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Lesson Learned: Should You Come Clean About Your Pregnancy When Interviewing for A Job?

Mar22

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Alpha Mom Lesson LearnedMany years ago, I found myself facing an ethical dilemma. I was attempting a career transition. As a local TV news reporter for many years, I had burned out on the daily grind of covering murders, fires and snowstorms. I wanted more meaning in my life and believed the nonprofit world would make me feel inspired and give me more career satisfaction.

I found a wonderful creative nonprofit that was improving the lives of inner-city kids. I knew the minute I heard about it that I wanted to work there. They had a position open and I began a lengthy interview process.

And about half way through the process, I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I wanted to have a family but hadn’t expected it to happen so fast. I planned to work full time after the baby was born. But what should I tell my potential employer?

If I told the organization about my pregnancy, I was certainly risking not getting hired. Despite the fact that pregnancy discrimination is illegal. (An employer cannot treat a woman differently because she is pregnant, may become pregnant or because of a pregnancy-related leave of absence.)

But I’m a realist. I was convinced I would not get the job if I admitted the truth. So I remained silent. By the time I was hired, I was 4 months pregnant. By the time, I started, I was 5 months along and definitely having trouble concealing it. Plus, the mental anguish of keeping the secret was overwhelming me. I had to divulge the truth. Before my belly completely popped out.

It was worse than I ever imagined.  My new boss was angry. Really angry. And I couldn’t really blame her. This was not how I wanted to start a new job. Plus, this dream job turned out not to be so dreamy. In general, my boss was erratic, extremely demanding and difficult. On the upside, I loved helping the kids, I excelled in the position and my co-workers were wonderful.

Then I had my baby. My full-time working plan vanished in a moment. How could I leave this incredible little being five days a week? I ended up going back part-time which was a good compromise for a few years. I eventually left because I couldn’t handle my boss and I wanted to return to my journalism roots.

I have always regretted the decision I made to keep my pregnancy a secret for so long. I am a very honest person and it never felt right to me. If I told the truth, maybe they wouldn’t have hired me. But perhaps something else would have worked out that would have been a better fit.  Or maybe I wouldn’t even want to work for a company who I suspected would discriminate against a pregnant woman. Perhaps another company would have even been impressed with my integrity? It’s impossible to know.

In the end, any pregnant woman facing this dilemma needs to choose the best path for herself. A woman desperate for income and a job may find it’s just too risky to come clean before she is offered the position. And I wouldn’t judge her for that. Because given the choice between two-equally qualified candidates, wouldn’t an employer always chose the one who won’t be going on maternity leave? I think this is a fair assumption for any expectant mom in the current U.S. workplace culture. Hopefully, one day this might change.

But for me, this decision is on my list of regrets. And, the lesson I learned is that staying true to my moral compass is more important than any job.

About the author

Kelcey Kintner

http://www.mamabirddiaries.com/
Kelcey Kintner writes the humor blog, The Mama Bird Diaries and co-founded the cheeky advice site, The Mouthy Housewives. This Columbia Journalism School graduate also drives a gold minivan because you can't fit five kids on a Vespa. An award winning journalist, she still secretly longs to be an Olympic ice skater. You can follow her on Twitter @mamabirddiaries.


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19 Responses to “Lesson Learned: Should You Come Clean About Your Pregnancy When Interviewing for A Job?”

  1. Nicole Mar 22 at 11:09 pm Reply Reply

    For me, I wouldn’t tell in an interview. No way. Never. My industry is one of the worst for families (science/academia), and I know women who take their wedding rings off before they go on interviews.

    Also, your boss was way out of line! Other people just don’t get to have feelings about your reproductive choices, and I wouldn’t feel guilty for one second about not divulging very personal information to a woman who turned out to be unstable.

    • Kelcey Kintner
      Kelcey Kintner Mar 24 at 11:28 pm Reply Reply

      You make a good point about one’s reproductive choices being a private matter!

