can I tell my manager that I’m NOT pregnant?

A reader writes:

Is there any way to ensure my supervisor knows I’m definitely NOT pregnant?

I started a full-time office job as a temp five months ago. Before that, I had just graduated art school after six years – a period of time that was amazing, but not entirely financially stable. Having struggled with an eating disorder for more than a decade (I’m 26 now), having a stable job means I’m actually able to afford to eat properly, as well as access support. I am more on the road to recovery than ever before, and I am excited about these positive changes.

One issue – my body has been changing, thanks to my new diet, as well as having recently taken up boxing, and some of my new weight has settled on my stomach. I’m okay with this (ideal cat bed!), but I’ve had to make some accommodations – all the pants I purchased five months ago for the office are too small, so my new wardrobe consists of elastic waist wool and tweed trousers, and knit sweaters a little more forgiving than my thin cardigans.

Straight up: I look pregnant. I look like a quite thin person at the beginning, glowing stages of pregnancy. I had assumed I was just imagining it, until last week, a woman on the subway offered me her seat because I “have a baby” (never mind I had my period last week!).

I am the oldest of six kids, so witnessing some of the 4-1/2 years my mom was pregnant taught me the mannerisms of pregnancy – which I’ve been trying to actively go against (stand up straight always, hands nowhere near stomach or lower back, etc). I’ve ensured clothes are forgiving, but not TOO forgiving – the elastic waist pants thing is hard, because while my body is changing, I don’t want to waste money on fitted waists that end up hurting me when I sit, two weeks from now.

The office I work in has a long history of permanently hiring the temps it gets from the same agency I’m from; while I’ve been here, three temps have been made permanent, and we’re soon moving to a new office as we’re growing so fast. I’m so, so afraid that my supervisor will be reluctant to consider me for the same thing, if I’m “pregnant” and may take mat leave or something. I also feel ridiculous and paranoid even writing that! There seems to be no way to indicate in casual conversation, “nope, not preggo, just some fat!” but I also am very wary of this extra weight hurting any chance I may have. Am I right to be worried, or do I just need to chill?

For what it’s worth, my supervisor hasn’t indicated she thinks I’m pregnant, and nothing overt regarding that has occurred; however, I have taken some unexpected sick days in the past few months (contagious pink eye, heat exhaustion). Also, a couple weeks ago, my clinical depression hit hard and I ended up asking her if I could leave the office an hour early, as I couldn’t stop crying – I took the next day off, and emailed her saying, “I am at the tail end of dealing with a health issue and let it get the best of me today. I apologize for letting you see me in that state, and will be back tomorrow bright-eyed and bushy tailed.” I worry that these things could be seen as me covering for a pregnancy.

Well, in theory your body is no one’s business but your own and you certainly shouldn’t have to announce anything about the state of your uterus to your boss … but in reality, people do speculate on whether women are pregnant or not, or even assume that they are without adequate cause. (Adequate cause = the woman tells you personally that she is, in fact, pregnant.)

Plus, it’s very possible that even if your manager did think you might be pregnant, it wouldn’t impact whether she considered you for a permanent role or not. That’s certainly how it should work (and how the law requires that it work) … but in reality, sometimes people to factor pregnancy into their thinking when it comes to hiring decisions, even if only unconsciously. And it’s not just horrible misogynists who do that (if so, it would be easier to write this off as “well, I wouldn’t want to work for that person anyway”); plenty of other people catch themselves thinking, “It would be too hard to have someone out for months during our busy period.”

So, given that, I think you have two choices:

1. Decide you don’t care, regardless. There’s some power in this choice — in saying, “F it, this is my body and I’m okay with it, and I’m not going to worry about how people may or may not be assessing my stomach.”

2. Decide you’d be happier if you said something, just for the peace of mind of not needing to think about it anymore. If this is the case, there are a few options for what to say. I wouldn’t have a big, serious, I Must Tell You That I Am Not Pregnant conversation, but rather would just drop it in casually:
* “Something about boxing is making me look pregnant.”
* “All my winter clothes make me look pregnant.”
* “I think a woman on the subway thought I was pregnant and offered me her seat. I’m not pregnant, for the record!”

Writing these out, I think they’re all going to be at least a little awkward to say, but I think that’s just inherent to the situation and there’s not a lot to be done about that.

What do others think?

Also, congratulations to you for overcoming an eating disorder; that is not easy.

{ 260 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    I leave it to the OP to decide whether she feels more 1 or 2, but I think if she did want to opt for 2, the subway story is a perfect entree, served with a side dish of boxing info. I would choose storytelling culture on that one and tell it as if it just happened that day when next I encountered the manager in the morning. “OMG I knew boxing was changing my body, but this morning a lady tried to give up her seat to me because she thought I was pregnant! Nice lady, but definitely a misread of the situation.”

    1. MousyNon*

      I was thinking that too, it’s the perfect segue if you just want to throw it out there, OP: “A woman thought I was pregnant and offered me her seat on the subway, soooo that happened. I’m not, by the way, but YAY FREE SEATING ON TRAINS.”

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’d definitely make sure to include appreciation in there, so the story doesn’t end up sending a very different message than planned!

        1. Jenniy*

          Something like “I didn’t realize how much extra weight my winter clothes added until some nice lady on the subway mistakenly thought I was pregnant yesterday and offered me the seat. It was so nice to see that there are still such nice people around, but I guess I need to find something a lil nicer for the office holiday party huh?” Hahaha to make it funny.
          If you tell it as a funny story, combined with a note about “seriously it made me happy to see…” It’ll go over well.

          1. INTP*

            Yeah, I like these wordings and fposte’s. Just make one joke about it and drop it (if you harp too much or make it a looonnng anecdote it might come across as a lady doth protest too much thing and make people suspect that you are pregnant).

      2. TL -*

        I would tell it like, “oh I was so tired yesterday and this lady offered me her seat on the subway and I was thinking about how my faith in humanity was restored and then she followed it with, ” can’t make a pregnant lady stand!””
        If you tell it like a joke, and make the pregnant lady the punchline, it’ll come across without having to say I’m not pregnant.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        I have a shirt that kind of looks like a maternity shirt. 50% of the time I wear it a man will offer me a seat on the subway. Women never fall for it because it’s pretty obvious it’s just the shirt making me look that way.

          1. Mabel*

            I bought a dress at a thrift shop a few weeks ago that turned out to be a maternity dress. It must be meant for very early in the pregnancy because it looked like all of my other dresses on me. The size said “M,” but I now know that it didn’t mean “Medium,” like I thought!

    2. Christy*

      In a world where we’re fighting the good fight for equality, I wouldn’t say anything at all. In our world wherein you’re looking to be brought on permanently, I’d say fposte’s advice is pretty spot-on.

    3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Yes, this. The subway story is something that most people would, I think, find mention-worthy, and it leads up to it nicely. Or if somebody mentions your clothes – “Yeah, I’m not pregnant but I’ve definitely appreciated the maternity section recently. It’s great to be putting weight back on now with boxing, but buying clothes has become trickier!”

    4. AnonInSC*

      If you do feel you need to say something if only for your own peace of mind (for the record, I don’t think you need to – but totally understand why you might want to. And you are the one in the situation/knows the organizational culture), I think fposte’s suggestion is great.

      And congratulations on your healthy progress! Several close friends of mine have fought that demon – it’s hard work.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        I agree that you don’t have to say a thing. I often note in similar conversations that people have tummies for reasons other than pregnancy; you are a prime example. You are why the guideline about not mentioning pregnancy until the woman mentions it exists. It will become obvious in a few months she there’s no baby.

    5. Cat*

      And I think with a story you can go even less personal. “My friend who’s pregnant just told me that she can’t eat sushi – I would miss that so much if I were pregnant!” or something to that effect would sort it out.

    6. Turtle Candle*

      Yes–if it were me, I’d be seriously on the fence between telling them I wasn’t pregnant and not saying anything, but if you do want to make it clear that you aren’t, I think telling it as a funny anecdote about the train is perfect.

  2. A*

    Dropping a casual comment about your plans to enjoy a nice wine someone gifted you for the holidays might work. It’s subtle but, unless there’s already a really bad opinion of you, sends a pretty clear message that you’re not pregnant. It may even prompt an (untactful) question or comment along the lines of, “Oh, I thought you were pregnant,” in which case you can deny.

    Ultimately, they’ll know for sure within a few months anyway. No one is perpetually at the beginning of a pregnancy.

    1. Elysian*

      Yup, if there’s an office holiday party coming up or something (and if you’re a drinker) make sure your manager sees you with an alcoholic drink. The whole women-shouldn’t-drink-when-pregnant stigma is incredibly strong, so either people will see you drinking and assume you’re not pregnant, or someone might even say something like “Should you really be drinking in your condition?” and give you the opening to say “Actually I’m not pregnant, you’re just an ass.”

    2. A Non*

      “Ultimately, they’ll know for sure within a few months anyway. No one is perpetually at the beginning of a pregnancy.”

      That happened with a coworker of mine. I was wondering if something was up… and a few months later, nope, apparently that’s just how her body’s shaped at this point in time. Fortunately I had the sense not to say anything before/unless she announced a pregnancy.

      1. Wildkitten*

        I look like this and I gained a ton of weight when I started my current job and I’m sure people thought this. Buy new clothes! Having clothes that fit your new body instead of trying to jam your tummy into your old clothes makes a HUGE difference.

      2. Squeegee Beckenheim*

        Same here! There’s a woman in another department and I’ll go long stretches of time without seeing her, and then see her a bunch of times in a row. Around two months ago I saw her for the first time in a while and I wasn’t sure if she was pregnant or just wearing a top that emphasized her stomach. Couple of months later, it looks like it was just the shirt.

    3. overeducated and underemployed*

      This is what I was thinking – find an opportunity to drink in front of the boss If there isn’t one, drink lots of coffee at the office maybe? Bring a wedge of brie and some crackers, or a takeout box of sushi for lunch?

      I like the joking suggestions too. If there’s a holiday party you could say “ha ha, I like wearing looser clothes when there’s all this awesome holiday food around, even though I’m afraid they do make me look pregnant!”

      1. NK*

        I think the straightforward joke approach is a much better one than dropping subtle food hints.

        As someone who is pregnant, none of these things are necessarily off limits, and I hope people don’t go judging pregnant women who do consume these things. A couple cups of coffee a day is fine, virtually all brie in the U.S. is pasteurized and thus fine, as is cooked sushi – and even uncooked if you are comfortable with the source. Some pregnant women also choose to have an occasional drink (I don’t want to get in a debate about this last point in particular, but there’s a good amount of research that indicates that occasional drinking a single serving of alcohol is fine).

