Telling your coworkers you're pregnant can be nerve-wracking, even when you love, love, love your job. When I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, I worked on one of the most unbelievably supportive teams, and I was shaking in my boots.
It made no sense.
I knew all of the smart, driven, ambitious women I worked with would be happy and excited for me and be filled with congratulations, and yet, I just couldn’t get rid of this overarching sense of dread. Seriously, I think I felt more nauseous due to my pregnancy announcement than I ever did when dealing with morning sickness. So, in the hopes of stopping some future (soon-to-be) working mamas from falling into this same trap, I’ve cataloged my biggest mental roadblocks and what you can do to turn it around when you're anxiety-ridden about making your pregnancy announcement.
My worry: I thought I was letting everyone down. Being a pregnant woman comes with its physical ailments but this psychological moment can be equally as tough.
After I shared my news, met people with hugs and high fives, I realized I was my own worst enemy.
Most of my anxiety was rooted in negative self-talk that kept cycling through my thoughts: they’ll think you’re giving up, they won’t take you seriously anymore, they’ll think you don’t appreciate the career advancement you’ve been given. Instead, reaffirm yourself, reminding yourself that this a normal step and that you will still be the professional you were before your pregnancy. If your colleagues know you, they will know this as well.
I found out I was pregnant shortly after being awarded a higher position and a great big project. Yikes!
If you’re in the same boat, you might be feeling guilty that you won’t be around to see your pet project to fruition, or that you’re letting down the team that promoted you by leaving them in a lurch. Would they have still promoted me if they knew I’d be taking mat leave in six months? Will they feel like I’ve dumped this giant workload on a now smaller team?
That job? That project? You earned it! So let’s not dwell on the past. Instead, start thinking about your future at the company, and how you will continue to excel leading up to your leave and after your return to work. Mimic this thinking in your language with colleagues, “When I get back, I can’t wait to jump on that project”, “Interesting! If you have time, I’d like to share some initial ideas before going off on leave.” If you see and project yourself as a person that’s committed to the long-term success of your team, your colleagues will see that, too.
Having an incredible working mother or two on your team who’s already been in your shoes should be a huge asset to you, not a source of anxiety. However, it can be easy to hold yourself up against your public perception of this mama mentor.
When you’ve been modeling yourself after a working mom who seems to be able to do it all (How is she always in before me? How is she always so put together? I don’t even have kids yet!), the working mama hustle can seem next to impossible. You’re telling yourself that there’s no way you can handle motherhood as well as she does.
Just because you’ve professionally modeled yourself after this rockstar working mom, doesn’t mean that there needs to be equivalence in all aspects of your lives.
Remind yourself that you’re just seeing the work version of her and that you have no idea what goes into making that happen when you have a new member of a soon-to-be-larger family. Chances are, she’ll be your biggest champion when it comes to taking your maternity leave and ramping back into work. She’s been there.
Before announcing your pregnancy at work (typically sometime after the first trimester and the risk of miscarriage recedes) to your manager and co-workers, you’ve probably already consulted your contract and the local legislation to see what you’re entitled to for your maternity leave.
But there’s a problem. In the years that you’ve been working for this company, you’ve noticed a completely different approach. Mamas are returning to the office sooner than they’re obligated to, and you’re worried that the same will be expected of you.
Find out your company's maternity leave policy and then try to get a sense of whether it's culturally respected. It will probably be easier to do this after you make the big announcement and not immediately after you get a positive reading on your pregnancy test.
And I’m not just talking about your HR manual and company policy. I’m talking about reading the room and reading the mood of your fellow working mamas and co-workers when they return to work. It might not be the case that they’ve had pressure put on them to return sooner. To the contrary, mat leave isn’t for everyone and some may be choosing to come back earlier than planned—I know I did!
So, strike up a conversation to better understand their maternity leave plans. This way when you approach your supervisor about planning for maternity leave, you can present a plan that brings together your entitlements and what you hope for your maternity leave.
You don't have to get into the nitty-gritty. All you really need to say is that you're pregnant and will be taking maternity leave. The specifics of what, exactly, you tell people will vary according to their role and your relationship. HR, for example, will probably do most of the talking in this case, informing you about their policies. Meanwhile, if you're telling, say, direct reports, you'll want to outline coverage and the people to whom they will be reporting for the interim period. Your manager will want to know your particular plans. If you're closer to some colleagues than others, it will be natural to share more of the details.
Telling people in person is the most ideal way to share your news, but this may not always be possible. For example, if your workplace is remote, you'll probably need to end up emailing people about your news.
Again, you don't need to go too far into the details — merely state the facts and change the information you provide based on the audience. The subject can get straight to the point: "Pregnancy news," for instance. In the body, state the facts, say that you'll assist with a smooth transition and provide additional facts as needed.
By law, you don't have to disclose your pregnancy in an interview. However, it may be in your best interest to do so, because it's information your manager and team will need to have if you do get hired. After all, it could put them in a difficult spot if you're hired and they find out they immediately need coverage later on.
Also, bear in mind that it's illegal to discriminate against an employee or prospective for being pregnant — which is not to say it doesn't happen. But legally, they're not allowed to deny you the job for this reason.
It may not be easy to share your baby news at work, but I hope that I’ve helped to remove some of the obstacles that may be in your way mentally when it comes to sharing the good news.
All workplaces and colleagues are different, so keep what you know about your work environment in mind and tailor how you announce your pregnancy at work accordingly.
I know these examples don’t even begin to cover it, so feel free to tell me what your biggest mental roadblocks are as you lead up to the announcement!
Lisa Durante is a Toronto-based working mama who believes in the power of AND. She offers real life insights and practical solutions that you can use to prepare for baby’s arrival as well as your life as a working mama.
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