  2. Jenny Mar 23 at 2:12 pm Reply Reply

    I also went through a similar situation. Except, I’m a 4th year optometry student and I was applying for residencies in a very competitive field. I decided not to tell until I found it if I had matched. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was extremely nervous throughout tge time II was applying. I didn’t want to come across as deceptive. So, when I found out I matched I immediately called the supervisor and explained the situation. Thankfully, he was extremely supportive and understood that I was stressing about how it would all work out. Women have to understand that in today’s society we don’t have to sacrifice a family or our career. 

    • Kelcey Kintner
      Kelcey Kintner Mar 24 at 11:29 pm Reply Reply

      I’m glad he was supportive. It is a very stressful situation!

  3. leslie Mar 24 at 11:41 am Reply Reply

    Thankfully this is changing in many spheres, but not fast enough. I went on the academic job market three months pregnant, got a job and then told my new boss when we finally had to make decisions about what I would be teaching. I called her, super nervous, but I had been so impressed with her during my interview, so I knew she would be partially supportive (and she’s encouraging me to have a second!). She squealed and offered me full leave with pay for my first term! I ended up teaching one class as per my choice (my husband would stay at home after we moved and the baby was 2 1/2 months old when classes began). It was still tough, but the dept has been amazing. And still is. However, I just heard in another dept where the chair said to a woman applying for leave: ‘well, my wife went back to work after two weeks, so why can’t you?’ So it’s a personality issue, for sure.
    I’m not sure I would frame telling as a moral issue, but as a realistic choice to be made. I got lucky, for sure. But it’s good to confront employers with this issue as well in order to help confront the reality of these issues. It’s stressful no matter what. 

    • Kelcey Kintner
      Kelcey Kintner Mar 24 at 11:30 pm Reply Reply

      I think that’s what makes it so inherently stressful. Different bosses can react so differently! I’m so glad you found a supportive one.

  4. Amanda Mar 25 at 12:55 pm Reply Reply

    I am thankful that I have not been in this position, as I can only imagine how hard that would be. I have been told by others, though, that the best time to disclose a pregnancy is at the time of the offer. That way you aren’t jeopardizing your chances of getting the job by telling during the interview process, but you’re also not risking coming across as deceiving by telling too much later.

    Of course, this only applies if you’re at a point where you feel comfortable disclosing at the time of the offer. I certainly wouldn’t feel obligated to tell if I were still in the first trimester. In that case, I think waiting until the standard 12 weeks is what most people would do.

    • Kelcey Kintner
      Kelcey Kintner Mar 25 at 11:30 pm Reply Reply

      I think that’s great advice!

  5. suburbancorrespondent Mar 25 at 2:22 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve never been in this position – not because I have never been pregnant, but because I’ve never been at all competitive for what I wistfully refer to as a “real job.” The highest-stakes interview I’ve had was for a part-time retail job in a bookstore, a few years ago. One of the questions I was asked was “What situations stress you out?” I told them, “Nothing stresses me out; I have 6 kids.”

    So I guess that was honest. And I got the job.

  6. Steph Mar 26 at 10:47 am Reply Reply

    Can’t imagine how stressed you must have been trying to determine when to tell the boss. I stressed about telling my boss even though I was confident he would be supportive. I’m sorry your boss had such a negative reaction. Love how you write non-judgmentally (is that a word?) regarding other women’s choices.

  7. Susan Mar 26 at 10:38 pm Reply Reply

    I’m in a somewhat similar position now. My dream job just opened up and I’ve applied, but it’s working at a private school and I’m due in August. Definitely not the best timing. If they do call me for an interview, I’ve decided I’m going to tell them during the first meeting. I really can’t hide it at this point and since I’m due when the job starts, I feel like I have to let them know. Mostly, I know there is no way they will hire me because of the timing, which makes me really sad and a little frustrated, but I just couldn’t not apply. And you’re right about never knowing how someone may react. Wish me luck!

  8. Kathy Mar 27 at 3:52 pm Reply Reply

    Susan – OUr school district hired two teachers this past summer and both were expecting. On delivered before school started but took 6 weeks of leave and one made it through the first week of school and then took leave. I think you just never know.

