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What to Expect While Expecting at Work

Pregnancy is a joyous time. Telling your family and loved ones is exciting. But what about telling your colleagues? Telling your boss? Telling your team that counts on you for a lot? This can be a bit trickier. It isn’t always streamers and cake, and there is actually a lot to know about telling your co-workers and boss that you are expecting. We talked to some experts to get the low down.

With more first-time mothers working late into their pregnancies and then returning to the office soon after the baby arrives, according to the Census Bureau, this is something women have to deal with every day.

But first and foremost you need to know that you are not lying if you don’t tell your boss and co-workers immediately. There is no law that says you must do this, but you do have to inform them at least 30 days beforehand, based on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or your employer’s policy. This holds true especially if you want to take maternity leave; that is why it is good to let people know ahead of time. At bigger companies, employers tend to request that you notify HR if you are planning on taking maternity leave.

That is why there are a lot of things that need to be considered when telling your team and employer that you will be taking maternity leave. You can’t just send an office memo. According to Liz O’Donnell, founder of the career site for women and author of the forthcoming book Mogul, Mom & Maid: the Balancing Act of the Modern Woman (and someone who has taken two maternity leaves), there is a lot to keep in mind. She says you shouldn’t do anything until you’ve done your homework:

“Figuring out how much and what kind of leave you’re entitled to isn’t always simple. Because the U.S. offers no federal maternity policy, you will need to determine if you are eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA eligibility is affected by how many employees your company employs and how long you have worked at the company. Next you will want to contact your health insurance provider to understand their benefits, and finally you will want to cross check that with your company’s stated policy. Document all of the information you receive. When I was planning [my] maternity leave, I received different information from HR than I did from the insurance company:

“Doing your own research is important because, often, managers and HR directors don’t fully understand the policies. Also, when you do share the news, you’ll want to communicate your plan for how much time you’ll be out of work and how you’ll prepare your co-workers to cover for you.

“Make sure you ask for the maximum time-off. Resist the urge to tell your company you will return early. Even if you think you will be ready to go back within days or weeks, you may change your mind after the baby arrives. It is easier to ask to return to work sooner than it is to ask for an extended leave.

“Do not promise to work while you are on leave. Maternity leave is not a vacation. You will be busy most of the time. And when you are not, you will be tired. Remember the adage: under promise, over deliver. If you decide to check in while you’re on leave, no one will mind.”

But what do you need to think about in terms of what this means for your whole team? O’Donnell says, “They will want to know when you expect to leave, how long you’ll be gone, and your plans for transitioning [your] work. If you’ve thought through those things to the best of your ability, sharing the news should be a positive experience.”

At the same time though, every woman’s experience with telling her employer is going to be different depending on where you are in your career and who you are working for. Emily Hotz, who founded the site Emphasis Added!, had an interesting experience when it came to telling her employer about being pregnant with her second child. She told Levo:

“I found out I was pregnant with baby number two just three months after returning from my first maternity leave. I instantly worried that the well-wishes from my co-workers would be replaced by snarky comments about taking more time off or, even worse, there would be the perception that I was not committed to my career. While I did notice a slight uptick in comments about how “lucky” I was to get another extended leave (mostly from folks without children, who seemed to think maternity leave was basically an extended vacation… which, obviously, it is not)… the majority of responses remained genuinely positive. Turns out, people celebrate this whole miracle of life thing!

“During my second pregnancy, I was working for a manager who I adored. We had a close relationship both in and out of the office. When she confided in me that she was expecting a baby of her own, I was not quite six weeks along. Conventional wisdom says to wait until at least 13 weeks before telling your employer, but for me it was more important to respect the dynamic of our relationship than to follow suggested timelines. At that point, it would have been weird to NOT tell her that I was also expecting. My advice to other pregnant professionals: Use suggested timelines as a guide, but use your head and heart when deciding an approach that works for you. Just like every baby will be different… every pregnancy is different, and there are infinite reasons why you may need to go a little rogue.”

Hotz also brought up the really good point that in this day and age of no privacy, and with co-worker and friend lines being quite blurry, you may reveal you are expecting sooner than you would like.

“Maybe you are friends with a client on Facebook, or your co-worker reads your Twitter feed or, as in my case, your boss’s sister sees a ‘congrats’ comment on an Instagram pic… Never forget that once your news is released to the internet, you have no control over who might find out,” she said.

But for the most part, if you keep the following tips in mind from Abby Carr, the managing director of BlissPR, your co-workers will feel very good about you going on maternity leave.

  • Explain when you plan to return. “Even if you aren’t sure, make a specific plan so that they can know what to expect—and then if you have to change later, you can change. Just don’t leave your workplace with a vague ‘I will see how I feel,’” Carr says.
  • Find out who’s stepping in for you. “With your supervisor, find out who they plan to transition your work to, and make sure that you start to have hand-off meetings with that person up to a month ahead of time,” Carr suggests. “Pregnancies are uncontrollable—you may plan to work up until the last day, but your baby may decide otherwise.”
  • Set limits on when or if you can be contacted while on leave. Let everyone know under what circumstances they can or should contact you while on maternity leave.
  • Hotz also made the good point that finding out your company’s policies on maternity leave may reveal a lot about what kind of company you are working for.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been commended this week for her new extended maternity leave policy as well as an increase in family-friendly benefits, including a revolutionary new paternity leave policy. She is doing this in part to boost morale after banning working from home at the beginning of this year. More working moms or women looking to start families may now look at Yahoo as more of an option.

Hotz said, “It is not by accident that I ended up working in such a family-friendly place. My last company did not offer paid maternity leave—this is a large part of the reason I decided to find another job. When looking for a new role, finding a company with generous benefits was non-negotiable. The maternity benefits offered by my current employer are not only what attracted me to the company… but what enabled me to return to the workforce with enthusiasm and drive after each pregnancy. The support I felt before, during, and after my leave was the single greatest gift my company could have given me.”

Have you thought about how you would tell your boss you’re pregnant? Share your tips on how you’d do it!

Working Mother Image Via Pealmatic

This article originally published at LEVO LEAGUE
by Meredith Lepore

Author Description

Meredith Lepore

Meredith Lepore is the Careers Editor for Levo League, the first online destination designed to provide Gen Y women with advice, mentorship and career opportunities. She is the former Editor in Chief of and has written for Business Insider, The Jane Dough and Marie Claire.

  • Jody
    I’m really suprised about the (lack of rules of) maternity leave in the U.S. I live in an European country where every women gets 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, without exceptions. To get used to your new life and to give a child a good start, I really think this is a good thing. As long as there are no rules, women will always stay behind men in the workplace. Hopefully this will change in the U.S. oneday.
  • Rebecca Kelsey
    I hope more employers have paternity leave. Taking care of a newborn is not easy under any circumstances but having the father home as well would be such a relief. Kindness is the best accessory,

Move LifeStyle is an e-zine for the modern working woman created by Autumn Reeser, Jenn Wong and Ashley Fauset.

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