Yesterday, a colleague told me, "I think its BS that you are considered 'tainted' because you work part-time." Her comment didn't sting at the time. Afterall, I know how part-time attorneys are viewed in this office. But today, that comment stings, and it frightens me.
Before I became pregnant - and before I announced to the office that I was pregnant - I worked hard. I earned my badge of honor: I was on a trial team that basically required me to sleep at the office for at least three months; I was screamed at by the partner who screams; I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk; I drafted a PI opposition over the weekend (while going through infertility treatments unbeknownst to my office); I saw the sunrise and sunset from my desk; I worked out of a client office for a week (at ten weeks pregnant); I led doc review teams and managed junior associates. The day before I announced that I was pregnant, I was viewed as a "team player." I would do what was required to get the work done. No one dared question my commitment, my work ethic. And then, it changed. It was not a seismic shift. Looking back, I don't think I even realized it was happening. The partner who leads our practice group was incredibly supportive of me, of the pregnancy. When my blood pressure shot up towards the middle of my pregnancy, I was encouraged to do what I needed to protect the pregnancy.
The first fall that I was at the firm, a woman in my practice group returned from maternity leave. She broke down amongst a group of women, saying that her commitment to the job had been questioned. I smuggly sat at the table and thought, "that won't happen to me, because I will be valued. Before I go on my maternity leave, I will show them that I am committed to this job. I am different. That won't happen to me."
It happened to me. What I did before my pregnancy: the long hours, the work, the sacrifice, has all vanished. Now I am defined by my part-time status. I am defined by the fact that I will be home to see my son. every. night. I was sure that I could beat the rap that came with working part-time. I was sure that I would still be valued. But I am not.
A day is coming in a little over a month where I fully expect my superiors to question my comittment, my work ethic (my three month status review). I expect to be sat down, to be told that I should do more, be more, bill more. I will not be allowed to point to all that came before. They will not hear me say that this is an adjustment period. They will not hear me say that when I am at work, I am committed to doing what must be done, I am efficient, I bill. They will not hear me.
While I cannot wait to leave the firm behind, I value the hard-work, the accomplishments, and the hours that I have committed to the firm. And now, it feels as though all of those sacrifices are trivilized. All that came before is minimized - and that is what stings. I am excited to leave the firm behind, but not yet. For now, I need the job, the income. I fear that my status places me on the chopping block, regardless of what I have done in the past - and that is what frightens me. Years ago, I naively thought I could escape the view that I would be "lesser" when I returned from maternity leave. I did not.