    I have been in this position and was working as a temp in state government when I found out I was pregnant. I knew I could be let go for any reason as a temp and didn’t feel the need to give them a reason. When I finally told my boss I was 5 months pregnant. For a man wihtout children he sure was happy for me. When he asked why I didn’t tell him sooner I explained my reasoning. He was so hurt that I worried they would let me go because of that. 4 months after my daughter was born I was offered a full time position and have been with the state for the last 13 1/2 years. Sometimes things just work out.

  9. Adrianne29 Mar 31 at 5:28 am Reply Reply

    I had my first interview in the morning, and found out I was pregnant that afternoon. Didn’t say anything during my next two interviews and wore sea bands to keep my nausea at bay. I told my boss I was pregnant 2 weeks after starting (10 weeks pregnant). I was SO nervous! Thankfully she and my high-up bosses took it well. Unfortunately I haven’t been with my co long enough to qualify for FMLA but I do get the 6 weeks. I am glad I never said anything during the interview process. Why would I? It’s barely affected my work performance and my employer obviously felt I was the best candidate for the position.

  10. Faye Conway Apr 22 at 5:10 pm Reply Reply

    A little over 31 years ago, I made the same decision when I was interviewing for a position with a very large company. I am a larger women and the first 3 months I lost a lot of wieght from morning sickness, I was 5 month along when I interviewed and 6 months when I started. 2 weeks after I started, I was sent to the company medical staff for my hiring physical so I knew I had to tell my manager. She was okay with my pregnancy and I told her I would be gone for 6 weeks and then back to work. Our company always had summer hires so one of them filled my position while I was out. I was with that company for 28 years and this June my son will be 31 years old. I never regretted not saying anything at the interview because I am sure I would not have been considered.

  11. Cayla LaMont Jun 14 at 3:34 pm Reply Reply

    I was working at a Consulting firm when I found out I was pregnant, they werent very supportive of me. Shortly after I told them, they fired me (said it had nothing to do with me being pregnant, they just needed to “downsize”). I went on unemployment but knew I wouldn’t be able to afford bills let alone stuff for the baby, so I decided to look for a job (being 6 months pregnant). I was up front and honest at all of my interviews…most people completely changed the way they acted towards me after I told them. I never heard back from any of them. I eventually went through a temp agency and they managed to help me find a receptionist job. When I went into an interview with the company I would be working with my future boss was so supportive and they are accomadating everything I need from my leave to having a secret room for me to pump on breaks.

  12. Stephanie Nov 17 at 7:04 pm Reply Reply

    I was interviewing for a position last year and found out I was pregnant. I did tell them and they decided to stop the interviewing process. But in hindsight I would have told them anyway.  The reason being that if it is a good company and they truly want you, they won’t care.  They will see the long view. If they are a shortsighted company and do t hire your, the. That tells you about their priorities, too, and tells you that they are not for you. In a way it’s a good litmus test. 

  13. Summer Feb 13 at 5:52 pm Reply Reply

    I think it is irresponsible to keep it a secret. I can understand why the boss was mad. When you have a baby, you need time off. It is only fair to the company to know that before they hire you. And no, your reproductive issues are a private matter, I get that, but to deliberately leave out that information is selfish in my opinion.

  14. Nicole Mar 05 at 5:08 pm Reply Reply

    I found out that I was pregnant recently, after receiving and accepting a new job offer, but before my upcoming start date.  I will be 8 weeks when I start the new job and am very nervous about telling my new employer.  I’ve had a miscarriage in the past, so still feel uncomfortable spilling the news to anyone before 12 weeks.  I’m confident about my decision, but incredibly nervous about sharing the news.  Like this author, I’m an honest person and concealing the news makes me feel dishonest. 

  15. Name (required) Jul 29 at 12:35 pm Reply Reply

    What does pregnancy have to do with your ability to perform job duties?  My new employee told me she was 6 months pregnant on her second day of work. It allowed me to cross train another employee during her absence.  The new mom was the most loyal employee I have ever worked with, 14 years later we are still in touch.

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