It’s been more than four years since I first became a parent, and while everyone from my bestie to every parenting blog in existence offered advice about parenting and pregnancy, ultimately my journey was my own. From birth announcements to baby showers, every experience will bring its own share of celebration as well as concerns, and it will be up to you to decide how to navigate situations that will not only affect your health and well-being, but that of your unborn child.
If you’re like many, once you make it past your first trimester, you’ll probably begin to break the news to friends and family. But as the “Congrats” and “Well Wishes” begin to come in, you may have some anxiety about how becoming a parent will affect your career. I was clueless at the time about maternity leave (come to find out the small non-profit I worked for didn’t have an official policy at the time) so the conversation was completely new territory for me. Just a few months prior I had revealed my new engagement while we were wrapping up a staff meeting, so I figured I’d keep that same energy. When a supervisor asked for any closing remarks during a meeting, I framed the announcement with a tried and true method that made it seem like my pregnancy was in actuality a win for the whole staff:
“The bad news is I’ll be rescheduling my wedding date. The good news is that I’ll have first-hand experience about parenting come October!”
We had a small staff of less than 10 people at the parenting education non-profit where I worked and operated more like a family than an actual workforce. There were happy tears and hugs as we all figured out how to navigate the new situation since they had never had a pregnant person on staff before. In hindsight, I would’ve done way more work on my end before making the announcement just to be informed of my rights and responsibilities. I was offered a choice between a raise upon my return or paid maternity leave, and with very little knowledge of whether I had any legal protections, I chose the raise with a plan to live off of paid time off and savings for six weeks. With the exception of a handful of states, the United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee its citizens paid family leave.
It’s natural to have some anxiety over discussing how such a personal situation will affect your professional path. It helps to know what situation will work best for you and your growing family and what legal protections you have. Here are a few steps to take before you go sending that Outlook invite to discuss your pregnancy plans.