It’s No Wonder, Woman

Do you ever wonder why you feel exhausted in this empowerment age when we (women) are told we can, and should, be conquering the world? If so, perhaps you’ll relate to one or more of my personal experiences.

A few years ago, even though I had been on maternity leave that year, I made partner at my law firm Fish & Richardson, P.C., a 140-year-old firm that ranks No. 1 in all things related to litigation of intellectual property. (I had to give it a shout out. Got it made now, right?)

I returned to work before my official maternity leave period expired because I was excited to try a jury case I had litigated over the four previous years. Initially, I thought I was blazing a path by showing what is possible. However, I inadvertently set a poor example for my new-mother peers—at least in some eyes—who understandably, wanted to take their full maternity leave.

I later found myself sitting on a dirty bathroom floor pumping milk in a courthouse 1,000 miles away from my firstborn, learning the blessing and curse of pump-and-ship services like Milk Stork. Another day, I exited a client meeting only to realize that I had presented case strategy with baby poop on my right sleeve. I once typed a brief with my left hand (I’m right handed) so I could comfort my sick, vomiting toddler with the other. Beyond motherhood, when I devoted time to women’s groups and conferences, I faced criticism from those who said my professional accomplishments were largely attributable to “special” resources provided to women, but not to men.

So, do I sometimes wonder why I’m doing this, where this will all lead, and if that place would be a good one? The answer, of course, is “yes.” But do I self-impose the pressure of being a “Wonder Woman” in all aspects of my life? The answer there is a resounding “No.” Neither should you. Not on yourself, and not on your colleagues, whether by words or deeds.

Being comfortable in your own skin and owning your personal imperfect moments won’t necessarily deter the occasional naysayer, but it will position you, and those around you, to engage in a necessary conversation. One where we acknowledge that feeling not all together at work and home is a shared experience that can bring us all together.