        1. overeducated and underemployed*

          My comment was tongue in cheek about the way people do police pregnant women’s intake, even though I agree that they shouldn’t – I deleted a winking face after the first sentence (where there’s no punctuation) but forgot to add it on to the end, so I guess that didn’t come through from the words themselves. I think drinking or maneuvering to make a sushi lunch visible in front of the boss would be quite weird. On the other hand, I think it would work in some offices, much like a woman NOT drinking in some circles leads to questions about whether she’s pregnant.

        2. anon prego*

          Wait, brie can be pasteurized? So I’ve been avoiding the (wonderful, tempting) cheese case at the grocery store for 7 months for no reason? HUBBY, get the car keys – I know what I’m having for dinner!

      2. Ife*

        I agree with others that subtle food hints — especially using “forbidden” foods that are kind of obscure like brie or coffee — is not the most effective approach here.

        That said, I am totally going to be tempted to use the logic to justify going to the sushi place more often at lunch. “Nope, can’t have them thinking I’m pregnant! Better go get some sushi!” :)

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Your last paragraph was my thought too. I assume her weight gain back to a healthy weight will taper off and people will know she’s not pregnant because she hasnt gotten any bigger. But me and just because the way I am and it would gnaw at me, I’d say something to boss still. Something along the lines of “I had a health issue and now that it’s resolved I’m gaining weight…”

    5. NJ Anon*

      My doctor said a glass of wine once in awhile pregnant was ok. (This was back in the 80’s.) I think this may be too subtle. I’d for the subway story.

    6. BuildMeUp*

      I’m not sure – I think this runs the risk of everyone thinking it but no one actually saying it out loud (and giving the opportunity for her to say she isn’t pregnant), which could lead to some people thinking the OP *is* pregnant but drinking a lot anyway.

    7. Wren*

      Might be too subtle! My cousin, with drink in hand, with friends gathered at a bar, said, “[husband] and I have news!” It was that they were making an international move, but people still eagerly hoped it was baby news.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Hah, yeah. I once said something about exciting stuff happening in the next year–it was travel–and my father in law immediately jumped to ‘ooh, can I look forward to a grandchild?’ We were at a Mexican restaurant and I had a comically huge margarita in front of me; I was like ‘well presumably not, given that I’m drinking this!’ Some people are really aware of these things and some aren’t. (And that’s with alcohol, something that almost everyone is aware is restricted during pregnancy. Other things, like soft cheeses and sushi, many people don’t know unless/until they or a partner get pregnant themselves.)

  3. AnonForThis*

    I think it’s hard to overcome issues like this, and it sounds like the OP is working on it. I bet this hasn’t crossed the manager’s mind at all. I bet people have noticed the muscle gain, but they’re polite enough not to make comments on the OP’s body. I think the OP should focus on getting healthy and their recovery and not worry about this at all. Sometimes we worry so much about what other’s think, without taking into account how much we worry about ourselves and our families and friends, and not complete strangers or even coworkers. Guess what? Others are doing the same thing you’re doing – thinking about themselves!

    1. Helka*

      I emphatically disagree with pretty much everything you’ve said here.

      Sometimes we worry so much about what other’s think, without taking into account how much we worry about ourselves and our families and friends, and not complete strangers or even coworkers.

      There are a lot of people with a lot of experiences that contradict this, and in context, it’s really not a relevant statement to the conversation. For whatever reason (read: messed-up patriarchal culture) there are a lot of people out there who do tend to scrutinize women’s bodies very heavily, and make judgments about them based on the conclusions they’ve drawn from that scrutiny without ever bothering to consider whether the conclusions are justified. And in particular, pregnancy speculation is really, really common, and in combination with job concerns can be a really big deal.

      Guess what? Others are doing the same thing you’re doing – thinking about themselves!

      In the OP’s position, when she knows that she’s in a group that’s under observation and scrutiny for possibilities of a permanent hire, she knows that her manager is going to be thinking about her, and it’s pretty valid to wonder if the false assumption of pregnancy is going to enter into those thoughts.

      I bet people have noticed the muscle gain, but they’re polite enough not to make comments on the OP’s body.

      This… contradicts everything else you’ve said? Unless you mean in the context that people have noticed that the gain is muscle and not even remotely similar to a tiny proto-human forming, which based on the OP’s experience (and remember, our standard here is to assume that the OP is conveying accurate information) is highly unlikely. The whole concern is people — in particular, people at her job, who would have a hand in the decision to bring her on permanently — noticing the change in her body without saying anything and giving her the opportunity to correct them.

      1. AnonForThis*

        But there’s no evidence this is happening here in this letter. The OP never said she was getting comments from coworkers or her manager. These are her thoughts related to how she’s feeling about the changes to her body.

        I chose not to read more into the letter than what was there and just use what she presented. And there could be people speculating and maybe none at all.

        I also think you came a little hard here, and not sure it was warranted.

        1. Jerzy*

          OP did say someone gave her a seat on the subway because she thought she was pregnant, so there is evidence at least one person has made that leap. It’s not a stretch to think others might as well, including OP’s boss.

        2. Helka*

          To be honest, your comment really rubbed me the wrong way because it came across as a) ignoring the context of the situation — that a permanent position is potentially at stake here, and therefore the OP has good reason to be worried about unspoken assumptions — and b) scolding the OP and tacitly calling her self-centered, by reducing her understandable job concerns to “being concerned what others think.”

          I think what you’re seeing as “choosing not to read into the letter” is what I’m seeing as “ignoring the context.” If the stakes were lower — something more like “I think coworkers might be assuming I’m pregnant and that is weird and awkward” — I would agree with you that it isn’t worth worrying about. But the OP is at a place with her job where “what her manager thinks of her as a long-term employee” is pretty salient, and once an impression is formed, it can be hard to get rid of.

          1. AnonForThis*

            I never called her self centered. I never said that.

            I didn’t ever want to dismiss her fears, but I did want her to maybe see it another way – that these assumptions weren’t being made.

            I used to really enjoy the comments here and commenting, but these wild leaps and jumping down people’s throats is getting to be too much.

            1. Kelly L.*

              That’s kind of the background to the “no one notices what others are doing” concept though. I’m coming up empty right now, but I know I’ve read this idea in multiple places–that being worried about what others think is really self-centered, and that nobody actually notices things because everybody else is self-centered too. It’s a really popular meme in recent years.

              1. The Strand*

                Deepak Chopra’s quote is what I’ve seen quoted on Metafilter and other popular blogs – “What other people think of you is not your business. If you start to make that business your business, you will be offended for the rest of your life.”

                That’s a load of crap.

                If you’re worried about everyone needing to like you, then it’s great advice. You can’t cower in fear over what someone might think about the way you dress.

                But if people misunderstood something you said or did, or are just judgmental fools, and you become a pariah in your office, neighborhood or aerobics club… Or worse, your job is on the line because of this misunderstanding or similar – then yes, what other people think of you is your business, and you would be stupid not to care about the consequences.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  This. And, what other people think of us is, for better or worse, one of the things that shape people’s behaviors in society.

                  What people think is why we wear business casual clothes or whatever to the office, rather than rolling up in pajamas. It’s why people don’t microwave fish in the office microwave. It’s why we use polite words even when we’re really annoyed.

                  Yes, caring too much about what other people think can be a problem and even be a sign of social anxiety. But caring to little can be just as big of a problem.

                  And seriously, I was brought up with the idea that the one thing you have is your reputation, and so you should do things to protect it (ie, do things that make people think well of you). So, not breaking promises, not being rude, not slacking off, etc. And I took that to heart. And part of that as well is conducting myself not to give off that impression – so not being seen on Facebook at work even if I would have the time to do it, making sure the things I do do are visible. And if anybody said something to indicate they thought I was slacking off, I would correct them because I don’t want the idea that I am a slacker to circulate unchecked. That would be bad for my reputation and my career. Now, if even after my correction they still continued to think I was a slacker, there’s only so much I can do. Just like even if the OP clarifies to her boss that she’s really not pregnant but the boss still continues to secretly think it anyway there’s not much she can do about it. But I really reject the idea that it’s wrong to care about what somebody thinks of you (especially in a work context) or try to correct it.

              2. Panda Bandit*

                Terrible meme. Being worried about what others think is also a sign of social anxiety, and calling someone self-centered if they’re struggling with mental issues is not a good way to handle things.

                1. Mookie*

                  Right. As someone who’s always had heart-pounding social anxiety and self-consciousness, the emphasis on the self is not the pertinent or particularly debilitating bit, in that everyone’s inner life revolves around them: rather, it’s the belief that people are more or less constantly assessing you as shit and bad at everything, but in a dispassionate, offhand way, so that you don’t even rate as worthy of real contemplation before being dismissed as useless. There’s also the maddening sense that everyone around you, including strangers, knows and finds wanting your secret thoughts and desires, the infinite amount of mistakes you’ve made.

                  Being told to shrug that off a lifetime of that struggle is poor advice because it can’t be done for some people. Feeling at least a bit in control while managing hyper-selfawareness is one of the key strategies to prevent feeling overwhelmed by possibilities, and part of that control is managing the risk, where possible, of embarrassment. Heading off weird conversations about your body with pre-emptive scripts like the ones Alison and fposte suggested, could help with that.

            2. Owl*

              Who is jumping down anyone’s throat? I think all the comments in this thread are pretty polite, even when people are disagreeing.

      2. Anna*

        Not entirely sure why the blow-by-blow is necessary, but AnonForThis is basically saying it may be making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s entirely possible the thought will cross someone’s mind, but it won’t be an all-consuming thought. Yes, some people spend a lot of their time scrutinizing a woman’s body and believing someone is pregnant may affect their job prospects, but it’s going to be clear in short order that the OP is not pregnant because she won’t have, you know, a freakin’ baby.

        It’s also worth considering that having to dispel the idea that a woman is pregnant in a way feeds in to that patriarchy by validating that it’s all right to speculate on women’s bodies.

        1. fposte*

          I agree that it’s quite possible nobody’s paying that much attention. I’m intellectually aware that my staff may get pregnant, but I never realize it until I’m told; I also wouldn’t pay any attention to drinking or soft cheese consumption as signs.

          But I think if the OP is uncomfortable anyway, it’s worth considering a way to end that, since there are some pretty pain-free ways to do it.

          1. Cat*

            I always feel bad in these discussions because I almost always notice. Not soft cheese or coke, but alcohol, frequent doctor’s appointments, sushi, changes in body shape. I don’t want to or try to but it is something I tend to pick up on, so I understand why other people do. (I would never mention it though.)

            1. Zillah*

              I don’t think you should feel bad about it! We’re all attuned to certain things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s rude to draw attention to it, but you can’t help noticing it.

