Advice for Women Trying to Balance a Career and Pregnancy

Balancing work and family is a challenge for every woman. But becoming pregnant can be especially stressful for a working woman or a woman looking for a job.

Tory Johnson, chief executive office of Women for Hire, counsels women on career issues and offered advice for working women dealing with pregnancy.

Finding a job while you're pregnant

The first question everyone asks is, should I tell a prospective employer that I'm pregnant? While it's illegal for an employer to bring up your pregnancy -- unless it directly relates to your ability to perform the requirements of the position -- it doesn't mean that you shouldn't be prepared to address it. Every situation is different and requires you to use your own judgment to some extent.

Two typical scenarios:

If you're not showing, don't bring it up. Wait until an offer has been made. This helps to keep the focus of the interviews and decision-making process on your qualifications, not your pregnancy. Otherwise, it is unconscious grounds for discrimination -- a manager worries that you might not come back to work or won't want to put in the necessary hours. Once you receive -- and accept -- a firm offer, you can discuss your expectations/intentions for maternity leave. Some women worry that if they wait to announce it until after they've received an offer that they'll be considered sneaky or untrustworthy. This risk, however, doesn't outweigh the risks associated with speaking up in advance.

If you're well into your pregnancy, you should be prepared to address it by confidently focusing on your unique experience/skill set and ability to perform the requirements of the position and your general commitment to the company and your career. Be clear about your intentions to take a normal maternity leave. Even go so far as to say that you've got your childcare in place and are ready to balance both work and family effectively. If you're calm and clear -- almost businesslike -- this can help to diffuse any concern on behalf of the employer that could lead to doubts about your candidacy.

Keep in mind that the biggest concern an employer has when interviewing anyone -- pregnant or not -- is your ability to do the job effectively. It's only natural that impending childbirth and everything that comes along with it would raise some concerns and questions about your commitment to the position. Every recruiter or decision maker will handle this differently, but remember that your confidence and resolve can allay these potential fears.

When to tell the boss that you're pregnant

As soon as you start showing -- even a bit earlier if possible -- and your doctor has given you the nod, you want to alert your immediate boss first. Don't let the boss hear it from other employees; it should come from you.

If you plan to return to work, make those intentions clear.

Announce your willingness to transition your work to someone else in your absence -- from documenting your work to training a co-worker to alerting staff/clients/vendors about your expected absence.

Staying in touch while you're on maternity leave

Check in periodically, but don't over-promise. You're not going to want to do your job full time with a newborn at home, so don't pretend to be able to do it all. New moms need and deserve a bit of time off, yet you can still connect with colleagues to keep up on office gossip and business highlights. Ask to be selectively copied on key issues. If your work entails status reports, insist that you stay copied on them. Keep your interest and involvement known by responding with a brief note here and there.

Keep current with your industry. Between baby stuff, keep up with relevant trade journals so you're up on key trends and issues happening in your industry in your absence.

Plan a show-off-the-baby visit. Your physical presence reaffirms your commitment to the company and reminds everyone that you will be returning.