I was very lucky to have a supportive and understanding supervisor when I was expecting my son, who did a number of things great bosses do for pregnant women. She was actually the first person, aside from my spouse, who learned of my pregnancy. This wasn't necessarily planned, of course, I’m just horrible at both fibbing and keeping secrets, so trying to request time off for a doctor’s appointment quickly meant the beans were spilled all over her office floor. We had a good relationship, though, so once the dust settled from my accidentally reveal, I actually didn’t mind her knowing that I was growing another human being inside my body. Her support was welcomed and extremely helpful, especially during the first trimester when making it into the office on time was downright impossible on some (read: most) days.
However, not all supervisors are equal, and I can think of a number of people who I’ve reported to who I most definitely would not have wanted to know any earlier than they absolutely had to. I’ve also been in a lot of workplaces that would not have been as accommodating, which is an unfortunate reality I know many moms deal with. Still, I think there are ways that bosses can support a pregnant woman during pregnancy that suit nearly all workplaces and relationships, including but not limited to:
They Continue To Treat Them Respectfully And Equally
I’ve heard horror stories about pregnant women in their workplaces, ranging from inappropriate comments to actually being fired, and everything in between. Personally, I think the best way to treat a pregnant women is pretty much the same as the best ways to treat any woman: respectfully and courteously.
They Refrain From Judgment About Parenting Plans
I’m not saying it’s not natural to make assumptions, because it totally is. I’ve wondered what the majority of friends and colleagues, who’ve shared pregnancies, plan to do when it comes to work post-baby. However, passing judgment, or worse, expressing such judgment to a pregnant woman, is hardly productive, especially if the person judging is a superior.
They Support Them In A Way That Suits Their Relationship
In my personal example, my supervisor was kind and understanding and she checked in on how I was doing as much as circumstances allowed. She also took extra interest in my workload and ensured I wasn’t too overwhelmed (and yes, I realize I was super lucky that she was this supportive and attentive). These gestures suited our relationship, so I welcomed them.
However, they might not work for everyone, since I'm sure plenty of moms would prefer a more distant and hand-off approach.
They Respect Requests To Keep Details Private
As much as an employee’s pregnancy can affect a supervisor, it’s not their news to share. I can think of a few circumstances (like forecasting and planning) when it’s especially hard not to reveal you're pregnant, and I can sympathize with those who are in a tough position when it comes to keeping secrets. However, it’s simply not cool to reveal someone else’s pregnancy without their permission.
They Pretend Not To Notice The Extra Food All Over The Office
The cheese sticks in the shared fridge? The endless supply of pastries? The cheeseburger and fries I that sat next to me in plain view when you came in to ask a question? Thanks for not making a big deal out of it.
They Establish A Clear Path To The Bathroom
I mean, hopefully the bathroom wasn’t obstructed in some way, but just in case, they should make it easy for the mom-to-be to access. Everyone will be much happier if she can get to and from the restroom comfortably and quickly.
They Refrain From Prying
Yes, some details can be fun to share, and I enjoy knowing the sex of my friends’ babies as much as the next person. Now that I’m pregnant with my second, I’m reminded how much people love hearing the name in advance of the birth (but seriously, I’m not going to tell you).
However, the key is the mom-to-be has to want to share this information. Hassling or constantly questioning her is probably not going to help one’s case for being a trusted confidante.
They Definitely Do Not Touch The Bump
No exceptions, guys. Unless there’s a crowded elevator and someone bumps into someone else and you graze her stomach when you regain your balance (and issue a genuine apology, of course). Otherwise, just don’t do it.
They Model Respectful Behavior And Convey Confidence In The Mom-To-Be To Other Colleagues
To put it simply, a good boss has their employee’s back. If someone is speculating about her potential return to work, abilities as a working mom, or straight up discussing her pregnancy without her, a great boss will squash it and model good behavior.
They Encourage Her To Put Her Health First
I’m currently working through my second pregnancy, and since I work from home, taking care of myself is much easier. Am I nauseous? I can work from the couch. Am I super tired? I can work from the couch. Am I totally hormonal and not feeling like doing anything? I can work from the couch. Keeping up is much easier to do while horizontal.
However, during that first pregnancy, I struggled through parts of the pregnancy because, as much as I wanted or needed rest or a break or ginger ale, I was responsible for other things at that particular moment. A great boss recognizes this struggle, and encourages a pregnant woman to take care of herself.
They Plan, Or Support, A Baby Shower
To be fair, baby showers aren't everything's thing and not all workplaces foster a culture that can facilitate them. However, if we are talking about a baby-shower-friendly organization, and a mom-to-be who’s open to it, a great boss will be totally behind it.