I heard about this book on the The Social a while back due to the controversial nature of the book. Apparently some people found the concept of a ‘meternity’ leave offensive and insulting to mothers who need maternity leave to provide for their new child and to do their best to adjust to parenthood. I love a good controversy so I decided to pick it up! Plus the cover was just an eye catching colour so truth be told, even if I hadn’t heard about the book, I definitely would have at least picked it up to read the back. I’m a sucker for packaging – I’m so weak (but I’m a marketing departments dream!!)
What The Book Is About
This story follows the life of Liz Buckey who is a writer for a New York magazine catering to mothers. At the age of 31, Liz feels that she’s hit a brick wall in her career. Despite her efforts, her career really isn’t going anywhere and she’s writing about things that she’s not necessarily passionate about. More importantly, she consistently feels like she’s picking up the slack for people on staff that are going on maternity leave or have children. Because she’s single, she’s expected to burn the midnight oil while the majority of her colleagues use their children as valid reasons to have to leave.
One morning Liz has a bout of nausea in the office which is mistaken for morning sickness. She of course does nothing to deny and she uses this opportunity to fake a pregnancy in order to take advantage of the time off she’d get for maternity leave to take a meternity leave and re-evaluate her life (career, love, etc). Liz is forced to live a double life when a love interest and her career end up intertwining. The result is what I consider to be a light-hearted read that I’m not sure was meant to ruffle any feathers.
I read this book for what it was – fiction – and I’d further classify it as chick-lit. The concept of a meternity leave caused some controversy because it seemed like Foye was making light of a leave that is absolutely necessary. The perception among some is that maternity leave is a time where new mothers just get to sit at home and tend to a little human. That couldn’t possibly be too demanding, right? A feeding here, a diaper change there – I mean what’s the big deal? I don’t have any kids of my own but have friends that do and I’ll tell you that there’s so much more to it! Apart from the physical demands (which can be plenty!), I think the most important thing to consider is the mental demands/adaptations that need to take place when having a child. I’m not sure if there’s any way you can be your shining best when you’re up at odd hours of the night to feed your child or tend to whatever needs that they may have. You’re forced to be ready to go and do what you need to in order to ensure your child is taken care of. You’ve only had two hours of sleep? You haven’t eaten yet? You haven’t had a chance to go to the bathroom or take a shower? Ya, that means nothing to this child and you’re expected to drop what you’re doing to ensure their needs are met. So for all you who think maternity leave is a sham, speak to a mother and find out what’s what!
That being said, I’m not sure I completely disagree with the concept of a meternity leave. I agree that faking a pregnancy isn’t the way the go but is it really all that bad to take some time off to evaluate what you’re doing, where you’re going, and where you want to be? I think being able to take time off to mentally recharge or re-evaluate is important. We live in a time where there’s often very little chance to truly disconnect from work. We’re stuck with the “ball-and-chain” in the form of our Smartphones that allow (read: force) us to just quickly “check in” or “send one email before I forget”. This inability to truly disconnect leads people to burnout making the concept of a leave focused on yourself quite valuable. Many may argue “that’s what vacation is for”. To them I say, do you really think you’re able to recharge and re-evaluate your life in 3-4 weeks out of the 52 that you work? Would you really be able to disconnect completely to take the time you need to focus on yourself? I guarantee that you’d be able to maybe disconnect for a few days (a week at most), but then would feel the urge to check in (or guilt yourself into checking in). That being said, is that really taking time for you? In order for a “me leave” to really work, I think you really need to disassociate and remove the thing that takes up so much of your time and energy so that you can take out any bias and really explore yourself.
Comparing a meternity leave to a maternity leave downplays the commitment and strength it requires to have a child but I’m not opposed to a leave that allows people to take some time off to focus on themselves. I don’t think Foye meant any harm with this book – perhaps her execution of an otherwise valid concept slightly missed the mark but I really think she may be on to something.