Q. I just found out that I'm pregnant, but I'm afraid to tell my boss because I'm anxious about how she and my coworkers will react. When should I tell? And how can I make the next six months as easy as possible for everyone?
A. Prevailing wisdom holds that you should wait to tell your colleagues until after you safely cross the 12-week threshold. It also dictates that when you break the news to your boss you simultaneously hand him a detailed outline of your maternity leave plans.
This is all very sound advice, but hear this: There is no perfect time to break the news, you cannot control how others react, and no one can map out a perfect maternity leave.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's rework the question. Instead of when you should tell, better to ask what you should say. Your pregnancy is the topic, of course, but pointing out your due date isn't nearly as important as pointing out your due diligence. You need to tell your supervisor that your pregnancy will not stop you from fulfilling your responsibilities or putting things in order for your replacement.
As for staying in touch during your leave, don't promise the moon. You can't anticipate how your recovery will play out. So for now, hedge your bets and simply say that you'll be sure and call your colleagues while you're at home.
Once you've broken the news, run, don't walk, to a coworker who has been through maternity leave and grill her for information. What is the company policy? Who will give you a hard time no matter what you do? (That way, you'll know who you can ignore.) Where can you pump when you return? Whose office can you duck into when you think of your baby and start to cry?
That, as they say, is as good as it gets. You've let your boss know what's going on and how you'll help make the transition a smooth one. Most everything else, including your boss's reaction and your feelings once you actually have your baby home, is beyond your control.
Get used to that feeling.