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Kate in Waltham, MA @KateOBrien

7 Things You Need to Know If You’re Afraid to Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant

Telling your boss you're pregnant can be stressful for working moms to be

Congratulations! You’re expecting! But now it’s time to tell your boss you're pregnant -- a conversation many working moms to be will dread. 

With more and more employers offering progressive parental leave polices, you might think it would be easier for moms-to-be to approach the subject with their boss than it’s been in the past. However, even in the most family friendly cultures, it can be a scary topic to approach since you don’t know how your boss, co-workers or company will react. In fact, a recent Care.com member poll revealed nearly half of women (47 percent) are still afraid of telling their boss they’re pregnant.

Announcing you’re pregnant should be exciting, not fear-inducing. Here’s what you need to know if you’re afraid to share your pregnancy news with your boss.

1. Preparation is Key
Having plans in place for when you’re on maternity leave can prevent harmful stress and you’ll feel at ease stepping away from your work to recover and bond with your baby if you know who is taking on your responsibilities. 

See if HR has template transition plans for maternity leave, or if they have an absence management provider like LeaveLogic that could assist in your planning. Think about who might take on your responsibilities and what major projects they’ll need to be aware of. When you eventually get the courage to tell your boss you’re pregnant, they will be comforted knowing you have ideas and solutions ready for how your workload will be covered while you’re on leave. Even if plans change, removing the initial worries that maternity leave can incite in your boss eases the conversation.

2. It’s Never Too Early to Find a Caregiver
There are so many choices for child care, and once you announce your pregnancy, your friends and family will be sure to voice their opinions. Whether it’s a nanny, day care or an arrangement with family or friends, find a care plan that works for you, and start the process before you share the good news with your boss.

Though you aren’t obligated to share what child care option you plan to pursue, your care arrangements will factor into your transition plans – especially if you expect your child care needs will affect your schedule. Are your hours flexible to where you can start or end your day around pickup times or your nanny’s hours? These are elements you’ll need to talk to HR and work with your manager to figure out, but you can't until you get your care arrangements lined up. 

3. What Your Ideal Maternity Leave Looks Like
The length of maternity leave varies from one mother to the next. Some new moms are eager to return to work after giving birth, while others would prefer to extend their leave as long as possible. Consider what will work best for you and your family. Research how much time your employer’s leave policy allows for – this information should be available in the company handbook or a conversation with HR.

What are you entitled to? It may vary depending on where you live, so read up on your state laws, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and take a look at your employment contract as well. Some employers offer paid leave, however paid maternity leave isn’t mandated in the United States, so paid parental leave is actually only available to about 12 percent of private sector workers. 

Consider these three important steps to figuring out how much leave you can take:

  • Determine if you have paid leave through your company or state
  • Look at your budget and determine how long you can afford to be on leave with reduced or no compensation
  • Work with your spouse or partner to determine what works best for you and your family. Does your spouse’s employer offer flexible leave? With a little creativity, you could delay the need for full time child care. 

4. It’s Okay to Announce on Your Terms…

Wait until you’re ready for people to know you’re pregnant. Sharing your news before you’re ready could cause unnecessary worry, which won’t help you remain calm and professional when talking to your manager. Most people would suggest any time after 12 weeks is appropriate, considering the chance of miscarriage decreases at this point.

But that's not necessarily the best time for everyone. If you know you have important projects coming up or you'd be expected to travel later than you want to, it could make sense to time your announcement so that you can avoid uncomfortable conversations and your team can proactively make alternate arrangements.

Of course, in other cases it’s acceptable to wait until your second trimester, or even later, as long as you give your employer 30 days’ notice before taking unpaid leave, as required by the FMLA. 

5. ...But Also Make Sure the Timing’s Not Terrible for Your Team
You might think that Monday would be a great time to share your exciting news with your boss, as it gives them the most time to digest the news during the week. Your boss would disagree. Everyone hates Mondays, so try not to add to the stress of returning to work after the weekend. Fridays are also out, since your boss will have to wait till after the weekend to discuss the news further. Try to choose a day that is not especially stressful, and avoid days with important deadlines, as your boss could see your announcement as just another thing for them to worry about. 

6. How to Minimize Disruptions for You and Your Team
Once you announce your pregnancy, you might be ducking in and out of work for doctors’ appointments. Maybe you need to take some sick days if you’re feeling especially nauseated or fatigued.

See if your company has flexible work options for those days where it doesn’t make sense for you to commute to the office. If your doctor is closer to home, schedule your work from home days around appointments -- or try to schedule appointments around those work from home days. There are some days where you must be in the office, but leveraging technology like Skype, email, and phone keeps you and your team connected when you can’t be there in person. 

7. You’re Still a Valuable Member of Your Team
Being pregnant doesn’t change who you are. In a healthy pregnancy, there’s no reason a mom-to-be can’t be an A+ employee right up until her due date. For as long as you’re able, continue to do your best work so your boss -- and you and your co-workers -- remember how valuable you are when you’re on leave. "If this is a place you want to stay and grow, you want to look out for your employers and be perceived as a team player,” recommends therapist and author Dr. Judi Cinéas.

With these things in mind, you can have a productive discussion with your boss that will alleviate both of your worries. Remember, your pregnancy is exciting news, so don’t be afraid to be happy about it.