Ann Heidi 6 Months

A Supportive Employer Makes Parenthood Easier

Eli Lilly and Company  | December 17, 2019

Lilly is honored to be one of an elite group of companies on the Working Mother Top 100 Companies list for 25 consecutive years. Attorney Ann Chen, who has worked in several U.S. and international roles for the company, shares her perspective as a mom seeking work-life balance and finding it at Lilly.

As a same-sex couple, my wife Heidi and I were intentional about our journey to parenthood. We read many books and spoke to many families. We discussed surrogacy versus adoption. We debated whether to raise our child in Asia or move back to the U.S. There were so many decisions to make. Before our son was born, we felt ready for this new journey.

“Having children is the most humbling experience,” a litigation partner once told me. The notion surprised me at the time; I thought I could have it all. In fact, at age 40, I was thriving in my career, was happily married and financially secure. When the baby arrived, for the first time in my life I was juggling a demanding job and family. I found there was no way to really be ready. I asked for help, and prayed for grace.

Fortunately, our company culture supported and fostered work-life balance. After returning to the U.S., I led the international intellectual property litigation team and was able to commute between trials overseas and Taiwan, where my wife and child lived while she waited for her visa. Lilly’s parental-leave benefit allowed me to dedicate precious time with them for 10 weeks after his birth. And my colleagues respected the boundaries I set on my schedule to ensure quality time as a new mother. In fact, our CEO and his wife lead by example as a dual-career family.

Heidi and I also rearranged our priorities, trading city life for a child-friendly suburb and replacing weekly dates with drive-until-the-baby-sleeps chats, among many other adjustments. Like all working mothers, I continue to face new challenges each day. But I have faith that my wife and I will grow as a couple and as parents, and that our child will be healthy and happy.

Motherhood will no doubt remain a humbling experience, and it will always require tradeoffs. But it’s a wonderful experience, and I’m fortunate to work for a company that makes it easier to have it all – family and career – at whatever pace I choose.