In my first novel, Meternity (MIRA Book, April 26), the protagonist, Liz, is 31, single and burned out from her job at Paddy Cakes, the baby magazine for hypercompetitive helicopter parents. Or, more accurately, from covering for of all the moms on staff while they go home at 5 p.m. each day. When a malfunctioning baby tracker app leads her bosses to believe she’s pregnant, she panics and lets them run with it—it’s finally her chance to have a maternity leave.
When I came up with the idea, I was newly 31 myself, and it was one of those moments where all of my single friends seemed to be getting married and announcing their pregnancies right at the same time. Hearing all their little ups and downs began to remove my own blinders around the idea of having children in a real sense and I started to become aware of the fact that moms do get a “family pass” to craft a more flexible schedule and leave earlier each day. If you’re still single, you’re expected to pick up the slack and work all hours. And if you’re one of the unlucky women who is really good at her job, yet childless, it can lead to serious burnout.
That’s not to say I’m against working moms arranging flexible schedules. What Liz finally learns in the book—and what I’ve seen in real life, as well—is that we all succeed when we support smart women with kids who choose to work. And there’s more and more evidence that growth in our new economy is actually fueled by this flexibility.
However, I do think until more companies get up to speed and we start to see more policies in place that allow for more workplace flexibility for everyone, we might want to consider the idea of a “meternity leave”—i.e., figuring out a way to take a little time off for a week, a month, three months, maybe even a year if you need it, to stop, breathe, learn to access your inner voice again and then get really conscious and become the same sort of self-manager that the moms are, naturally. Essentially—learn how to define what you want so you can say no to what you don’t.
I was able to craft my own meternity leave for a period of about a year, and in many ways it saved me from total self-destruction and allowed me to begin to access this inner knowing. My twenties were a stressful time—my parents had divorced, I was working to make it in the cutthroat magazine industry while subsisting on paychecks totaling $350 a week, my boyfriend at the time was processing survivor grief from 9/11 and my father was chronically ill and in and out of hospitals.
I coped by all the same means my character Liz does: avoidance and throwing myself into work—and too many carafes of rosé at times. But after a few years I began to think it might not be a sustainable plan if I wanted to have a chance at a happy, fulfilling life where I achieved my bigger dreams, like writing a novel and having a family myself.
So I began saving up, and at 32 I quit my job to travel, work on the book and finally begin to process it all. In gaining this space and quiet time—a sort of active non-active time—I learned those coping mechanisms were no longer effective. Slowly but surely alternate strategies started to present themselves, like actually communicating what I wanted and needed in relationships and exercising for stress relief. It was like my brain began an entire re-org without my trying.
There may have been a few Life Wise sessions in there that helped, but in all honesty, it was the transitional time-out of the meternity leave, this room to observe my conditioned responses in a nonlinear way, that helped me regroup, figure things out for myself and put better systems and boundaries in place going forward. In short, instead of trying to control everything to fit my immediate needs and assuage my immediate fears, I began to trust the flow of the systems that were out of my control again—exactly as many women do in pregnancy.
Taking this time for yourself—this intuition-led sojourn, this break from the myopic, linear, daily structured 9 to 5—may sound like the kind of navel-gazing Elizabeth Gilbert is constantly bashed for, but what most people don’t realize is that it’s extremely effective in increasing both your productivity and creativity because it puts you back at the helm of your own life. In letting go of the need to control outcomes, there’s a moment the self-exploration ends and a perspective shift happens. You transition from survival mode into the best kind of leadership mode—one that’s driven from both your heart and mind, the exact type that women naturally experience in pregnancy and in motherhood. You start making better decisions in a way that not only benefits you but everyone around you.
It may sound woo-woo and selfish, but it’s really about using our entire set of intelligences—not just our practical, logical, taskmaster side that is solely focused on getting things done, but also our intuitively intelligent side—which likes a little breathing room—to really craft a life plan for ourselves that works on all levels—not just at work, but at home and with your family too—getting the right things done. If we can all have a chance to do that, everyone—including our current families and the ones to be—will be happier for it.
I hope you enjoy reading Meternity!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Meghann Foye is the Senior Web Editor at Redbookmag.com, REDBOOK’s website for women looking to celebrate their crazy busy lives where she covers topics such as parenting, relationships and infertility. She is an experienced women’s magazine editor, previously serving as Deputy Editor of Seventeen Magazine, and has also worked at Woman’s Day For Me, and Elle.com, where she got her first taste of good strong coffee covering fashion shows as an assistant in the Paris office. Meghann took her own #Meternity from 2010 to 2012 when she quit her job to travel to China, Japan, India, Southeast Asia and Australia to pen freelance travel articles and write this book. She has yet to figure out her own marriage and baby plan, but hopes it ends up something akin to an Angie-and-Brad-style globe-trotting brood (no pressure there).
Like everyone in New York media, editor Liz Buckley runs on cupcakes, caffeine and cocktails. But at thirty-one, she’s plateaued at Paddy Cakes, a glossy baby magazine that flogs thousand-dollar strollers to entitled, hypercompetitive spawn-havers.
Liz has spent years working a gazillion hours a week picking up the slack for coworkers with kids, and she‘s tired of it. So one day when her stress-related nausea is mistaken for morning sickness by her bosses—boom! Liz is promoted to the mommy track. She decides to run with it and plans to use her paid time off to figure out her life: work, love and otherwise. It’ll be her “meternity” leave.
By day, Liz rocks a foam-rubber belly under fab maternity outfits. By night, she dumps the bump for karaoke nights and boozy dinners out. But how long can she keep up her charade…and hide it from the guy who might just be The One?
As her “due date” approaches, Liz is exhausted—and exhilarated—by the ruse, the guilt and the feelings brought on by a totally fictional belly-tenant…about happiness, success, family and the nature of love.