To Ask or Not to Ask: Are You Pregnant?
Is it better to ask that uncomfortable question, or make an assumption?
“You're not drinking tonight? Are you pregnant?”… I find myself quickly reaching for a glass of wine to ensure everyone: I am not pregnant.
I collected a couple of answers my friends use to address this question. Some of these I tried myself.
- No. I am just fat.
- I cannot get pregnant.
- I love money and a career. I don’t want kids.
- No. I am menstruating right now. Do you want to see that?
Well, if you're audacious enough to be asking about such an intimate topic, be ready for equally audacious reactions.
Why are you still asking that question?
There is only a tiny chance that your question will yield an answer such as: “Yes! Today, I just finished my first trimester, and I wanted to tell you.”
Otherwise, you are walking on thin ice…
- She can’t get pregnant.
- She has been through miscarriages or recently had one.
- She is single, just broke up, or in an unhappy relationship.
- Pregnancy is a sensitive topic with her partner.
- She just gained weight.
- She does not want to have kids.
Watch out for assumptions: She's at that age. She'll have kids soon.
What can happen if someone does not ask, “Are you pregnant?” or “Are you planning on having kids?” but makes an assumption instead? Or even worse: a decision about your career?
She doesn’t drink alcohol tonight. She must be pregnant. Who should we take on the business trip to Paris then? Let’s take Jack instead, even though he's a little too junior. Should we promote Irene or Tim? Irene just got married. She might have kids soon. Let’s go with Tim.
I have a male friend that is in the top management of a startup. They signed a three-year-long lucrative contract with their client.
Who is going to be the project manager?
Martina. She's the best.
Wait. But what if she gets pregnant?
My friend was caught by surprise. Is this still happening, even in a 21st century startup? He responded: “If she does get pregnant, then we will figure that out. For now, she is the best for that position.”
(I am proud of you. I suppose that being surrounded by all those strong independent women during university studies had an impact!)
I don’t think he realized at the moment that he took the Sheryl Sandberg approach: give women challenges, promote them, even if they are leaving soon on maternity leave. The women that love their jobs and keep moving forward (and up!) will have a hell of a reason to come back to their exciting jobs. They will be willing to thrive at work along with being a great mother.
Boys, girls, women, men. All of us are worse off.
As long as having or not having kids will significantly impact women’s careers, we are all worse off. You might find yourself running into secondary implications of this environment you have been contributing to.
- Your beloved girl, your life partner, might not want to have kids because she wants her career. You’ll end up without having kids yourself.
- Your beloved daughter will not want to have kids because she is finally climbing the career ladder. You’ll end up without grandkids, although you have always wished for them.
- Your daughter will not have enough female role models to look up to, and she will run into challenges and glass ceilings you have never imagined.
- And ultimately, you want these smart and ambitious women to raise intelligent and ambitious kids. You want these kids to run this planet.
To ask or not to ask: Are you pregnant?
That question should not matter to you. Do not make assumptions about motherhood. Do not make decisions on these poorly constructed assumptions. That’s not productive.
Maybe you are a lucky woman living in a country where these discussions are not a topic anymore. In that case, I congratulate you. You can put it on a list of things you can be grateful for.
If you are a woman like me, you just need to help shift this mindset so the next generation of boys and girls will be better off. Let's work on it. Step by step.