Of Maternity and Me-ternity Leaves
Photo credit:Women's Health Magazine
Last week, author Meghann Foye caused an uproar when she wrote in the New York Post about her belief that every woman deserves sabbatical time. Sounds pretty innocuous on it’s face until you learn that her new novel is called “Meternity” and was inspired by her envy of working moms who took time off work during maternity leave to care for their newborn children. The main character in her new book fakes her own pregnancy in order to get the “me-time” she craves.
Ms. Foye wrote: “I couldn’t help but feel envious when parents on staff left the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children, while it was assumed co-workers without kids would stay behind to pick up the slack. ‘You know, I need a maternity leave!’ I told one of my pregnant friends. She laughed and we spent the afternoon plotting my escape from my 10-hour days, fake baby bump and all….Of course, that didn’t happen. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe in the value of a ‘meternity’ leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women, and to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.”
In her piece for the Post, Ms. Foye compares non-moms’ need for personal time to new moms’ need for their maternity leaves….unleashing an outpouring of attack and criticism via social media. Mothers took to the internet to respond the fact that their maternity leaves were hard work, with nothing “sabbatical-like” or “me”-focused in any way. Ms. Foye ultimately pulled out of two scheduled interviews on TV as a result of all the negative attention.
Ms. Foye’s argument is that when a woman has a child, a break to focus on other aspects of life comes naturally. However, for those women who remain single and/or childless, that time never comes — at least in a socially acceptable way.
While some of her words were unfortunately chosen, we suspect that Ms. Foye was mostly looking for a clever title and controversial spin to her book so that she and “Meternity” could stand out. However, in making some of her comparisons she unfortunately pitted mothers against non-mothers. Of course all people need to figure out work-life balance, and it can be challenging for men, women, non-mothers and mothers alike. Most of us, at some point in our careers need to take time to examine the other areas of our life besides work to make sure we are taking care of ourselves, and working towards something that still makes sense to us.
Ultimately, in a statement issued through her publisher, Ms. Foye wrote “I have tremendous respect for women who take time away from building their careers to raise their children…And I totally get it when moms who return to work need to leave by 6: they have a second job waiting for them when they get home after working all day. My concept of ‘meternity’ is designed to introduce and support the notion that all women deserve the opportunity to take stock and re-examine their goals in order to birth a life that works for them. Moms need it, and so do the rest of us who are trying to figure out the work/life balance. More than anything, all women — moms and those who aren’t — need to support each other.”
We couldn’t agree more. Women face enough challenging issues in the workplace and world, without wasting energy on attacking each other.
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