“Unideal” Congratulations

When we find out we’re expecting baby, how do we expect people to react? My husband and I had been married a year and half (previously dated 4 years before with a year long engagement) so total we knew each other five and a half years before we got pregnant with our first baby.  We were very lucky that everyone in our family (to our knowledge) was thrilled.  Even though it was confirmation that my husband and I had indeed had sex, our parents were ecstatic about becoming grandparents. “Congratulations you guys!” We were lucky.

But what about those couples, or mothers, who don’t experience the “Congratulations”?

Every circumstance is different; the teenage mother, the unmarried mother, the “not sure who the baby’s dad is” mother, etc..  How is society supposed to react to these “unideal” parenting situations?

My family has been in an “unideal” situation.  I come from a very conservative, and extremely traditional family – you graduate high school, get a college degree, get married, and then maybe have kids. How was I supposed to react? “Congratulations” sure didn’t seem like an appropriate term of endearment in the circumstance.

In reality, I somehow felt I was encouraging the situation by giving a literal “Congratulations”  and in some way making them feel their “unideal” pregnancy was acceptable.  What a horrible thought right? Of course there were other extenuating circumstances that prevented me from being able to verbalize “Congratulations” and the ever present family dynamics.  But what is the appropriate way to react?

During a recent trip to Wal-Mart I was scoping out the baby section and noticed a very young couple browsing baby clothes – I swear the girl couldn’t have been older than 15.  I wondered to myself, “why on earth are high schoolers looking in the baby section?” Then my answer.  Another couple from their school greeted them and asked them why they were looking at baby clothes. The young giddy girl answered … “Oh we just found out we are pregnant and we couldn’t help but look at stuff.  We are so excited!” The other couple seemed shocked and asked when she was due. “We just found out so we’re only about 8 weeks along.” The couple answered “Geez Congratulations.”
I wanted to run over and say … “Don’t buy anything! Save your money! Kids are expensive! You need to go to college! AHHHH!” I kept thinking, this girl has her whole life ahead of her and this is the decision she is making.  

Again, what a horrible thought right?  

I suddenly felt this rush of guilt. Who am I to judge what someone else?

I don’t think anyone is ever truly ready for kids; so sometimes the perfect arrangement can be unideal.  Every situation, every person, every pregnancy is different – so maybe our reactions should reflect this. Does a woman who decides to have a baby out of wedlock warrant the same “Congratulations” as an expecting married couple?  All I know is that my mom has always said, “treat others as you want to be treated”.  So no matter how hard it is to conjure up an unideal “Congratulations”, the right thing to do is show your feelings through a card, a gift, or a smile.  Sometimes your reactions and actions are the ones that are most remembered. And let’s face it, no one has ever lost sleep over being too nice.

Time to tell work …

From everything I’ve been told, being pregnant is supposed to be joyous and thrilling (people leave out the things they should tell you). Shouldn’t women be allowed this moment is our life to be excited and relish in the fact that we are doing what nature intended us to do?  Shouldn’t we have the choice to work or not? And when is the right time to tell your boss – “I’m pregnant and going to need time off.”

Even if you’ve worked with a company and coworkers for an extended period of time and think they will be ecstatic; don’t count on your employer making pregnancy easy on you. When it comes time to file for FMLA, the majority of employers, bosses, and human resource personale, will make taking time off for you and your child even more overwhelming and pressure ridden then it already is.  FMLA can turn into F-M-L.

When you finally tell your boss, “Congratulations” really means “Oh shit.”. Even as the hardest working, most productive employee your employer will (in most cases) suddenly look at you as a liability and even worse; some will look to phase you out of your position because 6 to 12 weeks off is unacceptable.

Let’s look at if from their prospective for a quick second: Suzy is a top of the line employee, she is always to work on time, puts in extra hours, has a college degree, and is flat out amazing at her job.  Then one day Suzy comes into your office and tells you she is expecting her first baby.  Eff. This means she will be slower at her job; might have to take random sick days; her “condition” will make the long hours she used to put in shorter especially once the baby gets here; she’ll need time for doctors appointments; then when she’s due we will have to ready every second to cover her position until she gives birth; then when she has the baby she’s going to need time off; our company insurance is going to have to cover her healthcare costs and she’s probably going to add the baby to her (our) plan;  FMLA costs our company money and so does short term disability; and who knows what kind of employee she’ll be when she gets back?!; how are we ever cover the workload she handles?!

As a working woman you should always progressively keep a portfolio and/or file of the work you do. Keep a running record of the accomplishments and accolades you receive along with other communications that may help you in the future. But the moment you get pregnant, documentation is extremely important. You never think, “My company would never be that stupid to fire me because I’m pregnant!” Wrong – there are companies that are stupid and try to cover it up with processes and extensive paperwork all the while they think you are not documenting anything yourself.  Always keep a copies of your current job description; ANYTHING you sign; and any possible discriminatory communication.  Always get as much as you can in writing especially during your pregnancy.  “Suzy, you don’t have to worry about filling out the report, I know how busy you are with other tasks.” Get it in writing in an email! Use your womanly instincts and don’t ignore them – if something seems sketchy, it most likely is.

As a soon to be mom, the most important thing is to have to have a state of mind that you will do what is best for you and your child.  Your employer does not care what happens to you in the process (as much as they say they do) – they are worried about their bottom line. Even if they tell you they want you to move up in the company and have big hopes for you, their vision of you will change the moment you say you are pregnant and the moment you discuss needing time off.

Be sure to you are up to date on your company’s FMLA policy and know your rights. Follow this link to see the federal governments regulations on FMLA – http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/.

If you feel like you have been discriminated against the EEOC can give you some direction – http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/index.cfm. However, the EEOC is very picky about the cases they choose to intensely investigate and it takes an extensive period of time. You must file a claim through the EEOC first and they can you the option of whether or not you can file a civil suit. Universities with a law program will usually give some free legal advice and can help with the process.

If you have further questions, you can also comment on this post for responses. It’s our choice if we want to work or not! Even though we may be pregnant and/or have children, we can more than compete in the career force.  Being a mom is not a “condition” or “illness” – its a force to be reckoned with.