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On maternity leave

Oh, press. Why is it no good deed goes unpunished?

On Tuesday, in the middle of a totally crazy day, a reporter reached out to talk to me about my feelings on the maternity leave ruling that happened on Monday in MA. I gathered my thoughts, dropped everything and spoke to the reporter, hoping that I was able to clearly communicate my dual perspective on the issue. She sent a photographer, and I was happy to help with that, too, swallowing my self-conscious anxieties that I think are typical in these sorts of situations.

Now today, there I am in the Globe, and at first I’m just worried about the hint of my belly in the picture, still soft from three kids no matter how many crunches I inflict on it. And then I realize that one big detail is missing from a key quote.

Here’s the quote:

“It’s my dream that someday Magic Beans is big enough and secure enough that anyone who works for us would get three months maternity leave, but that’s just not an economic reality right now,”

Here’s what I actually said:

“It’s my dream that someday Magic Beans is big enough and secure enough that anyone who works for us would get three months fully paid maternity leave, but that’s just not an economic reality right now,’

That’s a big difference.

In fact, as I told her in the beginning of our conversation, Magic Beans has enough employees that we are subject to the FMLA, not the Massachusetts state law. We would never consider anything less than 12 weeks time off for our employees. I told her that from the perspective of most working mothers, 8 weeks is nowhere near enough time.

When I had my second child, I was just starting Magic Beans. I came home from the hospital and got right back to work. The store opened a little more than 3 months after my daughter was born, and there was so much that needed to be done. I was the only “employee” at that point. It was crazy, it was exhausting and it was certainly not ideal.

Four years later, when I had my son, I still had work to do here and there after he was born, but with a bigger company, I was able to take off the time I needed. It made a huge difference.

I told her that story. I also told her that I sympathize with small business owners, who are sometimes just scraping by in this economic environment. Every employee is so important and it can be hard to lose someone for 8 OR 12 weeks. That’s a reality of small business. But it doesn’t change the fact that women need to take time to recover and get into a groove after their babies arrive.

Those early months are incredibly challenging, precious and wonderful, and I wish more than anything else that this country had better infrastructure in place to make sure that all women could be home for as long as they wanted without fear of losing their jobs or missing a paycheck.

I also think, that the point is not really whether Eli and I get a paycheck every month (the reporter sounded surprised by this, but no small business owner I’ve ever met has experienced anything different). We’re really lucky to have incredibly supportive families who have helped us make our Magic Beans dream a reality and who have enabled us to quit our jobs and go down the complicated path of retail start-up. We’ve been able to help so many mothers along the way, and I’m incredibly grateful for that every single day.

I fear, with the omission from my quote, this article gives the impression we aren’t completely supportive working mothers, which is ludicrous and couldn’t be farther from the truth. We support working mothers, we support stay-at-home mothers and we support fathers, too, by the way, but we weren’t talking about that.

The maternity leave system in the USA is broken, along with a lot of other really complex things that come along with running a big, huge country. Most of the other nations have figured it out – the US is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee some sort of paid leave to new mothers. It’s a shame, and it needs to be addressed in a way that will not create huge burdens for small companies who are trying to get their businesses established or are struggling in a not-so-hot economy.


  1. Thanks for posting this – I checked here after I read the Globe article because I was so surprised that you guys wouldn’t hold a job while someone took 12 weeks of unpaid leave. I’m glad you clarified.

  2. It is great that you were able to clarify what you said for us here. However, we, or at least I, would have assumed nothing less from you guys! Your company is a great start up company. It is amazing! Focusing on the baby industry it would baffle me if that quote was indeed accurate. I knew something smelled fishy. I hope you intend to contact The Globe and demand a retraction. Loving you and all your company stands for.
    Kristen, mom of Rhys, 11 months.

  3. Glad I caught your comment for clarification. As a previous shopper, I was disappointed by the quote given in the Globe.

  4. Article sounded like MB used to offer 12 weeks of paid leave and after maternity leave ruling you cut back and offer 8 weeks only. Is that the case?

    If this not what you told the reporter then you should contact the Boston Globe, or better yet sue them for damages! Because my first reaction was “I’ll never shop in MB ever again!”. And I love your store! I make regular trips from Ashland to Brookline to get a present for a child’s birthday or for a mom of a newborn.

    I’m glad I wondered into this website to read this. But many people won’t …

  5. I was sufficiently appalled by the article that I came hunting for your blog, to see if you’d responded. I appreciate your taking the time to post this explanation, and I’m somewhat mollified. You should certainly press for a correction; it’s an important distinction.

    I’d urge you, though, to rethink your policy. Eight paid weeks is, sadly, an extremely unusual and generous gesture, and I applaud you for it. But Magic Beans is more than a dollars-and-cents business. I can often locate the items I find in your shops more cheaply online; I generally pay the small premium to support a local business. You’ve built a marvelous community around your stores.

    As a husband and a father, I know how wrenching the decisions facing working mothers can be. Stepping up, and offering twelve paid weeks, is the sort of gesture that your accountant will deplore, but your customers will ultimately reward.

  6. Thank you for putting your quote in context! I’m still appauled that Mass lawmakers are proud of themselves for guaranteeing new mothers 8 weeks of leave. Even 12 weeks is astoundingly paltry. I work for a global toy company, and in all other regions, women get up to a year of leave (some paid, some not) with a guaranteed return to their jobs. I took 12 weeks with each of my children but would have benefitted from more. More time to bond, less time to pump, less time to send my kids to be cared for by other (very capable) people, less time to worry, more time to recover my body, my strength, my sleep, my sanity (not sure I’ll ever recover that).

  7. Thank you for this clarification. I have to say that I was horrified, yes actually horrified, that a store such as yours wouldn’t offer a full 12 weeks. I am sure that the misquote left a very bad impression with many of your customers.

    This is completely irresponsible journalism. You should contact the Globe to insist that they edit the online article immediately and make the situation up to you in the print edition with more than just a little error note tomorrow morning. They owe you a fawning profile at the very least.

  8. I’m so glad that I took the time to find your website. I was really astonished at the quote but knowing the media is not always accurate, which is unfortunate, I did my own research. I will pass this article on to all the other mothers and fathers out there. You deserve an apology from the Globe.

  9. I too am glad you clarified, because after reading the story I was determined never to set foot in the store again! (Sorry, but the way the article is written, it does make a customer mad…). Like someone else said, the items at the store are sold much cheaper online (hello Amazon…), and I am only willing to pay the premium if I know that employees are treated fairly. Thanks for clarifying. This is why I do not subscribe to the Globe…

  10. Ah, much better. I can imagine it is such a struggle, but it is so necessary especially if there were any complications with the birth. Kristin is your best employee – I always try to find her when I need help in your Wellesley store. So, before I saw your clarification, I had logged on to write that you should give her the best leave you can manage because you’d have a hard time finding another great employee like her!! And the Globe owes you a correction on the front page. I truly hope they have not hurt your business.

  11. Those of who know you, know how completely committed you are to women and families.

    Your clarification jibes with the Sheri we know and love at Cool Mom Picks.

  12. Thank you all for being so supportive and understanding. It really means so much to me.

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