Stop Worrying About Yahoo's Pregnant CEO!

Babies have a knack for coming at unexpected times, and women find ways to make things work. A brilliant manager like Marissa Mayer should be no exception.

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In the summer of 2010, I felt nauseated during nearly every interview I conducted while wrapping up research for my first book. Because it was summer in Afghanistan, and Kabul is home to open sewers and steamy heat, I thought little of it, until I told my friend and housemate, a TIME reporter with a three-month-old baby, that all I dreamt of was eating potatoes.

"You're pregnant," she said.

"No way," I answered. I felt certain I had a parasite that would simply go away.

In a matter of days, however, my doctor at World Clinic, a mobile medical service, told me that I indeed had a parasite, but, he joked, "it's not the kind that goes away."

So it was that I realized my first baby would arrive 10 days before my first book. The book for which I had quit a job I loved in finance, the book to which I had dedicated the last three years of my life. I kept clicking "refresh" on the Baby Center calendar, stunned at seeing the due dates collide.

Reading the big news of Marissa Mayer's naming as Yahoo CEO and then hearing a few hours later that she would be "wwp" -- or "working while pregnant" -- I was struck by the fact that life evolves in unexpected bursts, and, especially if you are female, these moments of momentous change might collide in unanticipated ways.

What was exciting was how unfazed those at the center of the story seemed by the timing: Yahoo's board saw her pregnancy as non-issue, Mayer had her plan for a working maternity leave, and it seemed to me that the case was closed for everyone else.

But not so fast.

I caught the last few minutes of Morning Joe yesterday just in time to watch Mika Brzezinski toss to CNBC's Brian Sullivan for the latest business news, which included a dose of unsolicited armchair advice for the new CEO:

She said she's going to work during the maternity leave. That's gonna be tough. Y'know, take some time off. Yahoo's been in trouble for years. My advice: take some time off. Get your baby. Raise the kid for a little bit, and then, work on the company when you can.

I nearly leapt off my couch. (And, judging by her decidedly sideways glance, Brzezinki clearly shared this astonishment.) When was Sullivan's last maternity leave? And what did his view of new motherhood have to do with Mayer? Almost immediately, women watching took to Twitter to berate the anchor for his post-natal counseling.

"Just figured I'd take a poll - any working moms out there need advice from @SullyCNBC? Marissa Mayer is *so* fortunate to have his input," tweeted Change the Ratio's Rachel Sklar.

Several wrote back to say that they decidedly did not.

The gracious Sullivan soon reversed course, tweeting his mea culpa: "Meant YHOO should show support for working moms by not encouraging Mayer to rush right back. Example set at the top & this is huge step for working moms & busting glass ceiling." And a bit more from Sullivan a few minutes later: "Ugh. Apparently I came across completely opposite of my intent. Only meant to suggest birth is magical time to be savored."

But the scrutiny was hardly finished. Later in the day, the venture capitalist Fred Wilson praised the Mayer choice in a blog post titled "Yahoo is No Longer Dead to Me." He made no mention of Mayer's upcoming addition, but readers picked up the thread, with one noting that Yahoo had "made history" by hiring a "pregnant CEO."

Presented by

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is contributing editor-at-large for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations' Women and Foreign Policy program. Her most recent book is The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.

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