Why? Because Mayer's son knows to call only in an emergency. And Yahoo knows that Mayer's family comes first because 71% of mothers with children under 18 are working women. And in a moment like this, the goal of family-work balance shines out.
Marissa, if you're reading this, your list of mom-in-the-C-suites models is short, but it exists. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is home for dinner most nights by 6. In fact, if you have a pen, jot down a few other executive moms for advice: Ka Cotter, former vice chairman at Staubach; Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard CEO; Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup president and CEO; Ann Sperling, COO of the Americas for Jones Lang LaSalle.
All these executive mothers have grown deliberate about business travel and firm about flextime. As little eyes closed at bedtime, their laptops opened. These senior execs looked for family friendly corporations and left, as I did once, if the friendliness waned. My career bumped over a divorce and my son's tough period (for months I left early to work from home) as I hewed to 6 p.m. family dinner and travel only one night a week.
Full-time employee does not mean part-time mother. "Non-traditional" hours are the new work day of the growing legions of women feeling called both to family and to the marketplace -- or to medicine, law, science, policy, manufacturing and politics -- to work outside the home.
Yes, it's doable
Some women must work; some choose to. All of us can organize our days, push for policies, teach our families, partner with our partners, guide our employers, and seize options.
Princeton professor Ann-Marie Slaughter wrote in the Atlantic"Why Women Still Can't Have It All," but many of us can draw near that difficult but doable thing called balance.
Mayer's choice represents the still-early stages of companies that see what sharp women bring to any table, including boardrooms, and take smart steps to also keep mommies happy. Pay, flextime, travel, programs, insurance - these all shape the cultures of respect for families that build stronger companies all around.
Mayer's new baby revives questions about how far women can go. Slaughter says kids are a detour; Sandberg says they're right on the way. Hanna Rosin, the author of The End of Men, says we're already there and men didn't make it with us. I'm saying the decision is case by case.
Seven years from now, Mayer takes her son's call at no risk to her work because both sides are learning that what's good for women is good for business.
Diane Paddison is the author of Work, Love, Pray, and chief strategy officer at Cassidy Turley, a commercial real estate services provider.
(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)