By Jillian Kramer. Photos: Getty Images.
When Martha Shaughnessy found out she was expecting her second child, the 38-year-old communications specialist kept it to herself for months. â€œI wasn’t sure how [talking about it at work] was going to go,â€ she tells Glamour. The exchange went worse than sheâ€”and evenyouâ€”can imagine.
“Well fâ€”k you, bâ€”ch! What am I supposed to do now?â€ her boss, with whom Shaughnessy had only worked for a few months, joked. But his sexist humor fell flat. â€œI could tell he was trying to be funny, and build on a jocular tone we’d established. [But] I was dumbfounded and didn’t respond right away,â€ she admits. He soon caught on to Shaughnessyâ€™s less-than-pleased reaction, and â€œchanged to an effusive congratulationsâ€”talking about how being a dad was his biggest accomplishment and most important role,â€ she says. â€œBut the very clear message was that I was an outsider in an old boys’ club had been established. It never left.â€
Unfortunately, a lot of women are afraid to reveal their pregnancies at work because they have heard these kinds of nightmare scenarios. Bosses (and not just men) sometimes cling to old, incorrect stereotypes that a pregnant woman just canâ€™t hang at work, and thatâ€”after she welcomes her new bundle of joy into the worldâ€”she wonâ€™t want to work at all.
â€œItâ€™s no shocker that women continue to face stereotypes in the workplace,â€ says Heather Huhman, Generation Y career expert and founder of Come Recommended. â€œWhen pregnant, a major stigma is that when women have children they will be less productive or more distracted employees.â€ Maybe worse, she says, â€œthanks to this stigma, women fear being overlooked for projects or promotions that come up before their maternity leave.â€
So whatâ€™s a pregnant, working woman to do? Tempting as it may be, you canâ€™t exactly hide your pregnancy forever. Neither can you live in fear. Instead, hereâ€™s your game plan.
While thereâ€™s no set time to spring this news on your boss, career coach Hallie Crawfordrecommends waiting until youâ€™ve reached your third trimester. That way, â€œyou will have had some time to think about your future plans, and look over your companyâ€™s maternity leave policy,â€ Crawford points out. Of course, this isnâ€™t a hard-and-fast rule. â€œIf you have a more open relationship with your bossâ€”and he tends to be very supportive ofâ€”you may be able to tell him or her sooner,â€ Crawford says. Or, â€œif your projects are cyclical, you may want to wait until after your latest project is complete before announcing the news.â€
Greysi Gonzales, a 38-year-old web developer, waited until her third month of pregnancy to break the news to her boss. â€œEven though he was always nice to me, I got a scary feeling about what he would say,â€ she tells Glamour. â€œBut it turned out well; he was happy for me.â€
Of course, Gonzalesâ€™ supervisor might have been happy because his employee promised tocontinue to be a stellar worker. (And thatâ€™s a move all pregnant employees should make.) â€œLet your boss know you are still committed to your job and your work assignments,â€ Crawford says. â€œTell him your plans for completing your projects, who could handle your assignments while you’re out, and what you plan to do during maternity leave and after.â€
Thatâ€™s exactly what 28-year-old customer support manager Tiffany Barry did when she brought up her pregnancy to her boss, and he couldnâ€™t have been more pleased. â€œI let my boss know that I’d been thinking about any scheduling accommodations I might need for doctor’s appointments and my timeline for submitting my leave information, including how I would delegate my responsibilities while on maternity leave,â€ she says. â€œI wanted my boss to feel confident in me rather than feel as though he’d just been handed a bundle of logistics to work out.â€ It worked. â€œMy boss was overjoyed,â€ she says. â€œHe immediately congratulated me and asked how I’d been feeling so far. He then talked me through some of the resources our company offers that I might not be aware of, went over what my maternity leave would be like, encouraged me to continue planning how I would prepare to leave in the fall, and offered to help in any way. I was instantly relieved and felt as if I had a support system.â€
After you tell your boss or direct supervisor, you can open up to your coworkers, Crawford says. â€œYou should also assure them you are committed to the team, and will still be giving it 100 percent,â€ Crawford says. Beyond that, whatever you divulge about your pregnancyâ€”or keep strictly to yourselfâ€”at work is totally up to you. â€œPregnancy in itself is a very intimate subject,â€ says Huhman. â€œSome women are more open about personal details than others.â€
Remember: even if youâ€™re OK with gushing over all the intimate details of your pregnant, not every one of your coworkers wants to hear them. So. â€œuse your best judgement when deciding what to share with coworkers,â€ Huhman advises. â€œIf people seem to shy away when you open up, take your discussion aside to share with your closest coworker friends.â€
Lastly, even if youâ€™re not the one to break the newsâ€”as in, your belly tells the story before you doâ€”take heart with Katie Bellâ€™s story: the 30-year-old publicist found herself on a trip with her boss, hiding her morning sickness and sneaking saltine crackers in the bathroom because she wasnâ€™t ready to tell her boss her big news. â€œI was worried because it was a busy season, and I wasnâ€™t sure what she would say professionally, even though I knew she personally would be thrilled for me,â€ Bell tells Glamour. â€œBut once we were sharing a hotel room, I felt a sense of peace about it.â€ Tired of hiding, Bell let the news slip as they sat in the hotel room together. â€œShe was over the moon happy,â€ she reveals, â€œand I was so relieved.â€
This story originally appeared on Glamour.