Congrats, you’re going to have a baby!
You’re probably over the moon about your upcoming arrival and already daydreaming about baby names and nursery decor. But if you’re like the many moms-to-be I coach, you’re also a little nervous about the road ahead, and what it means for your career.
You’re probably wondering how your pregnancy will be perceived by your coworkers. Whether you’re the first pregnant woman in the office, or the tenth, it can be tricky to navigate telling your employer that you’re expecting.
Your first conversation with your boss about your pregnancy and maternity leave is an important opportunity to set the tone for how motherhood will impact your career.
Set yourself up for success in this initial conversation by avoiding these six pitfalls.
1. Framing your pregnancy as bad news or a problem
Sometimes we mistakenly think that motherhood will make us appear less focused professionally, but the opposite is true. A recent study even found that "mothers of at least two children are, on average more productive than mothers of only one child, and mothers in general are more productive than childless women.”
So becoming a mom can make you even more productive than you ever thought possible because you value your time away from home more than ever before.
Don’t apologize for being pregnant or see your news as an inconvenience for others.
2. By waiting so long it’s really obvious (i.e. that bump is BIG!)
This is just awkward for everyone involved so do yourself a favor and tell your boss before your bump is a basketball. If you feel like you’re majorly showing before you’re in the second trimester and you’re not ready to tell your boss, then it can be helpful to wear loose maternity clothing to give you some extra time. Plus it’s comfy.
3. In a group setting, such as when mentioning that you can’t have a glass of wine
Tell your boss in private, I repeat, tell your boss in private. The conversation will go more smoothly, I promise.
4. Through a co-worker
If you want your boss to respect you, then you need to respect your boss. She needs to be the first to know that you’re expecting so that she can plan and be prepared for your maternity leave. While you might be wanting to tell your office friends that you’re expecting, hold off until you’ve talked to your boss.
5. By talking about how you plan to quit after you return from maternity leave
As Sheryl Sandberg says, “don’t leave before you leave.” Even if you think you want to leave the workforce after your baby is born, it’s impossible to know how you’ll feel until your child actually arrives. Give yourself space and permission to make this big decision after your baby is born, and you get a chance to adjust to the demands of motherhood. You never know, you might welcome the “break” of going back to work, as you’ll be able to drink your coffee in peace.
6. In the midst of an especially stressful time for your boss/company, in the middle of a negative performance review, or alongside bad news
You can’t completely orchestrate the perfect timing to tell your boss that you’re expecting, but you can try to schedule the conversation during a non stressful time. So if the quarter is about to close and everyone is rushing to meet their numbers, maybe wait until after that final push.
Need tips for navigating maternity leave? Grab The Wise Mama Guide to Maternity Leave on Amazon or hire an executive coach to help set you up for success.
Lisa Abramson is an executive coach, TEDx speaker and bestselling author of The Wise Mama Guide to Maternity Leave. She is the founder of Wise Mama and the co-founder of Mindfulness Based Achievement, which teaches high potential women leaders how to create sustainable success.