Guess what, boss? I’m pregnant!
I will let you all in on a secret: I am pregnant. Well, I guess it isn’t that big of a secret, especially now that I’ve told countless strangers on the Internet. Yet, I am afraid to tell my boss.
Mandatory maternity leave benefits are pathetic in my country, and in a way, this should make it easier to tell the boss the news. After all, employers don’t have to spend extra money to send a woman on maternity leave and the time period of lost productivity is relatively short.
Large American businesses are required to allow full-time, benefited employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and required to let them return to their positions or equivalent positions after that time ends. Compare that to Sweden, where a woman receives 16 months of paid maternity leave, or China (90 days paid leave) or Japan or Germany (both 14 weeks paid leave) or our neighbor Canada (50 weeks paid leave, at 55% of usual salary).
However, the lack of accommodations for working, American mothers reflects a still pervasive attitude: if a woman really wants to raise a family, especially a large family, she probably shouldn’t be in the workforce. It does not occur to many Americans that a father and mother can share child-rearing duties, like my husband and I do.
I’m ineligible for the few American protections for maternity because I have worked part-time ever since the birth of my first child. However, I shouldn’t be scared to tell my boss about my pregnancy. My job is secure. I have worked for the same organization for nine years and given birth to three children over the course of this employment. I know that I will be permitted to take leave and that I will not lose my job. I even have enough sick and annual leave saved up to avoid having to take leave without pay during my maternity.
All I have to fear is the derision of coworkers, especially my boss. I have had three different supervisors over the course of my employment at this organization, all three of whom were married and childless by choice. It is hard to explain to people who are focusing on their careers exclusively that I am choosing to raise a family instead of focusing all of my talents on the job they pay me for. Again. Moreover, my current supervisor vocally pointed out to me the impact of my continuous reproduction on the environment during my previous pregnancy with child #3.
I have an older colleague who also gave birth to four children while working for this organization. She tells me that her coworkers voted her “Most Likely to Be on Maternity Leave” at a staff party. When she interviewed for a different position, the interviewer rolled her eyes and said, “You’re not pregnant again, are you?” She reminded the interviewer that technically, you’re not supposed to ask that before telling her that she was not. She got the job.
Maybe I will tell my boss quickly, like taking off a band-aid, or maybe I will let her slowly realize why I’m becoming so fat. Either way, the truth will come out before this baby does. I can handle the disdain I am likely to receive, remembering that for so many other American women, the employment consequences of maternity are much greater than disdain.