Cue the confetti! You're pregnant, which deserves to be celebrated. But after a few toasts with a non-alcoholic beverage, your thoughts will likely turn to when and how you'll share the news of your pregnancy with your employer and transition into being a working mother. The good news is that progress is on your side.
"The workplace landscape has changed, and women increasingly feel like they can bring their whole selves to work," says Hibaaq Abdillahi, community manager at The Mom Project, a digital talent marketplace and community that connects professionally accomplished women to remote, flexible, and project-based work. "Therefore, the timing of a pregnancy announcement has become much more subjective."
In other words, instead of blindly heeding the antiquated rule of waiting until after your first trimester but before it's visibly obvious that you are expecting to share the news, women are now freer to make the decision based on their job circumstances and personal preference.
Here are seven tips for announcing your pregnancy and making the transition into being a working mom.
1. Figure out when you feel comfortable sharing the news
If you work from home, you might choose to keep your pregnancy to yourself a little longer — especially if the culture of your work environment doesn't normally celebrate new arrivals. However, if your pregnancy is requiring you to take off from work for medical appointments or morning sickness, you might decide to disclose early on so that your team understands your absences and can plan around them.
"Transparency in this kind of situation can be a beautiful thing," says Francisca Martinez, chief human resources officer, Europe, Middle East & Africa at Marriott International. "It can give your team and your manager the opportunity to get organized."
2. Tell your manager or boss first
The last thing you want is your pregnancy to be the juicy gossip everyone's chatting about in the break room, on the elevator, or at the start of your team's weekly Zoom call. So, when you're ready, schedule a time to tell your manager or Human Resource officer directly.
"I would hate to find out by chance that somebody on my team is pregnant," says Martinez. "It's a reason to celebrate, and it can bring a team closer together when everyone gets to know each other better as people, not just work colleagues."
3. Get to know your company's parental leave policies
Once you have shared your news, start doing your homework. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not have paid attention to what your company offers to new parents. Now is the time to investigate.
It's also important to know your rights as stated in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. For more information on your legal protections, contact the Office on Women's Health or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
4. Help plan for coverage
Who knows your job best? You do. Which makes you the best person to help onboard a temporary replacement, or map out your responsibilities so that other team members know exactly what normally falls under your purview. So, well before you head off on maternity leave, craft a thorough and up-to-date job description, and work with your team to ensure no tasks or projects fall between the cracks while you're gone. This will make it easier for you to enjoy your time away — and to hit the ground running when you come back.
5. Don't apologize or be insecure
Although expecting mothers are protected legally, workplace culture at some companies can still make mothers-to-be feel marginalized. In addition, expecting moms sometimes worry that they're not going to be able to find the balance once the baby arrives. But you've got this.
"Some employees are afraid to talk about their pregnancies because they feel like their boss and their peers might think that they're not able to do both," says Martinez. "It's a confidence issue." But the more women apologize for or downplay their pregnancies, the more the workplace culture will continue to perpetuate the myth that women of child-bearing age are a drag on the workforce. Plus, your company has a department tasked with handling these issues and supporting you. It's called Human Resources. So, no apologies necessary.
6. Learn how your company supports new mothers
Not sure how your company actually supports new parents? Ask an HR rep to give you the full low-down on the concrete ways they make life easier for mothers upon returning to the office. Some things you might want to suss out before you go on maternity leave might be:
- Whether or not there's a lactation room for nursing mothers. If not, what options exist?
- Is there an onsite or nearby daycare? If so, what's the application process and how long is the waitlist?
- Does your company permit job sharing or work from home options? How and where would you apply for that consideration?
- Is there separate paid paternity leave?
If your company isn't large enough to have an HR staff or appears to be non-compliant with the requirements stipulated in the Family and Medical Leave Act (such as adequate break time to express milk and access to your regular health care coverage), find out more about your rights and get advice for seeking the onsite support you need from the Office on Women's Health (which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
7. Think about the future
No one can predict exactly how they'll manage everything once the baby arrives. You might decide to go back to work as soon as you can, or you might opt to take some time off beyond your maternity leave. Either way, now is the time to listen closely to how others in your workplace manage both professional and family commitments. If you have an ally or mentor at the office, ask questions about how they navigated working through pregnancy and returning to their team. If you don't have an ally, there might still be time to cultivate a relationship or at least listen hard for clues about which executives or HR officers are most helpful to new mothers and young families.
Ultimately, women can and should feel more comfortable than ever before telling employers about their exciting news. "Women in the workplace don't have to parent in silence anymore," Abdillahi says. "Your two personas — i.e., whoever you are at home and at work — can now mix together. It's empowering."