what your inner self is telling you to do when it comes to being a professional and a working mother. Because we’re all tired of having the debate over how women should manage their lives and their parenting.
If Mayer’s inner voice were giving her sound advice then she wouldn’t need Bamberger’s and we wouldn’t be having another round of this tiring debate. Following our inner voices is the sort of thing that got us into our postmodern mess. When we tossed standards, when we stopped listening to voices of experience, we became naive enough to think, among other things, that having it all was just a matter of good time management.
But the voices of experience say — we know — otherwise. Bamberger’s advice should command respect and consideration simply because she’s already been there. Mayer doesn’t have to follow the advice, of course. She might have extenuating circumstances that outweigh the sage advice. Those are the things only Mayer can judge. But Bamberger tells her to discount her voice of experience. This is folly.
Ironically, it will probably be the bit of advice that Mayer does follow. Inner truths are essential to the modern world view. Respect for the past and lessons from elders are two of those things that give conservatives reputations as backward thinking dolts. So, following the last bit of advice, Mayer will make most or all of the mistakes Bamberger warned her about. She will learn the same lessons. And in about 15 years, she will write an advice column to some rising female star in which she laments her weariness in the Have It All Olympics. Perhaps she won’t undercut her own advice with some platitude about inner voices.
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