On your way up the career ladder, life can get in the way, and for many nail professionals, one of the biggest obstacles may be juggling a pregnancy with work. Even if you had an ideal pregnancy with no morning sickness or other complications, this would be a challenge. Moreover, pregnancies can be unpredictable, and it’s difficult to be the same reliable you when from one day to the next, you may not feel physically or emotionally capable of working with clients.
Both Tina and I have our own experiences to share with you; granted, mine happened once 20 years ago, so I’ll let her elaborate further.
As a mother of three who is currently over six months pregnant with her fourth, I personally have considerable experience in this area. Each of my pregnancies were accompanied with constant nausea in the first trimester that lasted into the middle of my second trimester, and joint pain that causes my hips to pop and lock out of place from my second trimesters on. As a productivity-obsessed workaholic, I understand how stressful and sometimes depressing it can be to feel like your body is turning against you.
Making the Big Announcement
If you know you’re pregnant, when do you let others know? Depending on your work situation, you’ll need to consider how your pregnancy and leave of absence will affect your clients, coworkers, boss and employees. News of your pregnancy creates uncertainty, not that they‘re not happy for you, but their next reaction, if it wasn’t their first, will be to wonder how this affects them.
Having a plan will go a long way in reassuring others that you’ve considered their needs, even though your pregnancy is not about them.
How honest should you be? If you have no intentions of returning to work, it doesn’t seem right that you wouldn’t be honest about that. For that reason, a later notification might work better.
Don’t make the announcement until you’re 15-20 weeks pregnant. The risk of spontaneous miscarriage drops steeply after your first trimester concludes, so keep it to yourself until then. If your pregnancy is high-risk or if your early screenings indicate there’s a possibility that the pregnancy may need to be terminated due to genetic abnormalities or other complications, wait until after the anatomy scan.
I don’t announce my pregnancies to anyone at work until it’s obvious, not just because I don’t want to have to explain why a pregnancy failed, but because I have no desire to be assaulted with inappropriate, unsolicited advice, but more on that later.
When it comes time to tell your manager or boss, arrange to do so in a private meeting. If you expect their discretion, tell them so very clearly, leaving no room for misinterpretation. It’s critical that you give them time to find and train a replacement, especially if you know it’s unlikely you’ll be returning. Let them be responsible for arranging for the clients to transition to a new technician.
What to Avoid When You’re Expecting
Your tolerance for products and their varying degrees of odor, while not an issue before, might change. Furthermore, your clients might be overly concerned for your health and how your work might affect the baby. Foregoing a particular type of service over health concerns sends the message that these services are not safe, not a particularly scientific conclusion. Consult with your obstetrician if you have concerns about your work environment.
What might have been an ergonomic setup before may not be as your body changes. For example, doing pedicures may not be comfortable after a certain point. By seven and a half months pregnant, your uterus will shove all your internal organs up into your rib cage, compressing your lungs. You won’t be able to breathe while sitting on a pedi stool, especially if you hunch over while you work. I speak from experience. Additionally, sitting for long periods will cause your legs, ankles, and feet to swell. Drink plenty of water, watch your sodium intake, invest in compression stockings and take breaks every half hour to walk around a bit. (By the time swelling becomes a problem, you’ll be peeing every twenty minutes anyway.)
Lightening Your Load
Your stamina may not be the same and your body certainly is not. Those 10 hour days you worked so hard to fill with appointments might seem like a heavy burden. You may not have the energy to work so many hours, and you worry that your clients will be so inconvenienced that they might leave and never come back.
This happens earlier than you’d expect. Intense fatigue strikes early in your first trimester, generally around 6-12 weeks. It will become very hard to stay awake, especially if you’re foregoing caffeine. Whether or not you’ve announced your pregnancy yet, request scheduling changes and begin the process of transitioning your overflow clients to other professionals.
Delegating your clients to competent coworkers would be ideal; keeping clients in-salon maintains their connection to your business location. A less ideal solution would be recommending a competent colleague outside your business, understanding that there may be a greater risk that clients won’t return.
Looking ahead to the the birth of your baby, planning for childcare should be done as soon as possible. Don’t expect to care for a baby and your clients simultaneously. You’ve not experienced multi-tasking until you’ve managed to breastfeed your infant lying across your lap while polishing a French manicure on the client seated across your table. Don’t ask!
Interacting with Your Clients While Pregnant
Your pregnancy may create some other discomforts, like questions from your clients about your marital or relationship status and unwelcome advice. This is not the time for oversharing.
Establish boundaries. Our personal lives are nobody’s business and we should not be giving clients the ability to gossip about us or judge us by our lifestyles. I consider personal questions from clients incredibly inappropriate and intrusive, and I’m not afraid to let them know it.
Your privacy still matters; the same boundaries apply, whether you’re pregnant or not. “I appreciate your interest, but I’d prefer to keep our relationship professional.” If you have a baby shower with family, clients and coworkers don’t belong there. And don’t encourage them to give you gifts or money. Can you imagine if you felt obligated to gift every child represented by your clientele?
Be aware that opportunistic clients will attempt to leverage your pregnancy to establish parasitic friendships. These clients will exploit your pregnancy to create a false personal connection, which they will later use against you. It is never a good idea to allow clients to feel as if you have anything more than a professional arrangement. (If you’d like to read about the reasons why, read “Why Favors Don’t Pay and Clients Can’t Be ‘Friends.’”) Never put yourself in a position where you owe your clients anything.
Lowering Your Expectations
For me, the hardest part of any pregnancy is how it affects my productivity, which is intimately tied to my sense of self-worth. While you aren’t likely to suffer the same variety of neuroticism, there may be times that you feel helpless, incapable or frustrated. Remember that you are growing a human being in the short span of forty weeks. You will forget things, your body will get in your way, you will not be capable of performing to your own standards at times, and all of that can feel overwhelming and upsetting. Many professionals realize during their pregnancies just how selfish, inconsiderate and insensitive some of their clients, coworkers and employers are. Try to remember that pregnancy (and its impact on your capabilities) isn’t permanent. When confronted by people who expect far more than is reasonable to expect of a pregnant woman, don’t be afraid to remind them of that fact either.
Whether you take just a week or several years before returning to work, don’t expect to pick up where you left off. Your skills may suffer and opportunities may pass you by; these are compromises people accept when they take a break from their careers, regardless of the reason. Even if your job is waiting for you upon your return, your clients may not be and that can happen no matter how loyal they had been previously. During your time away, your priorities may change in unexpected ways. Don’t worry about disappointing anyone; do what’s best for you and your family.
A Note About Pregnancy Discrimination
If you’re concerned that your employment may be at risk because of your pregnancy, you need to do your research before making any notification. To learn about federal prohibitions against pregnancy discrimination, read this from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Another valuable resource, the non-profit organization Workplace Fairness has more information about protecting your rights when pregnant. Individual states may have additional laws that apply to your situation; find your state on this list to determine whether federal discrimination laws or more restrictive state laws apply. You can also do a Google search for the phrase “pregnancy discrimination” and your state’s name. If you need further clarification, we recommend that you contact your state government and/or an attorney specializing in employment law.