            2. Helka*

              Agreed. Apparently my superpower is noticing when someone is pregnant well before they make the announcement — I absolutely can’t put my finger on how I can tell, but there’s just something that makes me go “Hmm..” and then they announce their pregnancy like a month later.

              And like you, I don’t talk about it — well, no, I lie. I did once. But the pregnant individual was a stray cat that likes to hang around our apartment building, so I figure that’s okay :)

              1. Cath in Canada*

                I’m notorious in my office for never noticing that something. Every time there’s a pregnancy announcement (and we’ve had a lot recently!), everyone else is all “I thought so! But I didn’t want to say anything!”, and I’m always “NO WAY!”

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          One doesn’t overthrow the patriarchy by pretending it doesn’t exist. And one doesn’t have to have an all-consuming obsession with someone else’s body to say “Hmmm, I don’t know if we want to hire Jane for this position, with the baby coming and all.” Ignoring what happens in the real world doesn’t make it stop happening.

        3. Helka*

          I prefer the “blow by blow” when there are separate things I want to address individually.

          It’s also worth considering that having to dispel the idea that a woman is pregnant in a way feeds in to that patriarchy by validating that it’s all right to speculate on women’s bodies.

          That’s… not really how it works. No one is validating that it’s all right to speculate on women’s bodies — the problem is people speculating on women’s bodies. If the standard societal practice was to not assume pregnancy until informed, we wouldn’t even need to have this discussion. Acknowledging that people do a crappy thing and talking about how to handle it when they do doesn’t mean we’re validating the crappy thing as okay.

          1. Anna*

            That is actually how it works frequently. Please don’t lecture me on how the patriarchy works or doesn’t work. I actually have a degree in sociology that tells me I know how to address this.

            1. Observer*

              The fact that you have a degree doesn’t mean that you really understand how this works in real life.

              I see that the OP addresses this directly.

              The bottom line is that SHE is not the one “upholding patriarchy” – she’s the one just trying to navigate it in a way that doesn’t threaten her well-being.

        4. Observer*

          It’s also worth considering that having to dispel the idea that a woman is pregnant in a way feeds in to that patriarchy by validating that it’s all right to speculate on women’s bodies.

          Yes, it’s worth noting, if you can afford to risk your job. But, if you can’t then it really doesn’t make a difference. And, I think that the OP can’t take that risk.

        5. notpregnant*

          “It’s also worth considering that having to dispel the idea that a woman is pregnant in a way feeds in to that patriarchy by validating that it’s all right to speculate on women’s bodies.”

          I’m the OP, and this is the first comment I want to reply to because that line above really seems unfortunate and I hope that you are not actually trying to convey what it’s currently saying to me: that by worrying about what this whole issue essentially comes down to- my appearance of health and what that may mean for time taken off/leave/etc as it effects my chances at a full-time, permanent position within this company- I am somehow upholding patriarchy.

          Am I super thrilled I was in a position where I needed to write this letter to try and get advice for this predicament? Absolutely not. I am ultimately happy with my body, with the strength it has shown me even through everything I have put it through for over a decade. It’s been with me the entire way, and I’ve at turns hated and despised and actively harmed it, but I’ve also come to nurture and respect and enjoy it. And during that nurturing, I’ve been put in a position where I in fact DO have to consider the potential of dispelling the idea I’m pregnant. I understand how this job has helped me in my recovery, and I do not want to jeopardize any chance I have at making it that much more stable. Part of that is ensuring management is aware that I am available for the long haul- and part of THAT is ensuring, however casually, that nobody thinks I may be pregnant, when I am aware it physically looks that way.

          I don’t have months to “prove” I’m not pregnant by just…. not having a baby. Temp positions are often unstable and project based- my position now is based on a project to finish. Once I am done that project, I am either out of a job and to the next temp position, or this company decides I’ve been a valuable asset to them and retains me for other, permanent work. I am now halfway through my ten month project. I want to ensure I am making an impression that sticks, and not in the “don’t hire her because she’s almost finished cooking that bun in the oven!” kind of sticks.

          Do you think I look at this situation, and my worries, and think, “This is really in line with my feminist ideals, and exactly how I want to live my life?”. Goodness no. But this is my reality, currently. I am ok with valuing comfort, stability, and the like over living each second to my exact feminist standards, or to yours- and you don’t even know my standards, or how much I (do or do not) value feminism within my life, but honestly, I don’t have to disprove that I am actually not some secret agent of the patriarchy.

          Maybe, someday, when I actually am pregnant with an actual human fetus, I will want to bust down the myths that people have a right to my body and what’s inside it and my timeline for various things- career, etc- in my life. But I am NOT pregnant. It’s ok for me to not want to take this battle on right now. That’s ok.

          1. Anna*

            It actually wasn’t about that. It was more about Helka feeling like it was the appropriate time to lecture on how patriarchy works. How you deal with your particular situation is up to you; however you shouldn’t have to take on the whole of systemic oppression or even worry about it in how you approach your situation. No one woman is responsible for combatting centuries of a system. You are responsible for your situation, that’s it, and you have to do what works best for you and makes you most comfortable. What I was trying to say (poorly, obviously) is the opposite of what you thought, in fact.

            1. Helka*

              Yeah, rereading I can see what you meant by the comment, but it really didn’t come across as bringing up general food for thought about the whole situation, it did very much sound like a direct indictment of the OP’s urge to clear up possible misunderstandings.

              For what it’s worth, though, I think you’re a little backward — the point the OP is responding to here is the same one I responded to, not a response to my comment to you.

          2. Honeybee*

            Hey OP, I think you are awesome for posting here, and your comment is also awesome – and completely right.

        6. Lindsay J*

          But depending on when the full-time hiring is done, not enough time may have passed for the boss to see that she doesn’t have a baby.

          I totally agree on your second point, though. However, I think we have to separate what would happen in an ideal world (where a women’s pregnancy is nobody’s business from her own and would not adversely affect her job prospects), and the world we live in right now (where at least one person has assumed that the OP is pregnant, and that assumption could possibly hurt her chance of getting a full time job). I don’t think any one person should feel that they have to sacrifice their comfort or security for the advancement of the cause.

          FWIW, I feel very differently about this situation than a previous letter writer who wanted to somehow make it clear in her cover letter or interview that she never intended to have children and so would never take maternity leave or leave early for daycare or w/e, and was hoping to use that to get ahead in the hiring process by making herself seem like a better choice than woman who already had children or might possibly be planning to have them in the future. That felt very gross and anti-feminist to me, while this situation doesn’t. I’m not sure why I feel so differently, considering the situations are very similar. I think the difference for me here is that the OP here is only wanting to directly refute assumptions that are currently being made about her own body.

          1. Observer*

            To me, it felt like that letter writer was saying “I’m better because I won’t take maternity leave, nor need daycare” whereas the current poster is just trying to say “please don’t hold a non-existent pregnancy against me.” The form of the argument feeds into the idea that women who have children are somehow lesser – less capable, less valuable and less suitable to careers than those women who don’t have children.

    2. Bwmn*

      Unfortunately, I think the flip side to “everyone is thinking about themselves” is “offices love to gossip”. Though to the best of my knowledge the OP and I don’t work in the same place – I know for sure that a number of people in our office baby bump watch.

      The most noticeable case this year was a woman who announced she was three months pregnant at a point where based on her physical appearance – the office gossip mill definitely did not believe that. It was strongly assumed that she was more like 5-6 months pregnant. This gossip cycle was never truly ended as she quit before giving birth. So. Maybe I just work in more of a high school bathroom than most, but I don’t think it’s an illogical concern for the OP.

    3. Zillah*

      While you seem to have gotten some flak for this comment, I think you’re making a good overall point – we’re often our own harshest critics. That’s not true all the time, obviously, but I think we’ve all had periods of getting intensely uncomfortable or insecure about something that no one else has even noticed, because they’re just not paying close enough attention.

      That said, there’s a lot of policing of bodies and weight gain, particularly when women are involved, and since the OP has actually gotten a comment about it, it’s clearly not all just paranoia – and unfortunately, women absolutely are discriminated against for being pregnant. Given that and given that it’s causing her a fair amount of anxiety, I can understand wanting to address it.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You’re overthinking this big time.  Yes you should be concerned that you might look pregnant but only as it relates to your job.  Saying what AAM suggested does sound a bit forced and awkward.  Plus it would be really hard to pull off in regular conversation.

    Combined with AAM’s first suggestion, I advise more action-related behaviors: drinking alcohol openly, talking about your physical activities, mention getting in the stomach or face (when I boxed, this happened plenty of times), and openly eat foods that are verboten for pregnant women.

    Remember this is a very short-term problem.  If anyone was wondering, in a few months, they’ll have their answer.  You don’t need to push this too much.  Time will literally do the work for you.

    As for all non-work related people who inquire or assume?  My response is this, “I’m not pregnant.  I guess I look fat.”

    1. Sally-O*

      Boy that sounds like a lot of work. Why should she have to change what she drinks/eats in front of coworkers and constantly drop hints, and worry whether they “got” it? Why can’t we just say what we mean in this world?

      At the end of a conversation with your boss, just say, “Hey, I know this is kind of awkward, but a few people have asked whether I’m pregnant because I’ve put on some weight. I just wanted to let you know that I’m not. I’ve been doing a lot of boxing lately and changing my diet to accommodate. Anyway, maybe you didn’t event notice…I just didn’t want you to be speculating! Kids someday, but not for now. How are your kids, by the way? {change subject…}”

      1. JMegan*

        “Hey, I know this is kind of awkward, but a few people have asked whether I’m pregnant because I’ve put on some weight. I just wanted to let you know that I’m not. I’ve been doing a lot of boxing lately and changing my diet to accommodate. Anyway, maybe you didn’t event notice…I just didn’t want you to be speculating!

        This is an excellent script. Acknowledge the awkwardness, correct the perception, change the subject. I would leave out the “Kids someday” part, because I think it might distract from the main point, but the rest of it is great.

        Also, well done OP on your recovery!

      2. Honeybee*

        This is what I came here to say. All the actions and not-so-subtle joking has the risk of flying right over someone’s head – I never even knew sushi and cheese were things pregnant women weren’t supposed to eat, and I wouldn’t think twice about it. I wouldn’t even assume someone was not pregnant because they were drinking alcohol (plus we’re assuming that there will be an opportunity for OP to drink openly in front of coworkers in the near future. Not all holiday parties have alcohol). Being direct and just saying this outright is the best approach, I think. No chance for being misinterpreted or missed completely.

