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I happened to be at home last Friday night. Like that’s surprising! Anyhoo… I flipped on this “20/20″ story. Elizabeth Vargas had returned from maternity leave from having her second child. Apparently ABC got a lot of grief when Mama Vargas stepped down from her co-anchor chair of “World News Tonight” with the upcoming arrival of her second son. Women’s organizations protested ABC and said that it sent the wrong message to working moms. “Pregnant again?!? That’s it Vargas, it’s co-anchoring 20/20 for you. Now scat!” Vargas says making the decision to step down from co-anchor of WNT was her choice–and the right one at that. “20/20” gives her much more flexibility to be a better parent than WNT would allow.
I say, good for her. Why do some people in this country have to criticize her? It’s a hard decision every working mom has to make. Strive for further success from a challenging career? Or step off the corporate ladder for a bit to be a better devoted parent? In the industry I work (and I’m sure in many others) the people who get ahead are the ones who work long hours. They wear, “I worked all weekend” like it’s a badge of honor. It makes the ones who leave at 5, but perform the same quality of work look like slackers. Not that I think I’m a slacker. I work hard; I put my time in. Hell, I’ve worked a weekend or two. But I’m not focused on getting ahead in my career at this time in my life. Really, ever since I’ve been in the working world my priority has been my family.
In way, I think I was lucky to get pregnant with my son when I did. I was 25, I’d only been married for a year, and I had just started a career at a small ad agency. After Jonah was born, we figured we might as well continue kiddy production, so Zoe was born just a couple of years after. By that time I had made the switch to a different, much larger agency. But I was still a measly copywriter. I never was promoted. I never stepped up a rung on the corporate ladder. I continued to do my job well, giving100-percent during normal business hours. As I did my thing, I watched as many of my childless peers work long, stressful hours and get rewarded for it. They’d get promoted. And sure, for working as hard as they did their promotions were well-deserved. But then the expectation was set. Those individuals could always be counted on to give more than 100-percent. They gave 130-percent. Then what happened? Some of the 130-percenters got pregnant. The 130 started to slip down to giving 100. Soon they felt the pressure of looking like a slacker. Welcome to my world, ladies. It must be hard to step-off the ladder when you worked so hard to get up. But you know what? It’s much easier to balance from the ground.
For Vargas, I can imagine she felt the same way. She had a great opportunity with WNT. A chance she had probably worked very hard to achieve. Stepping down to a less-demanding position probably made her feel like a slacker, too.
I should mention something else that was very eye-opening about this story. I was shocked to find out that out of 168 countries surveyed in the world only four countries offer no national maternity-leave program. United States being one of the four along with Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.
The subject of “Can Working Moms Have It All?” has started a very heated debate on the ABC News message boards. It actually makes me sick when you read through all the bickering. Especially the comments that tell us working moms to leave the country if we’re not happy. And this is coming from a woman! Ugh. Don’t get me started. Don’t even get me started.