Job searching while pregnant is a very confusing thing, and I won’t lie, it was one of the toughest things for me about being pregnant. During my first trimester, I applied to over 20 different companies, never once revealing I had another tiny, invisible human coming along for the interviews. Everyone I talked to gave me the advice that disclosing before signing a contract was self-sabotage, that I would lose all legal protection when companies would inevitably find reasons to hire someone else. Yet at the same time, my internal need to be honest and open felt totally dismissed, and I felt that I carried around this huge secret. And because I felt the need to be so secretive about this, I found myself hiding my pregnancy from lots of people. I started to feel like even I couldn’t be excited yet, as I needed to be in this stage of almost-denial, thinking I could pretend that I had just discovered my pregnancy during the interviews, thinking I needed to apologize for being in this situation that might “burden” the company.
And frankly, that all sucks! And, it isn’t all necessarily grounded in reality. After reading what feels like thousands of online discussion boards, chatting with friends, and seeking advice anywhere I could get it, here’s how I’ve managed to feel a bit more at peace with taking a job with a baby on board:
- Remind yourself that you didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, more than that, you are in the process of doing something incredible! Somewhere along the way, I got the idea stuck in my head that getting pregnant was something to feel bad about, something that would put a burden on others. And frankly, that thinking is just not right! As my yoga teacher says, you are an incredible goddess creating life, and truly that is amazing. I often feel overwhelmed during ultrasounds when I see my tiny baby kicking around and moving. Those moments remind me of my real priorities, and while I find so much value in my work (and paycheck), I try to remember that in the long run, in a year from now, the stress and guilt I feel about finding a job while pregnant won’t be much of a concern. Truly, it’s all temporary.
- Find other people who have gone through this process or can be your sounding board outside of work. It’s easy to get caught-up in one aspect of life; I know there have been so many days when I forget about everything else except my job. It becomes my entire identity. That sort of all-encompassing energy can be pretty dangerous, as it can suck you down an endless spiral of stress. It has been so helpful for me to read about other women’s experiences and to meet other moms who have gone through similar searches. I joined a prenatal yoga group that has allowed me the time and space to just be pregnant without worrying about other areas of my life. In reality, my job is just a job. While I like to feel very important and helpful, I know that life and work will go on just fine without me when I do need to take time off. As incredible as we all are, we aren’t the center of the world, and things can continue without us!
- Consider your options, make a plan, and be in charge. Pregnancy certainly leaves a lot out of your control! For me, being in control is something I can admit that I prefer (not that it’s necessarily a healthy habit all the time). For this job search, I found I often felt out of control– my belly was growing, days were passing, and this baby was evolving! Each week that passed without a contract felt a little bit like a time-bomb, like I was about to be unable to hide my secret. What helped me the most was to make a plan and recognize what was in, and what was out, of my control. I applied to at least one job each day and accepted any interview I was asked for– even when I didn’t think I’d want the job. Once I accepted the position I now have, I decided to make a plan for how to tell my supervisor I would be having a baby in six months. Many people have differing opinions on this (prove yourself as a great employee until 20 weeks and then tell; tell right away; wait until you’re legally required, etc.). However, my opinion is that you have to consider your options, make the best plan for you, and then be in charge! I decided to disclose right away because my position would require a direct cover while I was out. I practiced communicating clearly before I told my boss, explaining I was still early in the pregnancy, was very excited to be in this position, and would need to take some time when the baby came. I communicated my desire to be a strong addition to the team, and my obvious hope to help transition this position to someone else while I was out. That’s it. The end. It feels very scary, but I was happy to take control and get it out of the way sooner so I didn’t feel like I was hiding this secret any longer. I want to enjoy my pregnancy, to be excited about it. I don’t want to hide it, and I decided it was best for me to just share early.
- Remember the law is on your side. I found this advice to be helpful after awhile; although, I’ll admit I found it completely unhelpful at first. However, it is illegal to discriminate against you because of your pregnancy. You are not legally obligated to disclose that at hiring, and they are not legally allowed to ask you. This piece actually helped me to remember that disclosing this information didn’t need to be as big a deal as I was making it in my head.
- Consider the worst case scenario, and remember you’ll still be employed. Worst case, you perceive your boss is mad/irritated/frustrated/angry, etc. That can really suck as an employee, but you still have your job, and you still have time to show that you are the type of person they’ll want working there. I would try to remind yourself of advice #2 and find support outside of work. Share your annoyances over a sweet mocktail and remind yourself that that baby of yours is going to make you forget all about the cranky boss, because they are definitely more important.
Have you found other strategies that have helped you through this process? I would love to hear them!