You’re going to have a baby! Congrats on your exciting news! We know you’ll want to tell the whole world (or at least your Facebook friends) soon, but first, consider how to tell your boss you’re pregnant.
It’s not as hard or uncomfortable as you might think, as long as you follow some basic steps that moms and pros have shared with us.
1. Know your basic benefits + rights.
Do your homework about your company’s maternity leave policy as well as your state’s maternity leave laws. You don’t have to become an expert, but it’s helpful to be familiar with the basics. If you’d prefer not to march straight over to HR the day you see the + sign, you might try asking a new mother in the office for the lowdown. You’ll feel much better if you walk into this sensitive conversation with some knowledge under your belt.
2. Tell your boss first, even if your colleagues are your friends.
You don’t want your boss to hear your baby news from someone else or because of your Facebook or Instagram posts. When you’re ready to share the news, try the following order of operations: Check in with HR, tell your boss and then go wild on social media sharing the news!
One reason to consider telling your boss first is that they may be too nervous to bring it up, even if they hear it from someone else. As prominent employment lawyers have noted, for many managers, even mentioning pregnancy and child-rearing is off limits. They may feel too awkward to ask you about something they heard from another person.
3. Consider your timing.
Most women tell their employer they’re pregnant sometime around the end of their first trimester or in the early part of their second trimester.
That’s partially because the risk of miscarriages is significantly reduced at that point. This timing also corresponds with when many women start to “show.”
However, if you have an important deal, project or performance review, you may want to consider telling your manager afterwards, as some women say it can help to have a little momentum at your back before making the announcement. Just be careful about waiting too long: There’s a lot to cover for in your absence and you’ll want to make sure you empower your boss and coworkers with sufficient time to plan.
4. Do it in person + be up-front + brief.
This meeting is the first time you’ll be telling your boss you’re pregnant, but it’s not the last time you’ll be talking about it with them.
If at all possible, you should tell your manager the news face-to-face, if for no other reason than to gauge their reaction.
In this initial conversation, tell your boss that you will share a plan about your maternity leave (if any), and try to defer details about dates and other logistics until another time. This gives you more space to consider how your work life and personal life are developing in the coming months.
5. Calm your nerves first.
We know that not being nervous is easier said than done. Working moms everywhere worry about being judged as wishy-washy about their careers or less dedicated to their jobs. These perceptions play out in subtle ways, and while they are real, you should hold your head up high.
First, other people’s biases are largely out of your control, so try not to waste too much energy worrying about them. Second, you should aspire to communicate confidence about the upcoming change in your life regardless of how uncertain you may actually feel. One study found a correlation between women who worried a lot about how they would be perceived when pregnant at work with higher levels of burnout.
It also might help you if you talk to other working parents around you. They can share their experiences and you will probably hear how “mom skills” can be assets in the workplace. You might also be surprised at how supportive working fathers are.
In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing pregnancy discrimination laws, issued new guidance for companies that offer parental leave. In short, the EEOC stated that there are only certain medical reasons to offer mothers longer parental leaves than fathers. In other words, your male colleagues should support your time off to bond with your child because (among other reasons) they should be entitled to it, too.
Everything from time management to people skills can improve after motherhood—which tests even the most competent professionals in areas like resource allocation and patience!
You’re a mama now, and you can do amazing things. We’re rooting for you!