I’m pregnant. it is kind of early in my first trimester. I haven’t told anyone at work (just our close family). I know that after the baby is born I don’t want to go back to work full time and I may not want to go back at all. When should I tell my boss I’m pregnant and when should we talk about my returning to work?
Baby Bump in Boston
Dear Baby Bump in Boston,
Congratulations! So excited for you. Big life change coming at you. This is a great question and one I think most women who have children grapple with. Here are my thoughts for you.
I wouldn’t tell your boss about the baby until mid-2nd trimester. Lots can happen in your first trimester and you don’t need to share this news so early. Once you are solidly in your 2nd trimester you will definitely start to show and I would disclose to your boss about your baby and your due date. That said - if you are suffering from any first trimester health issues that require some workplace accommodations, then I would tell your boss sooner. But if you are managing just fine right now, then keep it your business for a bit longer.
I assume you are a woman of child bearing age, so your boss (male or female) has probably already made the assumption that you are going to get pregnant some day. So the news you are having a baby shouldn’t be a huge deal or a big shock. When you are ready to tell your boss, I’d focus on the due date, the maternity leave policy and making sure there is a plan in place to cover your workload while you are gone. More time for the team to plan is good, so don’t wait to start this conversation for too long.
However, I feel very strongly that you should not plan beyond the maternity leave with your boss right now. You don’t know what adding a baby to your life is going to be like and I wouldn’t make life plans that far in advance in collaboration with your boss. You should make all these decisions together with your family (partner, etc). My suggestion is to plan for a regular maternity leave, taking advantage of whatever policies your workplace has to give you. You do NOT need to start negotiating about part-time or not returning at all right now. Give yourself the full pregnancy and maternity leave to make these plans known to your boss.
Again, most bosses, make assumptions about women and babies. They assume some aren’t coming back or aren’t going to be as engaged when they do come back. So instead of tipping your hand about that - tell them you are planning on coming back on xy date and at full time.
Then once you’ve made up your mind about what you want for your family (once the little one has arrived), you can begin the negotiation process with your boss. If you are planning on not returning at all, you still want the maternity leave coverage and benefits through your labor/delivery and post delivery phase (this stuff costs a lot of money) and you may have a better sense of your availability and needs once you know about this kid and your needs.
If you decide you want to return to work in some part-time capacity, this is a different negotiation and depending on your workplace and flex time policies it may be hard or easy to have that conversation, but I’d wait until you know what you want.
I have one other piece of advice I give to ALL women who want to have families and have jobs and I stole it from Sheryl Sandberg - lean in to your work before they know you are pregnant and/or before your maternity leave. Get the raise, the promotion, the interesting project before you depart. If you do want to come back to work right away or later, you want something interesting to come back to. Don’t assume you will be less engaged or less productive and don’t let your boss assume that either. Get the raise and if you leave, you will have little more in your pocket for your time with your family and if you decide to go back to work you will have a higher salary expectation.
Good luck with the pregnancy. When you are on your maternity leave and decide what you want to do, write back and we can talk about the negotiation!