    2. INFJ*

      I think that “drinking alcohol openly” and “openly eat foods that are verboten for pregnant women” and hoping that someone takes the hint is way more forced and awkward than relaying the train story (which can easily be interpreted as a funny story with no ulterior motive).

      As an aside, I want to commend the OP for being able to make positive changes and taking in stride the changes happening with her body.

      1. Helka*

        I think that “drinking alcohol openly” and “openly eat foods that are verboten for pregnant women” and hoping that someone takes the hint is way more forced and awkward than relaying the train story (which can easily be interpreted as a funny story with no ulterior motive).

        ITA. And since the goal is to end speculation, something like this doesn’t really advance that end since it still relies on people watching the OP and making assumptions — and the OP doesn’t have control over what assumptions are made.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep, and she might have judgmental idiots judge her for “drinking while pregnant” instead of correctly concluding that she isn’t pregnant at all.

        2. Mookie*

          Besides which, given that notpregnant has emphatically stated she doesn’t want to have to manage this very personal situation by striking a big, ostentatious blow against female beauty standards and weight compliance, the roundabout way sounds inconvenient and counterproductive. If she behaves in a way that is designed to court negative attention in order to disclose that she’s not pregnant, the conversation will eventually culminate into some kind of falsely hearty oh-ho-ho gag about “Of course she’d never drink alcohol / eat calves brains / etc while preggers you guyyyyssszz.” And that only functions as positive reinforcement strangers and mild acquaintances to continue to scrutinize and demand explanations for pregnant people’s choices and behavior, on the pretext of “looking out for them,” rather than minding their own business in the first place.

      2. Ultraviolet*

        Not everyone is up to date on recommendations for what pregnant women should avoid eating either. I think that OP conspicuously eating those foods would be lost on a lot of the office.

        The idea of the OP trying super hard to be noticed drinking booze around the office has real comedy potential though. Maybe she needs a really flashy flask. Or she could line up beer bottles on her windowsill like it was a dorm room?

        1. Ad Astra*

          As someone who has never been pregnant, I would never notice any change in someone’s soft cheese or sushi consumption. Besides alcohol and tobacco (and, like, street drugs), there’s really nothing someone could consume in front of me that sets off my “NOT FOR PREGNANT LADIES” alarm. I think this strategy would only work if OP’s coworkers definitely suspected pregnancy and were watching for signs.

          1. Honeybee*

            Me either. I wasn’t even aware that pregnant women weren’t supposed to eat sushi and cheese. I’d vaguely heard something about mercury in fish.

            Plus, as someone with a background in public health I do realize that most of the food prohibitions for pregnant women is just sensationalized or exaggerated bs; many of the recommendations are simply CYA kinds of provisions. (Most studies that show evidence of harmful effects of caffeine on fetuses, for example, were done by administering very large unrealistic amounts of caffeine directly into the bloodstream of animal models. Most studies that have looked at actual humans ingesting normal amounts of caffeine show no connection between caffeine and birth defects. And even though alcohol is a known teratogen, even most studies connecting birth defects with alcohol have been done in women who were “moderate to heavy” drinkers – as in they drank at least 10 drinks a week, and often much much more, consistently.) So I might figure that maybe a woman is deciding for herself what she wants to eat based on research?

          2. Panda Bandit*

            Besides alcohol, the only other thing I know about is cigarettes, but I do not advise the OP to take up smoking.

          3. Lindsay J*

            This. I had never heard of the cheese thing until today (and I’m wondering if it’s true for the US or not since IIRC anything unpasteurized is illegal here). And while when I saw sushi listed I went “oh yeah, that is a thing” I wouldn’t notice/recall it in real life unless someone else pointed it out.

            And as far as I know women can be physically active in most ways into their third trimester (barring complications) so exercise wouldn’t ping on my radar either.

        2. Sunflower*

          I totally agree. The only time I’ve really seen people notice this stuff is at weddings and mostly by women who just had babies or are trying to get pregnant. And these are weddings with open bars where everyone is sloshed so a close friend not drinking is a rarity. But in an office environment where you probably aren’t drinking or talking about drinking a ton, it’s gonna go right over people’s heads.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Plus, drinking alcohol openly at work might land her in a whole different kind of trouble lol

        1. Ultraviolet*

          Oh right, that too.

          (In fairness, despite my joke above I do realize that the suggestions to be seen drinking are probably predicated on the assumption that the OP will attend an office holiday party soon.)

    3. Solidus Pilcrow*

      To those advocating drinking alcohol and eating sushi etc, what would you recommend for someone who doesn’t drink alcohol or eat fish? I’m a larger lady with a gut (it’s been there for years, so no one assumes I’m pregnant, but let’s go with the idea that people do assume I’m pregnant). I don’t drink booze, but even if I did I wouldn’t in front of my boss. I also don’t like sushi. I’ll eat some types of cooked fish, but I’m allergic to shell fish.

      Even if one were to do those things, who’s to say anyone’s going to make the connection of booze drinking/fish eating = not pregnant? Yes there is a stigma for certain behaviors, but plenty of pregnant women do them anyway.

      Is the boss thinking this? “Hmm, I’m thinking of hiring Jane on permanent, but is she pregnant? Wait, I saw her drinking a beer at the fish fry yesterday, so I guess not.”

      Or would the boss think this?: “I saw Pregnant Jane drinking and eating fish; she’s so irresponsible. I don’t think I’ll hire her”?

      I agree with Sally-O here:

      Boy that sounds like a lot of work. Why should she have to change what she drinks/eats in front of coworkers and constantly drop hints, and worry whether they “got” it?

      If the OP is worried, I’d say go with the subway story as a lead-in as others have suggested.

  5. tod*

    If you have the mind of rapport that enables this, you could relate it like a funny story.

    You wont believe what happened to me the other day! A woman on the subway congratulated me and asked how far along I was. Oh my goodness. I replied, ” I am not pregnant… except with a food baby!” Geez, the stuff that happens on the G train.

    — of course this requires the kind of comfort where you chit chat about stories of the day, etc.

    1. Development professional*

      This is what I was thinking too. In my office, this would be totally possible to pull off. Casual chit chat is made for “you won’t believe what happened on the subway” stories.

      But honestly? Maybe it would just be better to have a conversation about wanting to stay on permanently, and envisioning how to set yourself up for success in the next 3, 6, 9, 12 months. Talking specifically about all of those intervals, at least one of which would be knocked out by a maternity leave, could be the signal you’re looking for without being too personal.

      1. AnonInSC*

        Very good! And it has the added benefit of being a productive conversation for career development – something I’m sure you want anyway.

      2. Chameleon*

        I really like this suggestion. It shows you are serious about this job, lets your manager know your career goals, and opens up the chance for your manager to bring up any concerns she may have (including possible maternity leave) early enough that you can address them.

      3. neverjaunty*

        THIS. Thank you. All the scripts about “ha ha I’m subtly telling you how NOT pregnant I am!” are making me face-keyboard. There is no non-awkward way to tell people out of the blue that you believe they were wondering if you’re pregnant and rest easy, folks, you’re not!

        And also, it’s going to piss off a lot of managers to tell them, in essence, that you need to head off their obvious intention to discriminate against you.

      4. Doriana Gray*

        OP, Development professional’s advice is perfect. Use this to take the focus off your body completely.

      5. notpregnant*

        I definitely agree with everybody, this is good advice! And my manager and I did have talks like this more regularly, in my first few months. I think I haven’t noticed that those have tapered off, but they always started more as check-ins – and as I’ve gotten much more used to my job and don’t need weekly check-ins, they’ve fallen by the wayside. I think I will ask to have a chat with my supervisor soon and focus on this, she does strike me as very open to these chats.

        Thank you!

    2. Sunflower*

      I totally agree that the funny story idea is the way to go. It seems the most casual and least likely to go over someone’s head. I’m also thinking with the holidays and new year coming up, people are going to be talking a lot about what they’ve been eating and, of course, new years resolutions.

      So if you aren’t totally comfortable telling the subway story, you could definitely easily throw in Alison’s first line of ‘I just started boxing and it’s great but I think it’s starting to make me look pregnant even though I’m definitely not!’

  6. AnotherAlison*

    The elastic pants could be contributing to the appearance/subway comments. You know how it is. . .you try to add up the clues, and elastic waist pants tend to tip the scales in favor of pregnancy vs. weight gain. Not that anyone should be making assumptions.

    1. Not Preggo*

      Hey now – I’m quite thin (5’6″ 115 lbs) and I LOVE ELASTIC WAISTBAND PANTS.
      Literally just found some awesome ones from Ann Taylor that *are* leggings but look like work pants if paired with a long enough top. They key is that no one can see that the waistband is elastic. :-P

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Right, but you’re “quite thin!” Thin people in elastic pants is a different deal. It’s the belly + elastic waist that some people might assume is a pregnancy.

        Probably 8 years ago, I had some NYCo pants that were work slacks with an elastic waist. They weren’t fully elastic, just a couple sections on the sides. Anyway, I only had 17% BF at the time, so no problem. Within the last year, and last month especially, I’ve jumped up to 25% BF and am self-conscious of my gut. I would not wear pants without a front zipper to camo this a little! Not because I think I look pregnant, necessarily, but I think the elastic doesn’t hold anything in. (My pregnant bellies are higher than my fat bellies, but OP doesn’t know that information about herself at this stage in life.)

  7. Kvaren*

    (ideal cat bed!)
    You are the best person on the internet today. JJ Abrams and Daisy Ridley be damned.

    It sounds like it would make you much more comfortable in your job to make it known that you’re not pregnant. Given that, I like Alison’s suggestions for ways to clear it up without needing a dedicated conversation for it.

    1. notpregnant*

      Haha, thank you!

      I agree- I think if it’s worrying me, I should make myself comfortable and solve that worry if I can.

  8. Helka*

    I think telling the subway story is the best way to handle this — both with your manager specifically and with your workplace in general. Telling the story either as “hey, cool, someone made a dumb assumption but I got a free seat!” (the positive view) or “Ugh, I thought the memo had gone out not to make these assumptions!” (the grumpy angle) depending on your personality and conversational style, is a great way to get the “hey I’m not expecting” message out there without the awkwardness of a “so just btw I’m not pregnant” conversation which is pretty dang awkward.

    FWIW, I have a friend who gets this a lot. Her general body shape and posture make her stomach very prominent relative to her weight, and she constantly gets the pregnancy assumption thrown at her — and it very well may have cost her a temp job not going permanent, which was not a happy situation. So I think your concerns are pretty valid and it’s worth it to get the message out there.

    1. Anna*

      But your friend doesn’t actually know if that’s the case, does she? It could have been any number of things so at this point you’re guessing wildly what the reason was she didn’t get a permanent position.

