A few years back, I spent months organizing a major donor wine-tasting and plot twist, when the event arrived, I was newly pregnant. Not yet ready to tell my boss, I spent the evening “forgetting” where I’d put my glass down and enthusiastically saying, “I agree!” whenever others described what they’d just tasted.
When I did tell my manager, he was very supportive; and so was my next supervisor regarding my next pregnancy. But I was nervous both times. Not because I feared discrimination (which would be illegal), but because I wanted these conversations to go as smoothly as possible. I felt they were the initial proof that I could be pregnant and still do my job.
The best way to combat those nerves is to be prepared. Here are three things to consider in advance of telling your manager:
1. Your Plans
You already know how to address anything that might change your workflow. Before you go on vacation, you set expectations for how available you’ll be and what you’ll get done before you leave. Or if you want an expanded role, you make a convincing case for all you’ve contributed (and what you’ll achieve moving forward).
No matter the situation, you think through the possible questions—and answers—before the meeting even happens. This helps you demonstrate that you’re on the ball and care about your work.
The same is true with sharing the news that you’re expecting. As you think through your workflow leading up to maternity leave, consider the following questions:
- Will you keep a similar workload throughout your pregnancy? Follow up: Are there projects or tasks you won’t be able to continue (travel after a certain point, standing for long periods of time, etc.)?
- How far into your pregnancy do you plan to work?
- How will you plan for a smooth transition to maternity leave during this time?
- Are you familiar with your company’s maternity leave policy? Would consulting HR or colleagues who’ve recently returned help you get clear on any additional options (like additional unpaid leave or setting aside PTO or sick days)?
2. Your Timing
Spoiler: There’s no perfect time. You’re never going to receive an email that says: “Your baby is the size of a lime—and today is the exact right day to tell your boss you’re pregnant.” It’s not like when you quit a job and two weeks’ notice is standard. Every workplace—and every pregnancy, and every woman—is different.
If you have serious morning sickness, or need to have frequent doctor appointments (and want to be clear that’s not code for job interviews), or want to share the news widely and immediately, you may want to tell your boss pretty early on. Alternatively, you may choose to wait as long as possible. Maybe you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss and don’t want to tell anyone until you’ve reached a certain point, or you want to nail down that raise with nothing on your boss’ mind other than last quarter’s numbers.
The key is to make sure they hear it from you. You don’t want them to find out from your work BFF, from social media, or from an obvious baby bump you just never mentioned. By driving the conversation (and coming prepared with thoughts on all of the questions above), you’re showing that you’re as diligent as ever.
3. Your Words
You’ll want to hit on three main points: that you’ll exceed expectations before your due date, that you’ve thought about coverage while you’re gone, and that you look forward to coming back. Try the following script:
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m pregnant! I recently found out, and I wanted to share the news so we’ll have a lot of time to plan for the next two quarters. I know that we have [initiative/goal] on the horizon. I’m excited to work on it and I’m planning to be here until [number of weeks before] my due date. In the meantime, I’ll be pulling together notes on [your daily tasks]. I’d love to work with you to devise a plan so there’s coverage during my maternity leave. Per our company policy, I plan on returning to my job after [period of time].
Of course, you won’t want to just recite this like a speech. Many bosses will congratulate you—and even want to chat about it. Thank them and share a quick anecdote (“My parents are so excited for the first grandchild!” “Who knew I’d ever be able to give up drinking coffee?”). Then, get back to sentence two.
Additionally, if you’re telling your manager later on in your pregnancy, you’ll want to rework it slightly. Try this:
I’m thrilled to share the news that I’m pregnant! I’m due in [number of weeks], but as you’ve seen my work output has not changed. I’d like work with you to devise a plan so there’s coverage during my maternity leave, and in the meantime, I’ve pulled together notes on [your daily tasks]. I’m interested in [any adjustments to leave, like tacking on vacation days], and look forward to returning to work after that!”
It may seem far off, but don’t forget to say how excited you’ll be to come back. You need to say it out loud so your boss knows you’re anticipating your return—and you can calm any fears (however unjustified they may be) about you never coming back.
Finally, you can make it clear how public this information should be. It sounds like this: “While I wanted to share the news with you first, I’d love to tell my team myself,” or, “While I wanted to proactively share the news with you, I’m waiting to publicize more broadly.”
You’re going to be a mom and that’s going to change a lot, but it’s not going to change the kickass job you do. Your boss doesn’t expect you to have everything figured out: They just need to know you’ve put some thought into your workload now and for the future.
Photo of conversation courtesy of Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.
Sara McCord most often writes about making a better professional impression. She's been published on Mashable (where she was a regular career contributor), as well as Forbes, Newsweek, TIME, Inc., and Business Insider. A Staff Writer/Editor for The Muse, Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. See more of her writing on her website or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author