Throughout my 14 plus years working in corporate America, I’ve seen smart and capable women be overlooked, grumbled about and basically cast aside once they announced they were pregnant. And these memories ran through my mind when I was considering when would be the best time to tell my boss my baby news.
My original intention was to wait until I started showing – around 20 weeks or so. But because I will be over 35 when I deliver, my pregnancy is considered higher risk and that means a lot more tests and doctor visits than a woman under 35. I average 2 to 4 doctor’s visits per month and that means, I have to leave early, come in late and depending on the procedure take multiple days off each month. And there are only so many excuses I could make for needing to take time off before anyone would become suspicious. So, I was forced to tell my boss when I was around 11 weeks – way before most people even share with friends, much less a boss.
Thankfully it went very well. My boss has been supportive and I want to share the tips that have been working for me so far.
The anticipation and anxiety leading up to the conversation was the hardest part
The baby conversation with my boss was the main motivation for my previous blog post, Confrontation and Difficult Conversations. I spent a lot of time agonizing, stressing and talking it over with people that I trust before I pulled the trigger. And I still needed a bit of a push, so I made it an agenda item during my weekly one-on-one, just so I wouldn’t chicken out. And you know what, it was no way near the worst-case scenario that I dreamed up in my mind. Once again, as it goes for many things, the anxiety thinking about what could happen was way worse than the reality.
Reassure your boss of your commitment
Very likely, the first thought in your boss’s mind (no matter how understanding) is “who is going to pick up the slack when she’s gone”. So get out in front of that thought and address the items that you know your employer may be concerned about, like missed meetings, transition planning, projects that may be launching while you’re out and provide solutions. It shows your commitment and helps to put their mind at ease. And don’t forget to give them regular updates throughout.
My boss not only has children, but also is an active participant in their lives
These are some signs that can give evidence to how supported you may be throughout your pregnancy journey. No matter if your boss is a woman or a man, it’s hard to fully grasp the type of flexibility and empathy that is needed to make a pregnant woman feel supported in the workplace. My boss is a man, but I noticed very early on how involved he is in his children’s lives, from PTA to hockey practice, he’s there for his children, so I had a good feeling that he would understand – and he does.
The way your boss handles the news will inform you about your future and give you some time to plan your exit if the situation calls for it
The reality is that not all conversations will be positive. Legally a boss can’t discriminate against you for being pregnant but, unfortunately, we all know there are many ways to get around this. Use this time to assess your future with the company, if they are side eyeing you about having to leave early for an appointment, imagine what will happen when little Johnny gets sick at daycare and you have to leave work suddenly to pick him up?
I remember as a kid that my dad was typically the one who picked us up if we were sick or had us camped out in his office if we needed to say home from school. So, if your job isn’t flexible, hopefully you have a partner that does, and you can share the load.
My hope is that as we see more and more pregnant women and women with children in powerful positions that the anxiety of these types of conversations and fear of the backlash will be a thing of the past. Things have gotten better over time, but we still have a long way to go.
I hope you found these tips helpful.