I do not agree with the title of a recent U.S. News' article I was quoted in, "Why You Should Work Through Your Maternity Leave," and I feel compelled to respond. I do not believe most should work through their maternity leave in a full-time traditional job. While I understand my interview for the piece needed to be edited and I don't think the writer was ill-intended, my comments are out of context and the full details of my maternity are not included.
Last week I spoke at an event for entrepreneurs, and a woman who was pregnant with her fourth child asked me what my advice was for focusing more on her new business idea. My advice was—"Dear Lord! Focus on giving birth, ask yourself that question in 6 months!" I'd rather that have been the title of the article.
I was asked to comment on how I made starting a company work while I was having kids for an article about Marissa Mayer. My circumstances and job were so different from Marissa Mayer. I'm happy the Yahoo board looked past her pregnancy to appoint her as CEO. While that's a great thing, her story is one of an outlier—not a proof point for why women should skip maternity leave. Women have unique circumstances and it's a very personal decision on when and how you work through pregnancy and how soon you go back. What worked for me is not what works for someone else and vice versa.
Stella & Dot has many women in our corporate offices that take their full maternity leave happily, including women in director and vice president roles. I would never suggest they work through their maternity leave. Some check email occasionally, most of them do not. To date, Stella & Dot has paid out more than $100 million in commission to the independent stylists who are building this company. Many of them are mothers, working their businesses around their lives; flexing it up or down when they need to. Most have other full- or part-time jobs in or out of the home. We are all for women calling their own shots and living the life that works for them.
I took a full three-month leave with my first daughter. I could have never brought her to work and I would not have wanted to take a shorter leave. In the context of this article, my comments sound like I think I would be nuts if I stayed home with my baby. Not true. I loved being home with my daughter. I spent her waking hours walking around with her, and when she did nap, I pursued my hobby at the time—exploring how to modernize flexible entrepreneurship. I worked on it a couple hours a day.
I returned to my full-time job when she was three-months old. By the time she was nine months, I resigned and started Stella & Dot, precisely to have more control over my schedule and be with my daughter more, as well as to provide that same solution to other women. This was right for me, but I have no judgment against all the many truly great moms that I know who went back to work and stayed in structured roles in which they thrive as a professional and a mother.
During my interview, I commented that when I could return to 'work' really varied with my two births … I took longer to recover from the first and was amazed at how much easier it was with the second. It would seem quite absurd if the tone of this article was interpreted as an opinion that all women should simply head on back to the office straight from the hospital!
My situation was very unique because I had started my own business and I worked in a small office of about 10 people dedicated to creating flexible opportunity for women. Taking my second daughter to work for me was doable. I worked much shorter days, not only for those three months, but also for the next couple of years. Everyone involved with the company knew that I was comfortable with slower growth in the very early years because I didn't want to work all the time when my kids were very young, and no meeting was going to be more important than swim class on Friday afternoon.
My work life today looks nothing like it did when I had newborns and very young babies. In order to ramp up my company, my husband, the other very-qualified person to parent around here, had to ramp up the amount of time he spent parenting to be 50/50 with me.
I wish you all the best in your personal choices as working moms. If you are pregnant, I really hope you enjoy your maternity leave—in whatever way is right for you and your family.
Real mom of 2, Jessica Herrin
As the brains behind Stella & Dot, CEO and Founder Jessica Herrin has proven just how one woman can go about styling her life with smarts, courage, and tenacity. After joining two successful tech startups out of college, she went to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where, at the ripe age of 24, she co-founded the now world's leading wedding site, WeddingChannel.com. Jessica's been recognized for her business savvy even more than her style savvy—Oprah, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Forbes have saluted her for her vision. Taking Social Selling to the next level, Jessica's been honored by Ernst & Young and Inc. 500 as a Top Entrepreneur. She is also actively involved in Young Presidents Organization (YPO) in the San Francisco Bay area. But Jessica is most proud of the recognition she gets from the women of Stella & Dot, who are mirroring her success in reinventing the home business opportunity for the modern woman. Because, as Jessica claims, "nine-to-five just doesn't flatter." For more information, go to www.stelladot.com.