Deadlines And Due Dates: 9 Things To Do Before Breaking The Baby News To Your Boss
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.
Remind yourself that preparing to parent is about setting boundaries and practicing self-care.
Part of the decision to parent is the acceptance that you will now be making decisions that are not only in your own best interest, but in that of your offspring as well. One of my worries with revealing that I was expecting was that morning sickness, fatigue and a calendar full of prenatal appointments would somehow undo all of the hard work I invested to climb the career ladder. Luckily, my pregnancy was pretty uneventful as far as health concerns, but you have to consider from this point your health will come first and be prepared to communicate that to your supervisor, especially a supervisor that is the most supportive. Review the laws in your state and come prepared with questions about your employer’s protocol regarding pregnancy as well as pregnancy-related issues that could affect your ability to perform your duties as assigned.
Have a plan for your prenatal appointments.
By the time most women break the news to their employer, they will typically have already had their first prenatal appointment. I was able to schedule my appointments on a recurring basis and kept them on the least busiest day of the work week. Depending on your line of work, this may not always be possible, so it helps to research prenatal care that can work around your schedule and that is convenient to travel to. Make sure to have a few options in mind and at the very least try to give your employer plenty of notice when you’ll have to be out of the office.
Come prepared with a plan for coverage and guidance in your absence.
If you know you have impending obligations already scheduled that conflict with your maternity leave such as speaking engagements, event planning or other projects, try to plan alternatives before you break the news. Make sure your colleagues or supervisors have access to files and documents they might need to access while you’re out. Supervisors will know that not only are you committed to making sure work can continue in your absence, but it will also save them searching for alternatives on their own. It may also help to look into if your employer has used temp agencies in the past or would be open to doing so. It shouldn’t be your complete obligation to make sure coverage for you responsibilities is completely in place, but making the effort speaks to your investment as an employee.
Review your insurance coverage for prenatal care and delivery.
I now work as a hotline counselor for a sexual reproductive health agency and I’m always surprised by the number of people who are unsure how to navigate their health insurance. If you currently have insurance, you should be able explore costs regarding your prenatal care and delivery by contacting your human resources department or contacting the insurance carrier directly. Just because you have health insurance doesn’t mean every service will be covered and co-pays can fluctuate so it helps to know what your options are. You can also explore your options for OB/GYNS. If you don’t have insurance, contact your HR department regarding enrollment policies or other options for coverage, which might help save time and energy doing your own research.
Save the social media announcements for after you talk to your boss.
Before breaking my big news to my employer, I only told my fiance and immediate family. The only reason I let a coworker in on the secret was because she was also my best friend and I knew she’d be giving my the side-eye when I ordered a Sprite at happy hour. You never know who knows who (or who just has a big mouth) and making a Facebook or Instagram announcement might inadvertently break the news to your boss prematurely. Your supervisor may walk by Marsha in accounting’s desk and see your French bulldog’s mug in a status update holding a sign that says, “We’ll have company come March.” Your boss deserves the professional courtesy of knowing that you’re expecting a life change that could affect your responsibilities.
Think seriously about how your pregnancy may affect your return date.
Current laws indicate that employers only have to guarantee 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave for workers that have been employed for at least 90 days with companies that have 50 employees or more. Research your employer’s protocol regarding short-term disability, as well as paid time off policies. You may also have to consider how the pregnancy will affect your finances. The earlier you start these plans the better since pregnancy and delivery can sometimes be unpredictable. You never know if you’ll require bed rest or if you delivery requires extra time in the hospital for you or your newborn.
Save the email and schedule a time to meet in person.
This is one of those conversations that will most likely have the best outcome if done in person. It’s one thing if your boss gets a pregnant woman emoji while wrapping up a Monday morning conference call and completely another if you catch them in their office behind closed doors. Hopefully you’ve been at your company long enough to get adjusted to its culture and your boss’s style of supervision. For example, if you work in finance it’s probably not the best idea to wait until the final two weeks of the fiscal year to talk. If you know coffee makes the difference between your boss being a treasure or a troll, maybe schedule the convo until late morning with a latte in hand.
Follow doctor’s orders.
Keep in mind that there are labor laws that companies legally have to abide by and at the end of the day most employers don’t want their workers to get hurt on the job (or risk an expensive lawsuit). If you’re placed on bed rest or your doctor advises you avoid certain activities, make sure you provide documents to you your employer. Pushing yourself to the limit in pregnancy places yourself and your unborn child at risk, and just typically results in more recovery time.
Take precaution with probation periods.
Although my pregnancy was completely unplanned, I probably would’ve taken a little more caution if I knew my job was unstable or I didn’t have health coverage. Keep in mind that when it comes to Affordable Healthcare as well as most coverage offered by employers, only Qualifying Life Events allow employees to be eligible for coverage outside of the enrollment period. This typically includes situations like losing healthcare coverage, getting married or having a child (not the pregnancy itself). Pregnancy doesn’t occur on a schedule for most people, but keep in mind that that pregnancy and job transitions can be tedious to navigate.
Toya Sharee is a sexual health expert who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoyJoy. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.