What should be the happiest moment of your life becomes one of the scariest when you realize you are going to have to tell the boss about it. You obsess over the right time to do it, how to do it, and whether it will cause him or her to treat you differently. You try to hide it, or play it down when you really want to do is shout it loud: “I am pregnant and proud!”
I know there are many pundits who suggest that you keep your pregnancy on the down low for as long as possible. Why doesn’t men keep the impending births of their children a secret? You shouldn’t have to either.
The difference, of course, is that it’s not expected that a man’s performance will be impacted by the birth of his child, but it’s expected that a woman`s performance will be. Like everything else that you do with your career, this presents yet another opportunity for you to be strategic.
I worked in this local company where the lady CEO would not consider hiring mothers with children below 3 years. Her reason was that such employees with such little babies were a liability to her business. You can call her a sexist if you like. She had no concern for women without the same resources and stature that she had. As natural as it could be, a nursing mum will considerably take as much time as possible with the baby especially during the maternity period and after. Mothers know the dynamics that come with the birth of a child until at least the time this child is old enough to join school. It so happened that despite knowing the policy of the company, one of my lady colleagues decided it was time for her to get another baby. Do you know what followed?
You guessed right! She almost went into labor at the office before announcing to her employers about her pregnancy and the impeding birth of her child. Wouldn’t she have handled this better? She should have assured them that she was up to the challenge pregnant or not and her projects were not any way going to be interrupted. This would have been a big win for the other women in that work place. Had she done so, it would have been the kiss of her death. Anyway, despite the fact that she had a history of outstanding performance, she was terminated during her maternity leave and now pursuing a case court against the organization.
There is no doubt about it. If you are pregnant in the work place, you are between a rock and a hard place, when you hide your pregnancy for fear of what other will think, you end up looking less than honest and perhaps even deceptive. This is exactly what the bosses of this company thought. (“She is a liar, we can’t trust her anymore!) If you announce it sooner than later, others may make judgments about your capabilities and commitment.
The only thing that your employer should care about at the end of the day is have you gotten your job done? Regardless of what policies are in place that are providing consideration for pregnancy, by ensuring your management that you will not miss a beat, you will appear more confident and in control of things.
Working mums should also take advantage of other company working policies, such as flextime and working from home. I know this doesn’t exist in most companies but some do offer such benefits. After the birth of my second son, I had a three month maternity leave and flextime for the next two years after that. Well, it was not a company policy but `by God’s Grace, my boss extended that favor to me.
Before you start asking me which is this good company I worked for, organizations should create avenues for women to be able to work while still meeting the expectation that they will be the primary caretakers of their children. We all know people are more creative and innovative when working collaboratively and that could be best achieved in an office set up.
Working mums I have a few tips for you
- Announce your pregnancy when you are ready. For variety of reasons, it does not have to be the moment it’s confirmed by your doctor. You are entitled to your privacy. Decide on a time that makes the most sense to you and your significant other.
- Accompany your announcement with a clear and definitive statement of what can be expected of you during the pregnancy and after. In no uncertain terms, inform your management that you will continue to perform at the level you always have, you will also prepare for your absence so that nothing slips between the cracks, and will return to work fit for resuming your duties.
- Handle pregnancy related issues (morning sickness, Doctor`s appointment) on a case by case basis in the same manner you handle all other personal issues. If you need to miss work, don’t go into graphic details about why. Simply inform whoever needs to be informed that you will be late or out and offer assurance that the projects you are working on are on track for completion.
- Give yourself permission to change your mind about your priorities if at any point you realize for health or for personal reasons you can’t work at the same pace or the same hours as you have in the past, then honor your values. Be clear about your priorities and live your life in a way that reflects your commitment to them. This is your life and no one else`s. Starting a family may significantly change your perspective about the importance of work or family. No one will take away your card to the sacred women`s club because you choose to focus more on one or the other.