      1. Helka*

        She does not know with 100% certainty, but she had multiple comments about looking pregnant from permanent employees at her office right around the time that the company decided to end her role with them, so no, I am not speculating wildly. She has a reasonable basis for being concerned about that.

        “Knowing 100% for sure” and “speculating wildly” are not binary states, they are ends of a spectrum.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          Well put. I’ve appreciated your comments today!

          Because of stories like these, I do think OP will be better off saying something. I like sharing the subway story.

      2. Honeybee*

        Sure, but it’s natural to wonder. And it’s not exactly “guessing wildly” if the woman gets pregnancy assumptions thrown at her “all the time.” Discrimination against women of childbearing age still does happen!

    2. HM in Atlanta*

      My poor sister in law has that same shape. She’s very tall and thin, and her stomach area is slightly bigger than the rest of her (because she slouches to try to be less tall; she and I have talked about her doing it because she wanted me to be the slouch-police at her wedding). I have been appalled at so many of the well-meaning comments and questions that get thrown her way.

  9. EJ*

    I feel for you. I struggle with eating disorder (specifically B.E.D.) and started taking an anti-depressant for anxiety, which the main side affect is weight gain. Weight started to make it’s home on my body. People like to speculate pregnancy, which is rude, and needs to stop among women. While disclosing my medical issues is not ideal, I’ve just said that the medication I take causes weight gain and I’d rather not discuss my medical history at work.

    1. notpregnant*

      I think that’s a really smart, level-headed approach. Boundaries are great to set up, before they get trodden over!

      Good luck to you with your journey- it’s very hard, no matter where you are on it. I am sorry you’ve also dealt with stuff like this, and I wish you all the best.

  10. spek*

    If I were considering hiring you from a temp agency, I would be much more concerned about the fact that you left early one day because you couldn’t stop crying and then took the next day off, plus other unplanned absences in only 5 months at the job. As a temp looking for permanent hire, I would expect your attendance to be exemplary, barring a huge personal event like an extremely sick relative, major illness, or a death in the family.

    1. AnotherAnon*

      Hmm, be careful here – depression and eating disorders, that the OP mentions, definitely ARE major illnesses. They’re less visible than a broken arm, but they usually last longer and do more harm.

      1. fposte*

        I think spek probably meant acute illnesses. (And since the ED wasn’t what led to the OP being out, I don’t think that’s in play here.)

      2. spek*

        But pink eye and heat exhaustion are not. And, as a temp, she doesn’t qualify for special dispensation or accommodation. Just a simple phone call to the agency on a Wednesday night, “Jane isn’t working out to be a good fit for us. Please have someone else here tomorrow.” End of story. Missing 4 or 5 days in 5 months, for whatever reason, is a flag. Individually, they may all be reasonable and explainable, but in aggregate, there may be a pattern forming.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know that it is a flag, actually; I think it depends on office culture. If the regular employees have, say, 10 sick days a year, taking 4 in 5 months is a pretty reasonable rate. It’s true that people tend to want temps to behave better than regular employees sometimes, but there are certainly offices where they’d be okay with a usual rate of absence, and the fact that the OP’s current workplace hasn’t replaced her is an indication that they think she’s worth keeping.

          That doesn’t mean there are any guarantees of what will and won’t affect her there or any place else, but I don’t want a temp with pinkeye in the office because she’s worried that staying home will hurt her chances at a permanent position.

          1. Zillah*


            It’s also worth pointing out that there’s nothing the OP can do about the absences in the past, even if they might potentially harm her, where there is something she can do about an assumption that she’s pregnant potentially harming her.

          2. Turtle Candle*

            Yes, four absences in five months would not even be a blip on my radar. I don’t honestly know at what point people would start to think it was ‘a lot’ at my workplace, but it’s definitely more than one per month. I’m sure it varies by workplace, but just as a data point, that would not be a big deal where I am.

            1. Honeybee*

              I was thinking the same thing. Especially four absences that are individually explained by health problems.

        2. Coffee Ninja*

          If I had a temp come in when she had pink eye, *that’s* when I would ask the agency for a different temp.

        3. The Strand*

          I do not want a temp, employee or colleague coming in with pink eye. Contagious, and they need to stay home!

        4. KS*

          If someone came into my office with pink eye, there would be a riot. Let’s not encourage contagions in the office.

          1. Umvue*

            Seriously. I wish there were an easy way to sniff out these sorts of managers in interviews (i.e., people who expect you not to use time off; people who’d rather have an office full of sick people than see anyone stay home). If anyone has a script for asking this delicately, I’m all ears!

        5. Honeybee*

          No, pink eye isn’t a major illness, but it is contagious! I’d want an employee with pink eye to go home.

        6. Tinker*

          An employee not being in the office because they’ve got a highly contagious disease or because they’re suffering from moderate heat illness (and I suppose we could split hairs about whether that’s sufficiently “major”, but the folks I’ve seen in that state would have been lucky to avoid being a disruption to the office environment) isn’t “special dispensation”, it’s “common sense”.

          Which is not to say that there aren’t bosses out there who lack common sense, but there’s a limit to what the OP can do about that — particularly considering that the events in question cannot now be altered.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Yeah, seriously. What is with this attitude (usually from people who’ve had a cushy perm job for years) that temps are subhuman?

            – signed, someone who’s been temping and hoping for perm for five years.

        7. notpregnant*

          OP here- as many others have pointed out, pink eye IS quite contagious, and while I was physically fine to do work, I knew it would have been really bad to go in to work with a contagious infection.

          But thanks for your perspective!

      3. Not Preggo*

        Agreed but, if you’re a temp and you have this issue, it might lead to you not being hired permanently because the manager doesn’t want to sign up for the baggage.
        FWIW I struggle with depression and migraines and I get it, but reliability and attendance would be more of the red flag to me as a manager than potentially being pregnant.

  11. AnotherAnon*

    A bit of a side note – if you are managing a small, highly-skilled team (so getting short-notice maternity cover is difficult), is it discriminatory or unfair to say “If you do get pregnant, I’d be grateful if you could tell me early so I can make sure the work gets done while you’re out”? Obviously you’d need a high level of trust with your team, but there’s a clear business benefit in this. I suppose it’s a bit like longer notice periods when people are leaving: the earlier you know, the earlier you can look after the business implications.

    1. Chriama*

      Eh… pregnancy lasts 9 whole months. Even if they tell you 6 months in (and I think by that point it’s usually pretty visible) you still have 3 months to plan. And in the US mat leave is only 3 months or so, so it’s not like they’ll be gone for a year or so. So I don’t think that’s something you can ask for without coming across badly.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Thanks for the comments, folks. It’s hypothetical – I don’t manage a team – and I didn’t have anything before the end of the third trimester in mind when I said “early”.

        I’m in the UK, where maternity leave lasts 6 months standard; I know that my employer offers 6 months on full pay, so the cover is a bit more of an issue here.

        B-Bam’s suggestion of “early notice if you can” sounds good to me!

        1. TootsNYC*

          I didn’t have anything before the end of the third trimester in mind when I said “early”.

          If someone is working with you regularly, it would be really, really hard to physically hide a pregnancy until the end of the third trimester. It would be possible that an unobservant person, and a small belly, might combine to make it not particularly noticeable until the middle of that third trimester. OK, OK, not impossible–but those stories get told because they are really rare.

          And it would be really rare for someone to NOT say something–for one thing, especially in the U.S., if they want FMLA leave, they have to ask for it, and it can take a couple of days to go through; if they are planning to cover their absence with vacation, they have to ask for it.

    2. overeducated and underemployed*

      Um, what do you mean by early? There’s a very widespread tradition of not telling before the end of the first trimester because miscarriages are so common then, and I think pressuring people to disclose that early would be pretty insensitive.

    3. B-Bam*

      I’d be pretty careful saying that to your team, particularly only to the women. I think a better route to go would be something along the lines of “early notice for any planned or future leaves of absences” and include all genders. Men get parental leave of 12 weeks as well in the US and any gender could be out due to a planned medical procedure.

      1. Helka*

        This, exactly.

        Then, of course, the more important part is backing it up with actions. Show that you are receptive to employees’ need to balance work and life, don’t ask for doctor’s notes for any absence, overall make it clear through actions as well as words that you can be trusted with things like early info.

    4. neverjaunty*

      If you have a high level of trust with your team, you won’t need to say that.

      If you don’t have a high level of trust with your team, your pregnant employee will share that information when Hell freezes over.

      And you’re completely ignoring the men who may want to take paternity leave.

    5. Ultraviolet*

      I think that request is unlikely to change someone’s mind about when to tell you they’ll need parental leave, but it is somewhat likely to alienate them–or at least make them worry that your idea of reasonable notice is a lot different from theirs and there’ll be conflict over that when they do tell you.

      If your hypothetical team is unfamiliar with office norms and/or very uninvested in their work, or you have some other reason to think they don’t realize that early notice would be helpful, then I guess there’s a bigger chance that they would keep the news to themselves even after the point where they basically felt comfortable talking to you about it. Then I see the temptation to let them know that early notice is better. But there’s still such a risk of alienating them that I think it should be HR or the employee handbook rather than you that tells them early notice is appreciated. It just sounds too much like pressure rather than information if their manager says it.

  12. anonanonanon*

    I am SO against people who speculate about whether not someone is pregnant (and this goes for people who speculate about someone’s sexuality or relationship status, too). Even when people speculate with no malicious intent, I still find it extremely off-putting because it’s none of their business.

    That being said, I think you need to find a way to bring this issue up with your manager, OP since you seem to be really concerned about it. If you feel comfortable throwing out the subway story as others have mentioned, that should do the trick to quell any fears you might have. But I think you should try sitting down with your manager and talking about your future at the company. A reasonable manager is going to understand that a temp wants to go permanent and should expect that conversation will occur at some point.

    1. INFJ*

      Whenever I see a possibly pregnant woman on the train, I have an internal struggle over whether or not to offer my seat. I once had a coworker who was ALWAYS mistaken for being pregnant and she hated it; thus, the desire to not insult a nonpregnant woman by offering my seat ends up overriding the potential rudeness of not offering my seat to a pregnant woman.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I try to get around this (and getting up for elderly people too, because I don’t want to imply I think they look old) by moving before they even get on, if I’m paying enough attention. But mostly I sit further back in the bus so I don’t feel like I need to pay as much attention. :D But then my bus isn’t usually busy, and if you’re not in the front, you’ll rarely need to move.

        1. kac*

          Yeah, this is what I do to. I just wait until the person is getting on/can see me. Then I get up and walk away from the seat, without making direct eye contact. I figure: if they want it, they can take it! If they don’t, I didn’t directly do something to insult them.

