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How to Tell the Boss You're Pregnant

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Pregnant Caucasian businesswoman working in office
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I've heard some truly awful stories about the moment you tell your boss you're pregnant. After one expectant mom broke the news of being pregnant, her boss went immediately into disaster planning mode, ranting about how he could never replace her during her maternity leave.

But then you have the boss who sees being pregnant as a normal phase in the career of many women, and welcomes the opportunity to support his employee. Whether your supervisor falls in column A or column B, or somewhere in between, here's how to tell the boss you're pregnant.

When to tell the boss you're pregnant

First of all, when should you tell your boss you're pregnant? Some expectant moms may be comfortable disclosing the news before the first trimester is over, but generally I'd advise waiting. By that point, your pregnancy is well-established and you're less likely to miscarry.

Of course, you want to spill the beans before an obvious baby bump reveals the news for you. If you're already beginning to show, and you think your boss may notice, you might want to bring it up earlier than 12 weeks. Or if your doctor wants to see you more frequently than the usual number of prenatal visits, you may decide to explain. But remember that your medical business is private, and your boss doesn't have a legal right to know why you need time off to see the doctor -- just that it's a health reason.

Who to tell before the boss

Before you tell your boss you're pregnant, you'll first want to tell the baby's father, all soon-to-be-grandparents, your siblings and maybe a close friend or two. Please resist sharing the news with your best girlfriends at the office.

Not only does it put them in an uncomfortable position to know something that you're trying to keep from your boss, it's highly likely that they'll slip up and mention something. Or your supervisor may even guess from how they're treating your differently.

The worst possible outcome is for your boss to hear you're pregnant from someone other than you. You won't have a chance to present the happy news in the right context. (Hint: it involves a plan for your maternity leave, as described below.)

What to tell the boss

You never bring a business problem to your boss without a solution -- or an idea of one. Your pregnancy is no different. When you tell your boss you're pregnant, come with a suggestion of how to handle your work during your maternity leave, and a clear idea of how much time you'll want to take off.

First, make sure to understand the maternity leave laws and look up your company's relevant policies. You might want to discreetly ask other working moms at your employer what they did for maternity leave, and what worked best. (Although you don't want to start any rumors that you're expecting.)

Look at your household budget and figure out how much time you can afford to take. Talk to your spouse or other family members and start to explore child care options to make sure you have something lined up for when you return to work.

Then, break down your job into high priority projects, and those that can wait until you're back from leave. Figure out a few scenarios for parceling out the most important duties to your colleagues or temporary staff. Even better than coming to your boss with a solution is coming with two or three. Be open to creative scenarios.

How to tell your boss you're pregnant

You're almost ready for the big conversation. But first, banish any guilt you may be feeling over how your pregnancy will disrupt the office workload. After all -- as my boss used to tell me -- your child will some day be contributing money that goes to your colleagues' Social Security payments. And creating a new life is something to celebrate, not apologize for!

Make an appointment to speak with your boss. Walk into the office with your head held high, ready to be positive and professional. If you approach the conversation with an optimistic outlook, it's much more likely to go well.

After you break the news, listen. If your boss fumbles a bit, be gracious and don't take offense. Stress that this is the beginning of a conversation about how to handle your maternity leave, and you're prepared to keep working at it until you reach a solution you both like.

And don't be afraid to inject some gentle, G-rated humor into the situation. As my friend whose boss reacted with a rant put it, "Do you want to try that again?" With a smile.

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