When Should I Tell My Boss I’m Pregnant?
Oh, how I love getting updates from past question-asker people! Today, let’s check in with “anonymous” who was agonizing over when to tell a brand-new boss about a brand-new pregnancy. This is a Big Topic amongst the hordes of Googlers out there, and a big source of stress for most working women: What if they’re awful about it? What if my career suffers because of it, or all my coworkers hate me for it? What if they just up and find an “unrelated” reason to fire me? What about my benefits, rights to maternity leave, the decision to return or not?
Most of us know, in our hearts, that it’s best to be honest and disclose a pregnancy early on, or at least once you’ve passed the 12-week mark. Give your boss and co-workers plenty of notice and time to prepare for your absence, keep communication channels open and flexible as you discuss your post-baby plans. Stay professional and be met with professionalism in return. But most of us also know, in our heads, that people and bosses and workplaces can be discriminatory, heartless or just plan jerky. So we worry and second-guess how much we’re really valued at work and what our boss *really* thinks of us and then start with the late-night searches of the Web for horror stories about the awful stuff other companies tried to pull on pregnant employees.
Anonymous wanted to have her story out there on the record, for the next wave of pregnant and worried workers to find, so here it is:
When you last heard from me, I had a big week – I turned 29, got a new job after being laid off for four months, and “passed” a pregnancy test. I was writing to update you about what happened. About a week after you published my question, the guy who hired me (my boss’s boss), sent out an email to our entire department saying we had won a huge contract on a new project and if we could possibly think of anything that was going to affect our schedule in the next 18 months, we had to let him know as soon as possible. It felt like this was absolutely the time to tell him, even though I was not out of the first trimester.
So, after lunch one day, I followed him to his office, took a deep breath and asked to speak with him. I closed the door to his office which made him raise an eyebrow. My heart was pounding so hard I could barely hear myself talk. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I got your email and I need to talk with you. I know I have only been here a few weeks, but I just found out I am pregnant. I want to assure you I didn’t know before I was hired because I would have disclosed it. I also wanted to make sure to give you the most notice I could because of the email you sent out. I am feeling great and I don’t expect this to affect my performance at all.”
He was totally stoic. Like, just-had-my-face-botoxed stoic. I couldn’t read him at all. Very somberly, he asked, “Will you return to this job after you have the baby?” I said that I believed I would. Then, he cracked a huge smile, came around the desk, and pumped my hand with congratulations. He told me he has twins and having children is such a great experience. I told him that I didn’t want to tell anyone else until after I was out of the first trimester. He agreed. I had a great pregnancy. I did my work very well. And, I only gained 12 pounds the entire pregnancy. The coworkers never got that friendly (which is fine), but most of them didn’t realize I was pregnant until two months before I was due (when I “blossomed”). I had the baby by emergency c-section a month early, but had basically passed along most of my tasks. She was healthy and beautiful and perfect.
My company was amazing. Not only did they absolutely grant me the 12 weeks of FMLA (which was their legal right to deny me), they paid my short-term disability (which according to the company manual wasn’t supposed to kick in until I had worked so many hours, which I hadn’t), sent me flowers and cards, and emailed me when I sent pictures to our office manager. They couldn’t have been nicer. Really. I am so grateful.
Because I left a month early, I didn’t really have a chance to discuss going part-time with my boss, but I knew I couldn’t go back full time. With the commute, that put me away from the house 12.5 hours a day. I just couldn’t do it. I went back and forth. The day she was 7 weeks old, I called my boss to tell him I’d love to come back but couldn’t come back full time. I said I really appreciated all my company had done for me, but she was too young to leave for 60+ hours a week.
He said, “Ok.”
I said, “Ok. Well, I’ll let you talk to everyone and think about it and get back to me. I loved the work I was doing, but I know you expected me full time and I understand if you need someone else.”
He said, “No, you don’t understand. Ok. You can come back part time. I make these decisions and we want you back. Email me the date you are coming back and let me know your hours and the days you are working.”
Then, it turned out that if I worked 17.5 hours (two days), I got full benefits – retirement, health, FSA, vision and dental. So, I have been doing that 2 days a week. My mom watches the baby one day and my husband the other. I get (some) adult interaction and to be a valued member of a team. I can’t believe my luck, but I just wanted to update you. I thought the company would be kind of uncaring because they are a huge corporation and I had no ties, but instead they have been better than I ever would have thought.
I hope it works out for anyone else who might be Googling, looking for answers like I was. I’d say to them “Don’t be afraid! You can do it! Have courage to be honest with your employer! Do good work while you are there and they will see the value in you. It will all work out for the best.”