‘Meternity Leave’ vs ‘Maternity Leave’ – a massive mistake?

Ex-magazine editor, Meghann Foye, was so jealous of her co-workers being able to claim maternity leave that she decided that she needed a break. One problem. She didn’t have kids. So instead, she wrote a book called ‘Meternity’ which loosely outlines her reasoning behind her belief that people without offspring also deserve some time out from their careers…

In a recent New York Times article, Miss Foye has caused somewhat of a furore by espousing her theory about why stressed executives are as much in need of some ‘me time’ as the parents of young children. Apparently at the age of 31, Meghann realised that her daily grind of (in her words) working on big stories, attending cool events and meeting famous celebs was beginning to wear her down a tad. I can totally sympathise, it sounds positively frightful doesn’t it? Anyway, in the article, she goes on to say:

“I couldn’t help but feel envious when parents on staff left the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children, while it was assumed co-workers without kids would stay behind to pick up the slack”

Yep, she really said that folks.

She talks about how some women follow what she calls  a ‘traditional path’ explaining that this often occurs in their late 20s or early 30s, when the holy trinity of a wedding, a pregnancy and babies means that your personal life takes centre stage. However she then goes on to discuss what she terms the ‘other path’ where:

“socially mandated time and space for self-reflection may never come”.

Hmm, well given what I’ve observed, I’m pretty sure that most mums would not describe motherhood as a space for ‘self-reflection’… it’s much more about caring, crying and cleaning up crap. And some mums were rather keen to tweet out their alternate opinions…

Not content with that particular sleight to parenthood, she bravely (naively?) goes on to talk about that only people with kids were cut any slack when leaving the office at a reasonable hour:

“It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility. There’s something about saying “I need to go pick up my child” as a reason to leave the office on time that has far more gravitas than, say, “My best friend just got ghosted by her OkCupid date and needs a margarita” — but both sides are valid”

Of course, first world problems like a friend being stood up by an internet date and the need to imbibe a stiff drink as a consequence, are clearly comparable to spending some quality time with your children after being apart from them for the entire day. Right? Right??

Now maybe you are thinking that Meghann is a lone voice but no. I personally worked with a female boss many years ago who, whilst we were having lunch one day, started berating staff for leaving work on time “just because they have children” and was bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t get home in time to watch her favourite soap opera. The smell of burning martyr in that restaurant was almost overwhelming.

In the spirit of balance, there is potentially a shred of redemption for Miss Foye. Clearly recognising that her previous self was possibly a little self-absorbed she quit her role and spent a few years finding herself and grieving the death of her father. And that’s when she wrote her her novel Meternity, which is about a woman who fakes a pregnancy and ultimately discovers “some harsh realities about what it’s like to have it all” (her words, not mine).

Some critics have condemned the concept not because the notion of a ‘sabbatical’ is so wrong (in fact, according to Monster, many enlightened companies offer up to 24 weeks paid leave for a reasoned justification for extended time off) but more because of the comparison being made with maternity leave. On the UK show This Morning, the hosts slammed Meghann for being irresponsible for daring to compare the two but she was quick to point out that it was simply “a play on words” for her novel, although she clearly compared the time that people with kids have off work to single people feeling run down.

So what do you think? Does Meghann Foye have a valid HR point to make here? Can Maternity Leave ever be realistically compared to her notion of Meternity Leave? Or is she just trying to shift books by creating the controversy?