I began my career at a conservative “biglaw” law firm. The partners in our group were all older white men. After working there for a while, it was clear that the partners did not want to invest training or any other resources into young female associates who might have kids and leave the firm, or who would go on maternity leave and, due to the gap in work, never make partner.
I felt a strong pressure to never say the word “baby” or say hello to a staff member’s visiting baby, lest the partners conclude that I was a baby lover and not worth their time.
No, really. I saw it happen.
Now, I work in-house for a company where most of my colleagues have families, and where I’ve never seen anyone criticized for having a family.
But my experience at the biglaw firm has stuck with me through the years. In every way possible, I try to keep people at work from noticing or being reminded of my new mom status (aside from my physique, sadly). That includes the days following a rough night with little sleep, or when I was a total stress monster because Punkie started day care. I don’t even do this intentionally.
When I started getting pressure to go to the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, I knew I didn’t want to participate because it starts at 7PM. 7PM is when I nurse Punkie in advance of his 8PM bedtime.
If I needed to be at a work function at 7PM for an important reason, like a customer meeting or something like that, I’d make it work. But for the Corporate Challenge, I don’t feel it’s worth the sacrifice. Besides, there will be plenty of opportunities to participate in mandatory fun.
The Corporate Challenge is a 3-mile run or walk and many businesses in town will form teams and participate.
I am not athletic. I’ve never been athletic. In fact, I am a plus sized girl who does not run, unless chased by a grizzly bear. And let’s be honest – I’d probably be eaten pretty quickly if a grizzly bear were introduced into my ecosystem. If, instead of a grizzly bear, it was one of those smaller black bears, I might weigh the risks against the unpleasantness of running and decide to just walk normal speed.
And if I were to walk or run a 3-mile course, I’d choose to huff and puff in private, without my co-workers watching.
So, again today, I was pressured to go to the Corporate Challenge. Every biglaw lawyer instinct in my brain was yelling:
Don’t tell them you have to take care of a baby instead of going to mandatory fun!
I said the Corporate Challenge just isn’t my cup of tea. The parry quickly came – you can walk instead of running. I said I might be able to help set up or prepare, but I can’t participate in the run/walk. The response was, aw, come on, it’s no fun unless you do the walk.
I really didn’t want to say out loud that I need to go home to breast feed my baby . . . although I knew it is 100% the choice I would make.
So . . . choking on my sense of horror, I said “I have to go home and take care of the baby.” My heart sank – I’d probably go home tonight and update my resume.
And the response came:
Okay, but definitely next year.