This is an article in our Pregnancy Week by Week series, a resource to help you manage your job and life, through and after your pregnancy.
Week 6: Why You Might Want To Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant On The Early Side
Telling your boss you’re pregnant can be utterly nerve-wracking. That may be one reason that most women told us they told their bosses at the last minute possible. They hid their pregnancies at work for as long as they could, and only when they were experiencing morning sickness or it was becoming physically obvious did they choose to break the news.
That’s why we found it so fascinating to meet *Felicity (not her real name), who decided to tell her boss before she was showing.
Help us understand a bit about yourself. Where do you work, what is your job and how did that play a role in the way you felt about breaking the news of pregnancy?
Felicity: I work in the investment management industry as an investment associate. It is a fairly demanding job with both long hours and intense amounts of stress. It is an industry heavily dominated by men, and that fact definitely impacted how I viewed the announcement.
On one hand, I work for a group of men who are all husbands/ fathers, so I knew they would be excited for me. On the other hand, I work for a very small start-up firm and have a significant number of responsibilities. Announcing my pregnancy (and therefore, my absence) would impact everyone inside the organization, and that worried me.
But, my husband and I had made the decision to go start a family, and I was not going to let anything career get in the way of our joy...
How did you make the decision about when to tell your boss you were pregnant?
Felicity: It felt like EVERYONE I asked told me to wait as long as possible. Because this is my first child, I was not showing at all at 12 weeks, and thankfully did not have to hide any morning sickness (I just had the incredible exhaustion).
In my experience (both personally and through friends), I think women often spend too much time gathering advice and not enough time just making our own decisions. While I appreciated the advice of my professional colleagues in similar fields, I just went with my gut. I wanted them to know my joy and also be protected by the law.
When did you decide to tell your boss you were pregnant? How far along were you?
Felicity: I told my boss when I was 12 weeks along.
There were a few fairly long appointments coming up, and I didn’t want to say I had a plumber coming to my house or make up another excuses (which are unlike me and working in a small, open-concept office - people notice when you are not there)...
I am not a lawyer, but at a very basic level, I understood the laws (both federal and state): employers cannot discriminate against pregnant women. But, if they do not know you are pregnant, they do not know they are discriminating (i.e. I saw that as minimal protection). Thus, by telling them, they would know and need to honor my appointments without pushback.
Why do you think so many people wait until the last minute possible to share their news at work?
Felicity: I think people wait because of fear. When I googled the subject, it was mostly articles telling me to wait, and horror stories to back them up...I’m not a huge risk-taker, but I did feel strongly that it was time to shift the “burden” to my employer of both respecting me and my need for extra flexibility during this special time. Keeping the news to myself would have given me no protection.
Felicity made the conscious choice to break her news earlier than she had to, even though most of her friends and advice she read told her to wait. But her story has a happy ending:
When the day came (I chickened out several times), I approached my direct supervisor and pretty much blurted out, “I’m pregnant.” He was very happy for me!...I’m happy I chose to tell the team when I did. I told each person individually, and each was happier for me than the last. It was good to get it out in the open, and stop awkwardly avoiding sushi lunches!
Hopefully for any of you who want to tell your boss sooner rather than later, her words of encouragement and story will help!
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When did people tell HR they were pregnant?
When did people tell their bosses at work or HR that they were pregnant? It seems like generally my friends try to hide their news as long as possible but just curious whether that's really the consensus...
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