I'm a freelance journalist, which means that I do a lot of my contact with editors by email and phone. Many of my contacts, even local ones, are people I wouldn't know if they were sitting right next to me.
And that made a delicate question of how and when to let them know I was pregnant and would be taking some weeks off after I had the baby. Tell too soon, and I risked appearing a little oversharing. Tell too late, and I risked blowing a deadline or two because I was actually off having the baby they didn't know I was expecting.
When you have a standard 9 to 5 and when you actually see the people you work with, it's pretty obvious when to tell.
Most people I know have waited until late in or after first trimester, so the risk of miscarriage is lower, but before they were really showing. In this economy, though many of us are freelancing and meeting new clients or even interviewing for new jobs as we're also growing a new person.
A Washington Post column had an interesting take on the situation. A reader asked columnist Lily Garcia how she should handle her first on-site interview with a company she'd been interviewing with over the phone. She was pretty sure they wanted her for the position, butshe wasn't sure how to handle the fact she was seven and a half months pregnant.
Garcia was in much the same situation I was in both times I was pregnant, as a self-employed mother-to-be. I wished I'd had her advice then. She said that she struggled with whether to tell prospective clients she was pregnant before their first meeting, and finally opted not to. After all, she reasoned, pregnancy had no bearing on whether or not she could do the job, so why not wait to allay the clients fears until they actually met her?
She had similar advice for her reader: To buy a great looking maternity suit, and acknowledge the interviewer's surprise when they saw her bulging belly. Further, she said, she should address the fact that she knows this raises questions and that she has answers that should put them at ease. She points out that while pregnancy discrimination is illegal, letting them know beforehand could very much have them cool on the idea of hiring you.
I will say I think her advice to smile and say "Surprise!" could make someone come off as just a little nutty, and I think that while most organizations could handle the idea of hiring a pregnant woman, places that are either very male-dominated or have a very youthful culture might balk, no matter how illegal that may be.
In my case, I told my main client about a month ahead of time in pregnancy #1. It turned out that the editor was pregnant herself and I was one of the first work people she told after I'd shared my news, so it was a great icebreaker. The second time around, I picked up a nice chunk of new clients when I was six months pregnant with my son. In those cases, I'd let them know well ahead of time and reminded them again I was due to have a baby in a few weeks before I accepted assignments that deadlined in my due month, just in case.
I also lined up backups both times, other writers I knew who had written for the same publications and were willing to take whatever I had done and run with it in case the babies came early (neither one did). With each pregnancy, it actually formed a warmer relationship with those editors, despite my fears they'd decide any screwup was because I was knocked up and couldn't handle the job. That said ... um, Stir editors? I'm done, no more babies, all full up on kids over here!
It seems that what it comes down to is being confident, professional, and having a plan for your maternity leave.
Did you have a similar dilemma? What did you do?
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