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How to Tell Your Boss You're Pregnant

Updated on May 14, 2008

Dropping the Baby Bomb

Pregnancy – for the working woman, it’s either the ultimate dream or a horrific nightmare. If, like me, you’ve recently discovered that you’ve become a human incubater, you need to know how to maneuver the uneasy position of dropping that “Baby Bomb” on your boss? Telling your employer the happy news can detonate an explosion of irreversible damage and unimaginable force. What is the best way to unleash that fury?

Instead of celebrating my news of impending motherhood, I find myself afraid to tell my boss. I've been trying to conceal it from her for fear of my job security. I know legally she can’t fire me. But realistically, I am anticipating a change in our relationship I would prefer to leave status quo. While I want—and need—to continue to work postpartum, my greatest fear is that no matter how much I give, she will still feel that I’m not giving all that is needed. My husband calls it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Guilt will raise its head in my mind and "not 100%" might rear its head in hers. I will be looking for signs that she wants to fire me while she watches the time I come in and how early I leave.

Currently, our foundation is solid. She is a hard worker who expects the same from her employees and I am proud to work by her side. For the most part, I believe the feelings are mutual—though there is always this nagging feeling that no matter how well I do my job, ultimately I am replaceable. This leaves me frightened to the core to tell her I’m pregnant. Let’s be honest here. She has kids. She knows all too well about prenatal check-ups, lab tests, morning sickness—all these things that will make me not quite so available to her anymore, and that’s just during the pregnancy. Because by the way, I’ll be taking maternity leave too…like several months. And then after that, it’s doctor’s appointments for the baby, days off when the baby gets sick, days off when I get sick from the baby…Shall I go on?

My boss is more than just a savvy business woman, she’s also a superb mom. She’ll know that my infant child will be my first priority. I’ll be leaving work for feedings instead of staying late for after-hours events. If and when the baby’s ill, I will be at his side. And because I am choosing to breastfeed, aye yigh yigh. There will be time during the day, every day, when I am totally and completely unavailable to her so I can express milk (this will drive her absolutely crazy). And then there are potential obstacles with full-time daycare (like when they’re closed for holidays, etc…), days off to take trips to visit the grandparents, etc. In her mind it’ll just be a matter of time before I leave for baby la la land anyway.

Ever since starting my job (doing marketing communications for a winery), I’ve heard my boss remark about how much she really doesn’t like babies. How women, especially those who have children later in life, fall in love with their new babies and motherhood and let their careers ultimately fall to the wayside. In casual conversations she would mention how she hated the whole changing diapers thing, getting fat, breastfeeding, crying, spitting up – all the glorious things I am looking forward to sharing with my exquisite newborn baby.

It’s not easy to find your place in the world today. Most of us work long and hard at our careers to get to where we want to be. Once there, it’s not easy to just walk away from. If you could see where I work you’d immediately understand why those who know me say this is a dream job and why I am not ready to give it all up. My office overlooks acres of magnificent grape vineyards in an idyllic country setting. From my desk, I watch as the wildlife abounds from my window; deer, quail, hawks and great blue herons, just to name a few. The grape vines bloom, ripen and die back each season with such splendor and a canvas of colors—it’s a feast for the eyes.

Daily, I wander through the gardens planted by the matriarch, admiring what’s in high season; lilies, irises, figs, daffodils, rose hips, blueberries and herbs a-plenty. I saunter through the tasting room, mingling with guests regaling tales of their journeys near and far. As I make my way through the back doors, I am enveloped by racks of French oak barrels stained burgundy with the wine they contain. The heady smells of the aging wine wafts up, intoxicating, as I try to identify all the individual aromas; cherries, blackberries, vanilla…. I find my way to the main offices where I collect my things and chat with some of the most collegial workers any employee could wish for. I really am very fortunate, I don't just have a great job, I have a fabulous job. My dilemma is clear and the way I see it, I have four options:

Option One –Create a Decoy: Spill the beans when the boss is distracted by other serious company business. Tell her that the French are no longer making wine barrels anymore. Then give your supply list, complete with requests for a ream of paper, a stapler that works and a nanny.

Option Two – Sneak Attack: Wait till things are quiet and stable, and when it’s least expected…leave this article on the boss’s desk and let the chips fall where they may.

Option Three – Use Evasive Maneuvers: During the staff meeting, blurt out “I’m pregnant” and then run and hide behind your co-workers using them for cover.

Option Four – Sitting Duck: Wait till they figure out your little secret and outright ask you. You can probably buy yourself a few months time utilizing the current fashion trend of loose fitting blouses. My boss, however, acutely aware of physical appearances is certain to notice my expanding waistline very soon, if she hasn’t already.

All joking aside, ultimately what it comes down to is that no matter how I tell my employer I’m pregnant, my secret will come out long before the baby does. I want to tell her that nothing’s going to change, that I’ll be the same dedicated, hard working person I’ve always been. While I suspect that’s just not realistic, I’m still a dreamer. I haven’t had the baby yet and I still think I can be Supermom. I’ll be able to handle the baby and the career and the marriage and the house and have time for myself too, no problem (is the room is starting to spin or it that just me?). However, if as I fear, I am not Supermom, there’s bound to be choices that will need to be made between family, career and life. This is what my boss already knows. Post-Baby Bomb, things are bound to be different. Will my employer value me enough to have the flexibility to work with me and my expanded family or will the devastation be too great to rebuild?

If you’re pregnant and intend to work post-partum, my real advice to you is this. Be honest with your employer. Tell them early, better to hear it from you than somebody else. While some employers may view motherhood as a distraction and an inconvenience to the business, you might just be surprised at your employer’s response. So, relax and don’t allow the stress of this difficult situation to overtake you, it’s not healthy for you or your baby. You know your life’s about to change—say “so what”, enjoy it, embrace it. As Doris Day sang in that old Hitchcock movie “Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be.”

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