If you’re expecting, you may also be (ahem) expecting a daunting conversation with your boss about maternity leave.
Many pregnant women are nervous about sharing the big news with their supervisor at work, fearing they'll raise concerns about workload during their time away from the office. Some women also fear they'll be treated differently due to their pregnancy (that's called pregnancy discrimination – and sadly, it still sometimes happens.)
I asked business coach Joyce K. Reynolds, exactly how women should best approach the "I'm having a baby" conversation at work. Here's what she advises.
Pick your timing
“Practically speaking, it's smart to wait to inform the organization of a pregnancy until after the highest risk time for miscarriage has passed—generally 14 to 20 weeks,” Reynolds suggests.
Some women choose to share the news earlier, due to workplace hazards that need to be avoided during pregnancy or obvious pregnancy symptoms that give the game away.
Other women choose to wait until after a work appraisal, heading off concerns that their pregnancy announcement may influence the results of performance or salary reviews.
Whatever your timing, ensure your boss is the first person in the company you tell.
“It's also important to have kept this news from any other co-workers to prevent your situation from being 'leaked' to those most impacted by the situation— particularly your supervisor,” Reynolds says.
It’s really not a good look for your boss to learn of your pregnancy via the office gossip mill.
Make a plan for your maternity leave
Read up on your company's maternity policy so you can prepare the best options for your leave and return, and investigate answers to any questions you might have.
Remember, you’re guaranteed 12 weeks unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA,) as long as you and your company meet certain requirements. (Some states, such as Rhode Island and California, have even more robust maternity leave laws.)
It's most advantageous to make the pregnancy announcement in person, so Reynolds suggests asking for a brief time with the manager to discuss the matter.
"Be prepared to present your thinking on the most beneficial way to handle the maternity leave, suggestions on how to cover your responsibilities during your absence and what your return intentions are," she says.
In other words, arm yourself with a list of ideas and solutions for how your job can be managed in your absence. This is not your responsibility, technically, but it can help assuage your boss' worries about the workload.
Present your plan.
Throughout the meeting, remain confident and professional.
"While this is a joyful, personal time, it's particularly important for your company to be reassured that you are capable of, interested in and dedicated to planning good work/life balance in order to maintain your career while assuming motherhood responsibilities," Reynolds says.
If you're unsure of exactly how to share the news, fear not. Reynolds suggests the following script:
"Thank you for making time for me today. I wanted to let you know that I'm pregnant and would like to discuss preparations for maternity leave, my ideas on how to handle my work while I'm away and how I can best return to my job."
At this point your supervisor will most likely respond in a positive manner, Reynolds says. (You may even find that your boss has guessed your pregnancy already, and is not at all surprised!)
Before wrapping up the meeting, it’s a good idea to reinforce your commitment to the workplace.
"In presenting your plan, do your best to ensure a commitment to your current career track so your company knows of your intentions and that your return will be successful and well-received," Reynolds says.
"Don't wait too deep into the conversation to mention that you love your work, are very happy with the organization and look forward to returning," Reynolds advises. "Any such reassurances will underscore your intentions and help to achieve a positive outcome to the conversation."
That wasn’t so bad, was it?