Here are two truths: starting a new job is hard, and being pregnant at work is challenging. Put both of those truths together and you have one complicated situation. Starting a new career while you’re pregnant is undoubtedly challenging, but if the alternative is missing out on a significant opportunity for yourself, then it’s a challenge worth facing.
Deciding to start job hunting while you’re pregnant is a big step because there are a lot of unknowns. In the US, employees can’t take advantage of FMLA for maternity leave until they’ve been with an employer for at least one year. So, if you’re already pregnant when you start at a new company, it’s a risk because you’re going into it knowing that you won’t have guaranteed job protection after the baby arrives. That alone is enough to cause some women to resist even looking for a new job when they’re pregnant.
Another reason women may hesitate to start a new job when they’re pregnant is that the first few months of employment, for any job, is essential to your success. Every day, you may get asked to retain a ton of information from training and then put it into practice. At the same time, there’s always a little buffer around you if you make some mistakes during your first few months in a job. You’re also trying to prove yourself during that time and demonstrate that you don’t need those buffers because you have everything under control. However, it is a very stressful period when you’re feeling 100% like yourself, let alone when you’re nauseous, dealing with pregnancy fog, having to take time off regularly for doctor appointments, and feeling generally uncomfortable.
Suffice to say, if the only reason you’re not pursuing a new job is that you’re pregnant, that is entirely understandable.
With that in mind, if an opportunity is available, you shouldn’t have to turn it down just because you’re expecting. Some great companies out there would be more than happy to hire a pregnant person, offer them a little extra grace during the training period, and even ensure job protection during maternity leave (without FMLA).
If you’ve been fortunate enough to land a new job with a fantastic organization, here’s some advice for navigating the new hire process.
Before Accepting The Job
As I have previously written, one of the requirements for FMLA job protection during maternity leave is one year of employment. Some companies that offer paid family leave tie the exact requirement to that benefit. Working for an employer that offers paid leave is such a win for moms, but it’s a real bummer if you don’t get to take advantage of the benefit simply because of timing.
To get around this, you’ll want to make sure you disclose that you are pregnant at some point during the interview process so that you can negotiate maternity leave benefits into your final written offer. When and how you inform others depends a lot on your situation. For instance, I have a friend who was interviewed during her last trimester of pregnancy. Still, since all of her interviews were over a video call, she didn’t have to share the news with them immediately (and risk losing out on an opportunity because of it). Once she received a verbal offer from the company, she told them that she was pregnant, and they negotiated her start date and benefits from there.
You’re going to have to take time off when the baby arrives, whether you have family leave benefits or not, and the ethical thing to do is to inform your employer in advance so they can plan for your absence. So, since you have to share this news with them anyway, you might as well use it as an opportunity to negotiate your leave into your job offer.
Transparency Is Essential
Under normal circumstances, you might not tell your boss or co-workers that you’re expecting right away because of the risks associated with early pregnancy. If you’re still in your first trimester when you start a new job, you’ve likely already told your boss (especially if you negotiated leave into your offer). Still, if it’s negatively affecting your daily life, such as causing extreme exhaustion or nausea, you may want to consider sharing it with coworkers at some point as well. If they know what’s going on, they’ll be much more likely to be patient and understanding while you’re learning the job.
If you’re into your second or third trimester and you’re feeling pretty good, you don’t have to tell your coworkers that you’re expecting. Plus, as frustrating as it is, if your coworkers don’t know that you’re pregnant and they see you getting a lighter workload, they could become somewhat resentful. Still, again it might be a good idea to let them know so that they can offer you support as you dip out for doctor appointments and prepare for maternity leave.
Speaking of transparency and workload, it’s essential to keep an open line of communication with your boss (and possibly your team) about your limits during pregnancy. Sure, there are the lucky women who feel fantastic up until they deliver the baby, so they don’t have to scale back at work. However, there are also plenty of women on the other end of the spectrum who just can’t deliver the same amount of quality work as they could pre-pregnancy. If you’re one of them (I certainly was), make sure you do regular check-ins with your boss so that they don’t pile too much on you. Especially since it’s challenging to say no to more work in those first few months in a job when you’re trying to make a good impression on everyone.
Take The Leap
There’s no getting around the fact that taking a new job during pregnancy is complicated, but that is no reason to pass up a great opportunity (and, let’s face it, you’d only consider a new job during pregnancy if it was worth the extra work). Understandably, you have a lot on your plate when you’re expecting a new baby. It can be argued that it’s even harder to start a new job when you’re sleep-deprived after the baby arrives, so why wait? Just go into the situation with transparency and a plan in place, and be prepared to dazzle them with your personality and your cute baby bump, too.
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