          My grandfather was a very proud man, and he would *never* have accepted a seat from a young woman. If the seat just happened to be empty, however, he’d probably take it.

      2. anonanonanon*

        Yeah, that situation is tough.

        I have a cousin who, some years ago, went on new medication that made her gain a lot of weight in a way that made her look pregnant. I was really surprised by how many people commented on it, and she had really low self-esteem at the time, so she’d always get really upset. There was one time I was with her at a supermarket, some random older woman asked when my cousin was due, and my cousin started crying and said that she was on medication, not pregnant. I will never forget the look of horror on that woman’s face. This is why I think it’s best that people keep their speculations to themselves.

      3. Zillah*

        One thing that I tend to do is not reference the pregnancy/disability at all. E.g., “You look like you’ve had a really long day. Do you want to sit?” People might still occasionally get offended, but hopefully less less.

        1. BSharp*

          That’s fantastic! I really like that.
          Worst case scenario, the person’s had an easy day and is befuddled, maybe doublechecks that their under-eye bags aren’t extra dark today. That’s still nowhere near as bad as “wait, what are you implying?”

          I got married this summer and get asked if I’m pregnant several times a week. Once because I was smiling at my husband (I like him! I married him on purpose!), many times because of their wishful thinking, and once by a stranger because I have a habit of folding my hands on my stomach. It feels invasive, and it makes me wonder if my weight’s up.

          I’ve taken to telling them that we don’t know, my husband hasn’t taken the test yet this week.
          Or if I’m really feeling crabby: “Oh no, I don’t ovulate until next Thursday.”

          1. Secretary*

            Thank you for saying this! I’m coming up on being married for two years, and I am so sick of people trying to figure out whether or not I’m pregnant (I’m not, nor do I plan to be for several years). At first I took it pretty personally and worried about my weight, but after a while I realized that it had nothing to do with that and had to do with my stage in life. Still, it’s nice to know it’s not just me.

        2. fposte*

          If you’re down with a white lie, you can borrow my truth: “I have a back thing that makes it hard to sit for long–do you want my seat since I’m getting up?”

      4. notpregnant*

        When the woman on the subway assumed I was pregnant, she actually at first just asked if I wanted her seat (I was holding onto the pole in front of her), and I thought it was nice of her but said I was totally fine standing- and THEN she followed it up with, “but aren’t you pregnant?”. If she had stopped before that, it would have been an awesome script! So I advise you use the first part of what she said (which is how I often phrase it), and steer really clear of the second!

      5. Ultraviolet*

        I’ve sometimes said, “I’ve had a seat for awhile now, do you want a turn?” But I imagine whomever I ask is still left wondering (or knowing) why I said it to them and not to someone else.

      6. AnotherAnon*

        In London, the Underground network gives out little “Baby on Board” pin-badges. If a woman’s wearing one of those, you can safely assume that she’s pregnant and would like a seat – or is a mother and wants to exploit not having given the badge back ;-)

        1. Sarahnova*

          Yes! You need “Baby on Board” badges in the US. They take all the guessing out, and are also useful if you are suffering from bad faintness and nausea early on before you LOOK pregnant.

      7. Grapey*

        I specifically don’t give up my seat for anyone that doesn’t have a visible device like a boot or crutch. People have autonomy, and as such I will wait until a seat is asked for.

    2. Sarasaurus*

      I’m so with you. I AM pregnant, and still get really taken aback when people ask. I know it’s not intended to be anything but friendly….but what if I wasn’t pregnant? Or was giving the baby up for adoption? Or was having complications? Or a whole host of other super personal issues that people just don’t know. My rule of thumb is: unless someone specifically says the words “I am pregnant,” you’re their doctor, or you’re physically in the delivery room with them, it’s best to keep your speculation to yourself.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        ITA. I was someone who looked ~ 7 months pregnant when I delivered (seriously – I carry my weight distributed, not out front so it’s not as in your face). I remember a girl in one of my college classes asking me when I was due when I was 6 months along, and I was surprised because no one else had said anything. I thought I had the is she/isn’t she look (when dressed anyway), but maybe it was more totally obvious than I thought. Either way, MYOB!

        1. Inquiring Minds*

          After the birth of my second child, I gained a ton of weight. By the time she was 2 I was in this weird head space, was on a hormonal IUD that did not work for me and 50 pounds heavier than normal. 3 separate people in my office congratulated me on my third “pregnancy”. Three. Separate. People. I was not pregnant. They are all very nice, well meaning people who were genuinely happy for me. I’m not sure which one of us was more horrified (because they were so sincere in their congratulations), but I’m pretty sure they will never ever congratulate another woman on her pregnancy again unless they see the baby actually coming out. One even replied by saying ‘but I waited until I was sure!’ Ouch. I have since lost the weight (and removed the IUD – it just didn’t work for my body) and it now makes for a funny story, but wow it was awkward at the time! So, OP, if it works for you in your office and makes you feel comfortable, I think the subway anecdote is a great way to put any rumor to rest without getting too personal.

          1. Honeybee*

            yeah, my personal policy is that I don’t say anything about anybody’s pregnancy unless they have confirmed it to my face.

          2. kac*

            One of my best friends used a hormonal IUD and gained 50 pounds about overnight! I’m sorry that happened to you, too.

            Also, yikes. This is why I never, ever, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant. Like, she could be about to burst, rubbing her belly, and shopping for infant clothes, and I still wouldn’t assume. I’ve been on the receiving end of enough incorrect “congratulations!” and I always want to shout, “Don’t we all know not to do this by now?!?”

            1. Nobody*

              Yep… To quote Dave Barry, “You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.” Seriously, nothing good can come of it. If a woman wants you to know she’s pregnant, she’ll tell you. Even women who actually are pregnant and happy about it don’t necessarily want people gawking or calling attention to the size of their bellies.

    3. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I am very against gossiping about pregnancy as well. However, if OP works in a gossipy office, she could use this as well.

      “Hey boss, FYI, apparently the rumor mill speculation is that I’m pregnant. In case that rumor got back to you, I just wanted to let you know that I’m not.”

      I worked at an extremely gossipy office once where there was lots of speculation about whether various people were pregnant, who was going on job interviews, who was probably going to quit or get fired, etc. I did not participate in the gossip. However, I did once pull a coworker aside privately and say to her “hey, FYI, the gossips are speculating that you are pregnant. None of my business whether you are or aren’t, but I thought I should let you know so that if you are you can tell your boss before the rumor mill does, and if you aren’t you can squash that rumor.” I also did the same for people who were speculated to be interviewing or other gossip that had no foundation other than “she was dressed up more than usual last week”.

  13. Dweali*

    Not sure if it would be more comfortable or awkward but maybe instead of addressing the non-pregnancy say something about how your recovering from an ED and how good that may be going?

    1. Not me*

      I don’t know. I’ve also had ED issues and I find that talking about it with people who haven’t had that experience tends to draw a lot of attention to my weight and eating habits, which is the exact opposite of what I need. I might be in the minority here, though.

      1. Dweali*

        It probably averages out to where some people feel ok talking about it and others not so much, but since she’ll be talking about how her body is changing it might be easier to bring it up as a recovery thing than a I’m not pregnant thing.

        But it definitely depends on what camp she falls in and if she can trust whomever she discloses to to not start having an opinion on her weight and eating habits

        1. Zillah*

          But I think that she’d still have the same issue with people speculating about whether she’s pregnant, but then with the additional stigma surrounding mental illness. No one judges you for not having an eating disorder, but quite a lot of people will judge you at least a little for having one. It’s unfortunate, but there it is.

  14. Elizabeth*

    Honestly, if the OP isn’t embarrassed about her body and can casually throw out a “BTW, I’m not pregnant” or maybe work the subway incident into a casual conversation, it might help. When I was in grad school, I ended up with a health issue that required regular doctor’s appointments and medical imaging (mostly ultrasound) and possible surgery. When I went in to let my advisor know that I might have to take some time off in the near-ish future, he got a weird look, the meaning of which dawned on me as I left his office. I ended up popping my head right back in and saying “By the way, I’m not pregnant.” He thanked me because he was wondering but that’s not something that it’s really polite to ask someone.

    1. hermit crab*

      I’ve definitely had the “I have some upcoming appointments but it’s not serious and I’m also not pregnant” conversation before.

  15. Ro*

    If your manager is female, why not just compliment her top/sweater the next time you see her and ask where she got it. Then mention you’ve been shopping for new clothes lately but depending on the cut, something’s make you look pregnant, which you definitely aren’t. The commenting on a woman’s outfit is so common it will be easy to slip into the conversation.

    1. Helka*

      Also a good solution! Pretty much anything that gets “I look kinda pregnant but I’m not” into conversation in a natural way is the best route, IMO. It doesn’t look like a Suspiciously Specific Denial, but it makes the point.

  16. AnotherEngineerGirl*

    Possibly thank the manager for her understanding when you left early. Maybe say, ‘thanks for letting me leave early’ and then tell the subway story ‘someone tried to give me their seat … But I am not expecting… Which really got me down as I’m finally eating healthy and boxing’ maybe add ‘looking back it seems so silly to have been upset, but it was a tough week personally. And I really appreciate your understanding/letting me skip out early’. Boom kills two birds.

    1. fposte*

      I like the neatness, but I think it sounds like the OP is taking a minor comment very hard, which is not a good way to position yourself. I’d keep the depression far away from the not pregnant comment.

  17. Sparkly Librarian*

    My body type just looks several months pregnant; I’ve come to terms with this but I find it amusing, because I’m NOT pregnant nor likely to become so. I scheduled a conversation with our HR manager last year about FMLA and CFRA parental leave, and couldn’t figure out at first why the initial 5 minutes felt so awkward. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized: “Oh, when she asked about the reasons for hypothetical leave, and I said ‘Placing a child for adoption’, it wasn’t until 3 sentences later that I gave her something that said that my wife and I were hoping to adopt, NOT that I was the pregnant one in the equation.” Both as HR and as a savvy, sensitive person, she wouldn’t have wanted to ask outright!

  18. Lurker*

    The comments on this post have me thinking a lot about my responses to noticing someone may be pregnant.

    Here’s something I struggled with earlier this year — a colleague I see maybe once or twice a year showed up to a meeting visibly pregnant. As a woman who hasn’t been pregnant/doesn’t know a lot about how pregnant women look, I avoided saying anything because you never know. Later in the day another woman came in and congratulated her in front of me… apparently she was pregnant enough that most people were clear on that fact.

    Honestly, I think my lack of acknowledging it make things even more awkward. Is there a certain point where it is worse to not acknowledge a pregnancy?

