I distinctly remember the trepidation I felt when I disclosed my pregnancy while at a firm. And I can’t really explain why with clarity. Rather, I can only share fuzzy feelings of feeling badly that others would have to pick up the slack while I was out, fearing that I would be viewed as less dedicated, and fearing that I would essentially be less valued as an associate.
Of course, others had ventured before me on the path of becoming a mom while at the firm, and as far as I could tell, it didn’t seem to detrimentally affect their careers. There were a few shareholders who were also moms — although one went part-time for a while before becoming a shareholder, and the two other women didn’t become shareholders until their children were older.
Now, with hindsight being 20/20 and some passage of time, all of us who had become mothers within a few years of one another as senior associates ended up in-house, whether intentionally or merely coincidentally. The last member of our cohort didn’t leave until after she was made of counsel instead of shareholder. And at the time of her departure, only men had made shareholder over the span of five years. This isn’t intended to be critical commentary — maybe it was merely coincidence.
What was real though was how freaked out I was at the thought of disclosing my pregnancy, how I did my best to cover the morning sickness and lethargy and refrain from alcohol at firm networking events before disclosure, and how much energy I put into crafting each message to share that I was expecting, in hopes that it was well-received. Don’t get me wrong — I certainly don’t put blame on the firm — I could have very well overreacted for no good reason. For balance, I also remember the firm giving me a very generous baby shower and colleagues who happily covered for me.
At the same time, I have to admit that disclosing my two pregnancies in-house has been a breeze in comparison. The business interruption is not even mentioned — and I have only been met with congratulations, hugs (prepandemic), shared joy, and offers of coverage and support.
Granted, I work for a great company, with phenomenal leadership and a close-knit team. If I may brag on my boss a bit — she allowed me to work from home for over a month after maternity leave ended, didn’t make me travel until my little one was at least six months, and even paid for shipping breastmilk home when I did have to travel. Likewise, when I had suffered pregnancy loss, she suggested that I take time off, and when I insisted that working helped me, she proffered the opportunity to work from home for the week, just in case.
I definitely understand that not every company or in-house department or manager is the same and that others may have a different experience than mine. But for me, this support is definitely something that makes me think twice before considering leaving for seemingly greener pastures. A workplace that allows me the space and support to be the mom I want to be without considering it a discount of my ability or credibility is priceless.
Meyling “Mey” Ly Ortiz is in-house at Toyota Motor North America. Her passions include mentoring, championing belonging, and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a “fun” mom to a toddler and preschooler and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/). And you knew this was coming: her opinions are hers alone.