Hide or Confide a Growing Belly

My friend came to me recently with a dilemma: The opportunity for her dream job opened, but she was four months pregnant.

Her question: “Since I can still hide it, do I have to bring it up in my interview?”

Two years ago, I was in a similar situation. After 10 years in advertising, I was burnt out. And cranky. And ready to make a career change. However, the moment I started looking for a new job – surprise! – I saw that famous little blue line.

When going on interviews, I was torn. My husband said to keep the pregnancy secret. (“Seriously, you have to get a new job. This one is turning you into a nightmare.”) I, on the other hand, felt uncomfortable not being straight-forward. I thought if a company didn’t want me because I was pregnant, I still had a job to fall back on (though my head was thisclose to being on the chopping block).

But what about a pregnant woman who has lost her job? Does the game plan change?

Spilling the beans

Marketing professional Sherry LeBlanc was two months pregnant when the company she worked for closed. Since the marketing world is ultra-competitive, especially in a bad economy, LeBlanc could have chosen to keep her pregnancy under wraps. Instead, she disclosed her pregnancy and provided her interviewers an initial plan for maternity leave.

Said LeBlanc via email, “I did this for two reasons: a) I wanted to work for a company that was family friendly, and my reasoning was that if they did not hire me because I was pregnant, then they probably would not be supportive if I took a job and later told them I was pregnant, and b) While I knew I was under no obligation to disclose that I was pregnant, I wanted to be honest and upfront with any potential employers.”

For LeBlanc, the honesty paid off. Four months later, she was hired by Family Resource Center, which not only welcomed her to the organization, but was incredibly supportive before, during and after her maternity leave. “The company is so family friendly, in fact, that I would often bring the baby to work with me while we were working out our daycare situation, and I was given the opportunity to work from home one day a week.”

According to the career counseling experts I spoke with, although bringing up your pregnancy isn’t required, and in fact, an employer that asks if you’re expecting is in violation of Federal Law, being honest as LeBlanc was can go a long way in building trust between interviewer and interviewee. The key  is to bring up the pregnancy at the appropriate time.

“I say be honest, but many people are too honest too soon,” said career counselor, Dr. Sue Ekberg. “In general, if you’re not visible yet, I would not disclose the pregnancy at the very beginning. You never want to lie, but many people tell the truth in detail too soon.”

Wendy L. Werner of Werner Associates, LLC, had similar feelings. She remarked, “If you are a woman who is in dire need of a position, and the pregnancy is not apparent, it is probably better not to reveal it; and probably unnecessary at the start of the interview process. I would recommend, however, that if you are offered a position, that you bring up your pregnancy prior to accepting a job offer. Failing to do so, while not unethical, could breed resentment on the part of the employer who may feel as if you have not been candid.”

When you’re obviously starting to show, however, the rules may need to change. Bringing the topic up quickly and matter-of-factly can divert the focus away from your belly and back to your qualifications. Suggested Werner, “Making a brief statement such as, ‘You may have noticed I am pregnant, but I want you to know I have made arrangements for child care and would look forward to a long career with your company’ is a way of responding to the situation and re-focusing the conversation.”

It’s on the table. Now what?

When you are in negotiations regarding a job offer, understanding both your needs and that of your potential employer is critical. “The pregnancy should not be a condition of hiring, it would be an issue of accommodation once the offer has been made,” said Ekberg. “With pregnancy, knowing whether you intend to come back to work, finding out if there is a way to work remotely – those are all issues to talk about. It’s going to depend on the circumstances and what the nature of your relationship is with your potential employer.”

Finally, when switching jobs in the middle of your pregnancy, it’s important to be realistic about an organization’s benefits. At my new job, I knew I would have a six-month probationary period without a day off, a six-week maternity leave and limited vacation time the rest of the year. But to me, the flexibility of the job and the reduction in my stress level was worth it. It’s also essential for moms-to-be to understand their pregnancy might be a considered a pre-existing condition in regards to a new company’s health insurance plan, and other arrangements should be considered.

So what did I do in my situation? I went ahead and disclosed pregnancy in each of my final interviews. There were quite a few jobs I lost, maybe because I didn’t have the right qualifications or gave a bad interview (though I’m going to place all the blame on the belly just for the heck of it). But in the end, I found a great organization. One that embraced my pregnancy and continues to support the needs of the working mom.

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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