    1. Kelly L.*

      The other woman probably was informed by someone who knew her well. You’re fine.

      I think you can start acknowledging it when the woman mentions it to you.

    2. LeighTX*

      No, I don’t think so, because you can never be 100% certain. I know a couple of women that consistently look about 6-7 months pregnant all the time, but they’re not–that’s just their body shape. And, especially in the workplace, a pregnant woman might just want to talk about something different or work-related for a change. It’s always better to just say something like, “How are you doing?” and let them answer it as they wish.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s ALWAYS okay not to comment on it. A normal woman who is pregnant will really, really not care at all that you don’t comment on her pregnancy. (A woman who wants ALL THE ATTENTION will care, but I like denying her.)

    4. Bostonian*

      I think it’s always fine not to comment on it, because pregnant women know how rude it can be when people assume without being told and that you’re just attempting to be polite. I was very, very obviously pregnant in my last trimester – I was having twins and carried all the weight in a classic pregnant shape in my belly – and I still didn’t mind when people didn’t say anything. I stopped minding when people did make assumptions, though, because at a certain point that would have been silly and futile.

      1. Cruella DaBoss*

        When I was pregnant with my twins, they were all over. From behind I looked like I had one over each hip. Not going to mention the 100lbs I gained.

    5. CADMonkey007*

      I can’t speak for all pregnant women, but I highly doubt many pregnant women are quietly expecting others to acknowledge their pregnancy. If they want to talk about it they will tell you – and honestly when I was pregnant the last thing I would want at a work meeting is yet ANOTHER conversation of “Congratulations! How are you feeling? When are you due? Do you know the gender?” So in this scenario it’s totally cool (and welcomed!) to not say anything.

      Just remember, having a baby falls into “personal life” and just because its visible doesn’t change that fact.

      1. FormerEditor*

        Came here to say this – I’m very, very pregnant right now (it’s ridiculously obvious when I wear certain dresses) and I DO.NOT.CARE if anyone brings it up or not. Sometimes I break the ice by telling folks (I’m giving presentations right now about a system that will be implemented while I’m gone, so I bring it up to discuss who to contact while I’m out), but it would not bother me in the slightest if people didn’t bring it up.

    6. Observer*

      In casual conversation, it’s NEVER rude to not be the first to mention it. If the person mentions it, that’s another story.

    7. Turanga Leela*

      Adding to the chorus here. Totally fine not to say anything. I worked right up until I gave birth, and very few people commented—I didn’t carry in a very obvious way, and most of my clothes minimized the pregnancy. If other people comment and you feel awkward not saying anything, at that point you can say, “Oh my gosh, congratulations! I didn’t even notice you were pregnant!” It will be fine with everyone, and some women will even take it as a compliment.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Seriously. By the end, I was thoroughly annoyed by how many of my male colleagues, who obviously DID know, panicked every time I lifted anything heavier than a coffee mug or stood for more than five minutes. It was frankly quite nice to have people treat me normally.

      1. overeducated and underemployed*

        Yes, this. If you don’t mention it, she might just think that you want to talk to her about other things than her pregnancy, and it can be quite nice to be treated as the same person you were before becoming visibly pregnant. If it does happen to be what she wants to talk about, it’s not weird or awkward for her to say “and as you can see, I’m expecting a baby in X months!” in conversation.

    8. kac*

      I was in a similar situation once, and when the third person came in and said “Congratulation!” I followed up with, “Oh, I thought you might be pregnant, but I have a policy of *never* commenting unless I’m 800% positive. We’ve all been on the wrong end of that kind of “congratulations!’ Anyway, I’m so happy for you! ”

      It made everyone laugh and cleared up any awkwardness I felt for not saying anything.

  19. irritable vowel*

    I don’t think you should say anything. As a temp hoping to be picked for a permanent position, you should distinguish yourself with the high quality of your work, rather than with awkward remarks about your body. I think it’s possible you’re hyperaware of how you may look to others because of your eating disorder; yes, the woman on the train thought you were pregnant but she doesn’t know anything about you other than what she thought she saw of your body. Your boss and coworkers see you every day, they have a more holistic awareness of you.

    As others have said, even if your boss may be wondering if you’re pregnant (which may or may not be true), time will very quickly show that not to be the case. If you think you look pregnant now, if you actually were, you would look much more so in a month or so. Even if you continue to put on weight, it will not mimic the appearance of a developing pregnancy–it’ll be more evenly distributed. (I would say that while elastic-waist pants and looser-fitting tops are fine, avoid the temptation of maternity wear–anyone who has been pregnant will instantly recognize it as such.) My advice is, try to stop thinking about this so much and focus instead on being a great candidate for a permanent position!

  20. Steve*

    The easiest way to indicate your not pregnant is to invite the manager or make a loud comment about participating in an activity pregnant people can’t do. “Do you want to get a drink after work?” or “I’m going to the amusement park because of the new rollercoaster, I’m very exicted about it!”. With the holiadys and new years going on, you can mention alcohol or even have a chance to drink with your boss.

    Also, you can mention to your boss that you need to go clothing shopping because your diet and exercise have caused your body to change. You can say, get this, a woman on the train thought I was pregnant, LOL.

    1. SusieQ*

      No, the easiest way to indicate you are not pregnant is to say “I’m not pregnant.” There is really no need for a whole bunch of coded signals, that just sounds like a sitcom setup. Use your words, people.

      The train story offers a perfect opportunity for this, as previous comments have suggested.

    2. peanut butter*

      Good idea – she can even mention the boxing. I think a lot of people wouldn’t think a pregnant woman would be up for boxing.

  21. Gene*

    I’ve always followed Dave Barry’s advice:

    “You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.”

    1. notpregnant*

      Aww, I remember reading him! Haha, thank you, this is good advice (and I definitely know now, if I didn’t before, to never assume!)

  22. Chantal*

    Since your manager is a lady, I’d complain about “that time of the month” the next time that opportunity presents itself. Slightly crude, but effective. The subway story works too, and so does mentioning boxing – no pregnant lady with an ounce of sense would participate in that!

    1. KarenT*

      I would actually advise against that. I think it’s a fine idea in a social setting, but the OP is a temp looking to get hired full time and as such should be conducting herself as professionally as possible.

    2. Honeybee*

      Nooooo. That’s a super awkward and personal thing to talk about in general, much less at work with your manager. Not to mention that some women get their periods during pregnancy – even all the way through.

      Also, the last part of your comment is false. You can still do boxing (and kickboxing, and lots of other physical activity) while pregnant. You just have to modify the routine – no sparring, of course, but you can still take the classes and work on your technique.

    3. Chantal*

      True – those are both good points. I retract the statement.

      About the boxing / kickboxing – not to derail the thread, but I’m currently pregnant (yay!) and my OB said I should stop going to karate class, even if I didn’t do sparring. He said the uterus is a muscle and all the bouncing around from the running, kicks, etc. could cause the muscles to contract in a way that could be dangerous. Did I get faulty advice? I really miss karate class…

  23. Inigo Montoya*

    Depending on the relationship you have with your supervisor, you could ask her advice on how to handle customers or coworkers speculating that your body changes are pregnancy related.

  24. Cucumberzucchini*

    Could you just try to fit into conversation with your manager about New Year’s resolutions? It’s that time of the year and you could say something, “I’ve decided for my new year’s resolution to eat healthier and cut back on sweets, my clothes are starting to get snug and I’d like to fit into my favorite jeans again”. It doesn’t have to be true, just to explain you are aware you’ve put on weight, even if you are happy with your weight gain.

    1. kac*

      OP talks about recovering from an eating disorder. It sounds like she’s really healthy and happy with her body, and that’s a hard fought and well deserved position. Talking negatively about her body is really bad idea, untrue about how she feels, and doesn’t actually address the situation. (A pregnant woman might also want to cut back on sweets.) (I would argue that, in general, woman talking badly of their bodies is a bad idea and feeds into a culture where women are judged for their bodies and putting ones self down is never a good idea, but that’s a larger cultural issue.)

    2. pieces of flair*

      But…she *is* happy with her weight gain. Why should she have to pretend she isn’t, conforming to the cultural script of women constantly wanting to lose weight even when they’re not overweight? If the point is to make it clear that she’s gaining weight for reasons other than pregnancy, why not talk about how happy she is about it and make it her New Year’s resolution to continue building muscle and eating more nutritious foods?

      In any case, I think it’s unprofessional for people to talk about their bodies/weight loss at work, especially in a self-critical way.

  25. Cruella DaBoss*

    OP…you may need to see a doctor. You should not “look pregnant” from boxing or any other physically demanding activity. Being a little bulky maybe, but that is not to be mistaken for a rounded, pregnant belly.

    1. kac*

      Wow, that’s super unhelpful and not true. You might not mean your comment to be cruel, but when someone has worked hard to have a healthy, happy relationship with their body, it’s not your place to criticize or bring judgement to the table. Some of us just carry our weight in our midsections. I finished training for/running a half marathon a month ago; someone made a comment about my being pregnant three weeks ago.

      1. pieces of flair*

        Yeah, some of us just have “apple” body types. It was actually when I *lost* a lot of weight that I got strangers assuming I was pregnant because my belly looked proportionately larger. My mom has the same issue – she lost so much weight at one point that her arms and legs were stick-thin, but she still had a belly bulge. Her doctor told her she was just proportioned that way and it wasn’t coming off without liposuction. Not everyone can or should have perfectly flat stomachs.

        Unfortunately, it’s this kind of thinking – that everyone can fit a certain look if they just try hard enough/do the right “healthy” things – that leads some rude and/or ignorant people to assume that any woman who doesn’t naturally meet the flat stomach ideal must be unhealthy or pregnant.

    2. Nerdling*

      “Rounded, pregnant bellies” aren’t actually rounded on a lot of women until they’re pretty far along. Early on, in fact, they just tend to look, well, poochy. And then a little bulgy. For a lot of women, that perfectly rounded stage either A) never comes because that’s not their body type or B) comes so far along in the process that they’re just glad they finally look like they swallowed a beach ball instead of a host of footballs.

    3. hnl123*

      Agree with JQ and kac – and as others have mentioned – some people’s bodies tend to be shaped differently! I too am tall and on the slim side, but the moment I finish eating a meal, I will look visibly VERY pregnant. I think its just the way my body is shaped? Its been like that since I was a teenager.

    4. M from NY*

      As someone who ignored this fact I second suggestion to get a check up specifically a gyn. It’s better to have gyn say everything is OK then to ignore and find out months later that it wasn’t.

      OP: I admire your openness in post above. Best wishes on your continued healing.

