You’re Not Doing Us Any Favors

woman on phone, downplaying maternity leave

I recently sat at a luncheon with a friend who was very pregnant and also very successful in her career.  She’s a high-powered attorney and a pitbull. And I’ve always admired her drive, conviction and brutal honesty.

But during that luncheon, I saw a different side to her. And I had to fight the urge to walk away from our friendship.

During our one hour outing, she made it a point, several times, to tell me that motherhood will not derail her career. She overstated how she had worked too hard to get where she was to be stepped over. She explained that she had plans in place, and she was going to be very “efficient” with her time – working in the middle of the night when her child slept, and so on.

As our lunch continued, another lawyer and acquaintance walked by and made mention of her pregnancy.

“Oh, you know me,” she said. “I will most likely be taking calls from the delivery room. I’m taking about two weeks maternity and will not miss a beat.”

She said it with pride and a hint of brag in her tone.


Why do women feel the need to overcompensate? Sadly, I guess I can answer my own question. I know many of us have felt passed over for opportunities because there was even a chance we could get pregnant within the next year. I know some of us have hidden our pregnancy for as long as physically possible (thank heavens leggings are actually in style) because we knew layoffs were imminent and didn’t want our names to fly to the top of the list.

But times have changed. Granted – not fast enough for many of us – but they are changing. And we need to stop perpetuating this type of behavior.  We have to stop downplaying the need for maternity (and paternity leave) and stop de-prioritizing family and overall health out of fear of looking like the weaker sex. We aren’t the weaker sex – the proof is in who was made to bear and deliver children. So, why do we constantly trip over ourselves to prove which one of us will be LEAST affected by becoming a mother?

It’s beyond frustrating, but it’s also really dangerous. While most women see through this behavior for what it is, many men just happen to believe it. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they believe someone who says that they don’t need maternity leave and want to be back in action as soon as possible?

“Mary never fully unplugged during her maternity – why is Jane taking 12 weeks off and completely out of pocket?”

It’s unrealistic, and it sets us all back. Many years.

Even scarier to me than watching this unfold is seeing some of these same women take a larger stage and present at conferences or sit on panels and talk about how they are fierce advocates for women. They are recognized as leaders in their industry – and label themselves as fighters for gender equality and progressive cultural changes. Yet, they don’t see the INSANE hypocrisy in the fact that they are the same women trying to prove how masculine they are by not needing (or wanting) to take maternity leave.

When I see this, I want to scream from the sidelines, “Don’t listen to her!” When I see women like this speak at conferences, it scares the crap out of me. We are in the middle of the #MeToo and the #TimesUp movement, and we still have women bragging that they will be back to work and better than ever 10 days after giving birth.

Look, we are all different. We have different drives, different levels of ambition and different definitions of success. But we can’t, if we want to move forward as a gender, have different views on how we now speak and act about our differences.

I equate this type of dangerous behavior to the women who used to say, “I can handle myself” when working with sexists and in an environment with blatant sexual harassment. You remember those women, right?  If you asked them how they survived working for men who would grab their ass and call them sweetheart, their answer was, “I grew up with brothers and a tough mom. I don’t cry in bathroom stalls about it. I can handle it.”


Times Up. Times up to stop allowing blatant sexism and harassment to happen and times up for women to stop perpetuating unrealistic beliefs to prove to others that they are just as valuable as men. While we are equal and deserving of equal pay and representation – we are different.  And we should celebrate those differences and not hide from them.

There is no doubt my friend’s life will change in MANY different ways when she becomes a mother. I also know she will continue to be very successful in her career whether she takes two weeks of maternity leave or three months.

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I give a voice to the women who are concerned about sharing their story publicly. My mission is to give a voice to the women who want to start conversations, but who are concerned with sharing their identity, for one reason or another. My posts don’t reveal personal details that can identify particular people nor do I promote bullying or bashing others. I am designed to give women who can’t share their names an equal voice in the important conversations we are having at She In The CLE. Want me to share your story? Submit a post at

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Amen to that! Your body needs at least 6 weeks to recover, so take full advantage of maternity leave policies. The earth is still turning and will be when you get back to work. Bond with your little one and enjoy this time because in a blink of an eye, they will be graduating from high school. Don’t regret it and ask yourself: where have I been?

    • I thought I was going to be that mother who delivers and goes right back to work. Wrong!!! As the due date got closer, my decision to stay home became clearer. I stayed at home with all three of my children by choice for the first year and 1/2. I worked part-time in the evenings when they were sleep and worked on the weekends just to be there to see all of their first. Now no, I am no where I thought, planned or worked so hard to be in my career, but I wouldn’t change, go back, or do anything differently because I had the opportunity to be there for my kids first. Now we all don’t have the financial opportunities to stay at home, and I get that, and most certainly don’t shun you for going to work. However, if you have the opportunity to stay at home with your children, it’s a once in their lifetime opportunity that you won’t get back!

  • Respectfully, disagree. To each her own. Who are you to judge a woman’s desire to go back to work in her own time? I was a student when I had my daughter and only 2 months away from college graduation. I knew those 2 months would be filled with projects, career fairs and life lessons. Does the fact that I went back to school 1 week after delivering make me less a woman? What if I told you I was looking forward to going back to work after a 6 week maternity leave with my son because I was excited about being able to go to the bathroom whenever I wanted? You are more than welcome to stop being friends with someone for all this or less, but don’t assume that a woman who values her career is overcompensating. Sheer might actually just enjoy her work, and who knows, maybe her new child will expose her to something new and bring a balance to her life that she may not think she wants or needs.

  • This conversation is so needed. It is unrealistic to assume that a woman will be ready to work two weeks after giving birth. I did the same thing. I was terrified that I would lose ground at work if I took off too much time. My firm didn’t have a family leave policy, and the woman before me only took a few weeks of leave. I assured them I would be back in three weeks. It didn’t happen. I had an emergency c-section. My baby was having trouble nursing. There was NO WAY I was ready to go back to work. But I felt the pressure. It was exhausting and stressful during a time when I should be physically recovering and bonding with my child. I get that for some women two or three weeks is enough. But it’s not the norm.

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