(They're in big type down below if you want to skim.)
Oy, Meghann Foye! Over the past few days, a lot of people have asked my opinion about the interview novelist Meghann Foye gave to the NY Post making an impassioned plea for non parents (actually, mostly women) to take something she calls a Me-ternity leave—a sabbatical from work to stop and smell life's roses. (I won't link to it because I don't really want to donate more clicks to this cause, but feel free to google.)
Huh. I'm actually all for rose-smelling, and ALL for having enough non-working time to be a well- rounded person and then bring that well-roundedness to your job. But comparing maternity leave to a sabbatical?! Oh, honey, the thousands of livid tweets and responses (this one is my favorite so far) say almost everything I could and more.
I have exactly one thing to add from my research for my book (these are the 27 words):
I asked my survey takers: "Think back to before you had your baby. Did you ever resent the working parents at your office/workplace?"
30% said YES.
And everyone I interviewed who said they'd felt that way said they regretted it immensely.
Bottom line? Actually I have two:
1) Meghann Foye may be clueless about motherhood. But I know her just a bit through my past magazine career (she was most recently at Redbook.com). She's not evil. She's not all of the awful words everyone has called her. She's a woman with a novel to promote who must have gotten some bad -- really bad -- publicity advice. And she's now paying the price. What an awful lesson to learn.
2) Rather than ganging up on Meghann and feeding into the parents-versus-nonparents war she's naively incited, let's take this opportunity to reassess the way the workplace treats this demographic distinction. Those late nights Meghann remembers covering in the office as the parents ran out the door? I experienced them too. And then, later, as a parent, I was wracked with guilt every time I left at 6, and wished I could wear a t-shirt: "I'll be working again from 9pm to 12am, just FYI." But one of the best experiences I had, very early on in my career, pre-kids, was covering for a senior editor, a new mom, who was up to her eyeballs in work and life. There was a part of her job that she hated -- and that I coveted. Guess what? I got to take on that work and grow. She got to slough it off and make room for other kinds of more meaningful-to-her work. We were both happier for it. That whole arrangement was our idea. It took drive on my part and humility on hers. And a culture that allowed it.
Let's all work toward building that culture: parents, non-parents, just-starting-outs, higher-ups. This can happen. It has to.