    5. notpregnant*

      I don’t think that boxing only has made me look pregnant, and I don’t have a “rounded, pregnant belly”- which someone outlined below, is not the only way to look/be pregnant.

      I have in fact taken multiple pregnancy tests, had blood tests, had a pelvic exam, had an abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound (thank goodness for Canadian healthcare)- and I am absolutely fine. I think you are trying to be concerned-helpful but I don’t super appreciate the assumption/statement that I should just “not look pregnant”.

    6. Brooke*

      GAH. No.

      Like my mom, her sister, and… well, every woman in my family (whether they’ve had kids or not), we carry weight in our lower bellies.

      I guarantee that on a day where I feel bloated, using poor posture and are wearing unflattering clothes, I. look. pregnant.

  26. Macedon*

    I don’t think you need to take action . A practical person with a running concern about your alleged pregnancy who is considering hiring you would either straight up ask (in a faux social kind of way) or have a trusted subordinate ask, then report back. Alternatively, they’d check in with your temp agency to see whether you have served them notice about needing time off in the foreseeable future for maternity leave. The reason why I think they’d go through the trouble is, if your skills and performance are particularly good, they wouldn’t want to miss out on you by assuming. Employers aren’t generally opposed to a bit of hassle for a preferred hire. So, I think they’d double-check. ( This isn’t to say they should factor in a potential pregnancy into their hiring decisions, but in case they do.)

    That said, this is clearly something that’s on your mind. For your own mental peace, I’d say to follow some of the earlier advice about chatting with your employer about your prospects with the company and outlying what you think you’d be able to have achieved by this time next year. That kind of “This is what I have brought to the company so far, and this is what I’d like to bring moving forward” pitch is probably a good idea as you aspire to move into a permanent role anyway.

    1. fposte*

      I disagree strongly that a manager would have somebody ask, faux-social or not–that’s risking some huge illegality. It doesn’t matter if the question comes out of the manager’s mouth or somebody else’s, and if she’s asking other people to find out, that’s making the discriminatory question into a strategic plan that can’t be brushed aside as a thoughtless query.

      1. Macedon*

        I think a “So, when are you due?” or “So, what gender are you hoping for?” is very easy to throw into casual social conversation. The kind of employer who would find them inappropriate or unreasonable would probably not be looking to discriminate based on the possibility of pregnancy anyway.

        1. Helka*

          Noooooooooooooo those are super rude questions to someone who has not announced a pregnancy.

          And discrimination isn’t always a conscious thought process.

          1. Macedon*

            I agree they’re rude questions – but they’re still questions someone could ask in order to get a feeling for whether you are pregnant, then later pretend they were purely social queries.

            Honestly, I think discrimination against pregnant women is pretty deliberate – you are actively factoring in their mat leave unavailability in the hiring decision. It’s less ingrained/emotional than some other bias.

            1. fposte*

              But it’s not a casual social question. It’s a planned managerial strategy to inquire about a protected category while attempting to distance oneself from the inquiry. That reeks of bad faith and would be hugely hard to defend if this employee didn’t get hired, or promoted, or other benefits. (Why on earth would you take this kind of trouble to find out if you weren’t going to illegally factor it into work decisions?) Also, using your staff as management spies is not likely to result in a harmonious workplace.

              It’s like sending out an underling to casually inquire if your employee suffers from a mental illness or not and then report back to you. Don’t do it. It’s not your business until they make it your business, and if you act like you think it is, you’re going to make any competent HR’s head explode.

              1. Macedon*

                I think it would be difficult to prove, to be honest, since the culprit could say they have a casual interest in children and were asking in a social capacity. Not saying it’s ethical practice, just that there are ways for an employer who is looking to discriminate to try to get confirmation about OP’s alleged pregnancy. (Although I’m unfamiliar with the US stance on this one – would it be illegal for an employer to ask if you’re pregnant, or just to base a decision on that?)

                1. Zillah*

                  It’s illegal to base a decision on it, not to ask – but since it’s illegal to base a decision on it, smart employers won’t ask. The “oh, I have a casual interest in children and I was just asking in a social capacity” is going to look pretty thin, and a halfway competent HR department is going to be unhappy with it to say the least.

                2. AcademiaNut*

                  The OP sounds like she’s in Canada, where I think it *is* illegal for an employer to ask about pregnancy or family planning.

  27. Southern Gal*

    hmm ………should not the OP talk to her AGENCY about this issue?

    As she has NOT been offered a permanent spot (did I miss something?) , would it not be inappropriate to bring up an issue with the client that relates to being hired for a position ?

    Unless she is looking to get hired off the books ?

    If not, then maybe she should speak with her Agency contact and let them know she is open to permanent employment and has no plans for any health event (such as a pregnancy or operation) that would perhaps prevent being hired.

    1. Ultraviolet*

      My understanding is that the current employer (the agency’s client) is likely to be deciding right now, or in the next month or two, whether they want to offer OP a permanent spot. She’s afraid that if they think she’s likely to go on maternity leave soon, they won’t bother offering that spot no matter how good her performance. I don’t think the agency would be involved at all if the offer is never made, so talking to them about it wouldn’t help.

  28. Jady*

    Talking about clothes might be a non-awkward way to bring it up.

    “Sally I love your outfit. I’m having a lot of trouble finding nice clothes that fit. I’ve reshaped a lot from boxing, but now everything makes me look pregnant, its awful! Where do you go to shop?”

  29. Not So NewReader*

    OP, congratulations on your many successes here. You are a very strong person, I think as time rolls on you will see more and more what I mean. It takes strength to face our giants.

    And that strength you have is the very thing to tap in this situation. It seems to me your core concern is you want to keep the job. You want to become a permanent employee. Why not have that convo with your boss? Tell her how you like the job/work/people. Ask her what you can do to improve your chances of being made a permanent employee.

    See, sometimes we become so focused on one point that we don’t pay enough attention to the other points. Yeah, paying attention to everything is like herding cats, I know. However, in this case you can ask the boss her thoughts on “improving your chances”. (We don’t know, maybe she thinks you are the best worker she’s got and your chances don’t need improving. If you work the same way you handle your personal life, you’re probably a darn good worker. That’s an aside thought, though. ) So be strategic and be deliberate just as you have done with your health concerns, it’s going to take more than one type of action to set you apart from others so that you get hired permanently. Maybe your boss will help you get this moving so you are well-positioned for consideration for a permanent position.
    If you still want to you can work something into conversation about not being pregnant. You’ll probably have several opportunities to do that. But actions speak loudest, if you are talking about becoming permanent and doing what is necessary to get that consideration, I think that is what will clinch the deal for you.

    1. notpregnant*

      Hi, OP here- thank you for this comment! I agree- it’s probably much easier for me to focus on this one thing that has me anxious, rather than focus on everything in a wider scope. I think it’s more on my mind also because I am recovering from an ED (I think somebody mentioned above I am likely more sensitive to comments about my body because of this, and I absolutely agree- but this was hard for me to see myself). My ED had me focus a lot on my body in different ways, and it’s hard to shake those habits, no matter how much I want to! I will try to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Thanks!

  30. S*

    Do you drink, like at all? If so, when someone asks how your weekend was respond along the lines of “I tried that Mexican place on main street – they have great margaritas!” or “went on a local brewery tour!” or “not much, but we did have an excellant bottle of merlot out at Local Restaurant.” The specific details don’t even have to be true (maybe you had those margaritas last month), but as long as you do occasionally drink it’s believable, and responsible pregnant women don’t drink.* I mean, don’t say you got drunk, but mentioning drinking alcohol will rule you out as being possibly pregnant (or obvious if you have a work Christmas party or happy hour, attend and at least nurse a glass of wine).

    *I have read that the science actually says the occasional drink is actually ok, but at least in the US I think the stigma would be SO great to do so that if you mention a drink as part of your weekend, it translate to that you can’t possibly be pregnant.

  31. notpregnant*

    (OP here)- I agree, the stigma is quite strong! Many folks have suggested this route- however, I really don’t drink (I am actually 4 years 3 months sober!) and therefore this is likely not the best route for me. I do appreciate your idea, though!

  32. Southern Gal*

    first i want to add my congratulations to OP for her continued work in her recovery… and for her courage to bring up this issue!

    IMHO, i am struck by the ‘assumption’ that there is a permanent position yet there is no indication in the post that there is one or of any conversations with the supervisor about a position = that to me is the crux of the problem.

    is there really a position? or is there an assumption that the history of hiring temps to perm will lead to a position at some point down the road (after the move)? for example, is this temp spot due to extra work at the company or because the position is unfilled?

    FYI when i was a struggling professional musician, i temped and was hired in permanent positions twice, so i understand that situation.

    the reason i bring this up is that the issue of ‘looking pregnant’ seems to have become an obsession (just my observation) and, TO ME, is being set up to be the ONE thing that would keep OP from getting an offer, if it doesn’t happen.

    from what the OP writes, it seems that she is doing a good job (no one will keep a temp for months if they are not performing at least competently).

    my advice to OP is to focus on continuing the good work and maintaining a good relationship with the supervisor. to trust in her GOOD work ethics and be cheerful and professional.

    its hard to let go of fear (of not getting the offer) but if you are as good as you say (and i believe you), then your work and professionalism will speak for you. and if you dont get a position with this company, your agency will find you more work, and the right position will come!

    good luck!

  33. Lee*

    Just a question for the OP…has anyone (friends/family) ever mentioned your weight gain or that you may look pregnant (if not…you’re probably fine)? As someone who also suffered from an eating disorder as well, my definition of fat/”pregnant”, especially in regards to my own self-image was not…accurate. In my experience, I was not a good judge of when I was putting on healthy weight or entering overweight territory.
    Most women also have an accompaniment of changes when they are pregnant: they can’t drink, feet get swollen, no raw foods…maybe bring sushi to work one day for lunch? It also seems like a stretch for an employer to assume you are pregnant because you’ve gained weight (most adults gain weight as they age and settle into a sedentary lifestyle).
    Good luck with everything!

  34. Elle*

    Can you just have an alcoholic drink at the next office social function? Or mention the great alcoholic drink you tried for the first time over the weekend? That should do the trick.

    1. Observer*

      No. Why would she do something like that? It depends on people paying the kind of attention most of us don’t want, and on people drawing the correct conclusions, which is NOT a given.

  35. Anon 2*

    #5 — I always push for Skype interviews first. I emphasize that I think traveling to interview is in person but given the time and expense involved (well if I’m on the one footing the bill, which is probably half the time), that I am hoping that the employer will wait until the last round of interviews. Any employer that has been serious about my candidacy has been willing to be flexible and they understand the need to limit the amount of travel. I haven’t always gotten the job, but I always felt that I had a fair shot at the job.

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