Balancing Family and Teaching

Avatar for veesmimi
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-27-2003
Balancing Family and Teaching
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Wed, 05-28-2003 - 9:29pm
Do teacher's have to design their family's growth around the school year? We're ready to add to our family of three, but I feel a lot of (self-inflicted) pressure to postpone ttc until the summer baby window gets here. But the pressure of ttc within such a shallow window will most likely render me infertile! What are your thoughts on being an expectant teacher?

I'm a neophyte 4th grade teacher, beginning at a new school in the Fall. Thanks for your input!

Jennifer

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Avatar for luvmyevan
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-29-2003
Tue, 06-10-2003 - 8:43am
Good luck, Jennifer! You're right, it is an irony that we place ourselves last so many times. The most experienced teachers (the good ones anyway) have always told me not to do that, and to be sure that I put myself first. If you aren't happy, you may come to resent the fact that you put your career first, and then your career will suffer. I've seen too many teachers who have been in for far too long because they put their careers first. On the other hand, I know some who've been in for 30+ (some even 40+) who put themselves first, and are STILL wonderful in the classroom, always trying new techniques/ideas, etc.

You're also all too correct in the statement about the unforeseen. It has come my way, as well. I, too, have a 3 year old, and expected a healthy baby (especially after 5 ultrasounds by my high-risk OB, whom I went to only because I'd heard he was good, NOT because I was high-risk). Imagine my surprise when, at 3 days old, he was diagnosed with heart defects. They affect 1 in every 100 babies, making them the most common birth defects, but it was still a shock as I'd done everything according to the books. We nearly lost my baby boy that day, and he had to be revived. It wasn't the only time either -- we came close to losing him numerous times after that first morning, and he is always going to be considered "medically fragile", with surgeries always looming around the corner, every few years. With that in mind, we were told to have our next one either BEFORE, or AFTER his next surgery, but to try not to be pregnant DURING his next one because that kind of stress can cause cardiac AND neurological defects.

We had been told, when trying to conceive my 3 year old, that it would take 6-18 months because I had *JUST* gotten off NOrplant. According to the first ultrasound (since it measures and gives approx. dates), it took 12 days to conceive him. We thought it would be just as easy the next time. Sure enough, I conceived right away, and things were going along great at my 9 week ultrasound. In fact, because the chance of miscarriage had lessened so much at that point, we'd already told everyone and began picking out names. I lost that baby a week later for no known reason (at the time, we now think my progesterone was too low, and I also came into contact with Fifth Disease at school). We then went through a period of infertility for about 7 months, had my progesterone levels checked, found that they were 1/10 of what they should be, and were ready to start infertility treatments when somehow we conceived again. That baby is now almost 9 months old.

The point to all this -- you never know how things will turn out, so just be sure you've put your priorities in the proper order. Don't end up resenting anything/anyone later because you waited on something that you wanted. If I had waited, expecting to conceive at will, who knows when it would have happened. I do know that it didn't happen until I'd given up on trying.... that December when I had the bloodwork and they said it was infertility I gave up. I said "we'll just have to wait for the treatments to begin".... and that was when it happened. So good luck conceiving when you are ready, and best wishes to you for a healthy baby and uneventful pregnancy! :)

Katie

Avatar for veesmimi
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Registered: 04-27-2003
Mon, 06-09-2003 - 10:46pm
Wow! What a unique profession we are in... where we devote ourselves to other people's children for 10 months before coming up from the deep waters for a few weeks of freedom. Such an irony! And true, summer babies would be most convenient for our students and their families. But to sacrifice the freedom of choice in family building is a LOT to ask of anyone, especially when the unforeseen has darkened my doorstep in the childbearing category more than once. And I'll be honest, with my first (now three) I hated leaving her and worked part-time before finally becoming a SAHM. Those days of infancy are irreplacable.

I just had my first substitute two weeks ago. My lesson plans were a bit overdone and I may have given the sub too much information, but she gave glowing reviews and the kids survived (and appreciated me more when I came back ;) My lessons were given and the basic goals of instruction met. I truly appreciate the various experiences and points of view you have shared with me. As for my plans, before I started teaching, we decided to start trying this July... perhaps I will not derail those plans after all.

I'll keep you posted!

Jennifer

Avatar for luvmyevan
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Registered: 03-29-2003
Tue, 06-03-2003 - 6:33am
I agree totally -- it depends on whether your priority is your career or your family. I've seen too many people who put career above family and they lose their family. It's a very selfish way to live, I personally feel, and is not a lifestyle that easily encompasses having children. It short-changes the children, the spouse, etc. I've lived that lifestyle with my father & my ex, and got out of each situation never to go back. Today I have no connection with my father, and neither do my 3 siblings -- because we never got to knew him, his work was too important. He had no business having children so that he could bury himself in work. Same as my ex, work was far too important, much more so than a wife, so I left. There was no way in the world I'd put children through what I'd gone through. My current hubby is wonderful, and we have two beautiful children together -- none of us could be happier.

Another thing to consider, if I'd married someone who put career first, when we did have our first child (he just turned 3), he was born with a very serious, life-threatening condition. He was on life support for his first few weeks of life and we nearly lost him a # of times. He had his first heart surgery at 4 days old, 2nd at 3 months, and the 3rd (which was open-heart) at 4 1/2 months. We spent about 6 months at hospitals/home with him, learning to take care of a child that we expected to be fully healthy. This (being born with heart defects) happens to 35,000 babies born in the U.S. every year for no known reasons -- just a fluke.

Imagine that you plan to have a family and you are the person who put your career first and this happens to you. How will you handle not being able to work for 6 months, having to learn what we call 'do it yourself nursing', changing feeding tubes, stethoscopes, a quick lesson in cardiology, $250,000 in medical bills just for the first two weeks! If my husband or I had put careers first, my son may not be alive today, and he definitely wouldn't have had the same care he does now.

I know this may not be a popular opinion here because many teachers have the type of attitude that they feel they are irreplaceable, but it's just not true -- so I feel that if you plan to put career first, please, for the sake of the children, don't have kids. It's not fair to them. That's why we have subs, and almost all districts have subs that they use for long-term situations that will help leave your room the way you wish it had been left. Ask about retired teachers who sub, people who don't want to return to full-time teaching but want to sub, and ask other teachers who you know have had kids who did their maternity leave and if it went well. It can be done, and done well, even without you there. Don't make decisions that will affect the rest of your life based on when you teach.

One more thing to think about, everyone likes to 'time' their pregnancies, but what if you end up with infertility issues? There were none in the history of mine or my husband's families, yet we dealt with that after my 3 year old was here. We were told that if we wanted more to have them before his next open-heart surgery, and we had a very difficult time conceiving the 2nd time, including a later-term miscarriage. So keep in mind that things don't always go as planned, and put yourself and your family first.

Katie

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2003
Mon, 06-02-2003 - 10:23pm
I had my second child during my first year of teaching (December) and it was very difficult on both sides- school and home. For me, first year of teaching was difficult in and of itself, and then having to plan for my maternity was hard- (and then to find out the sub didn't follow most of it) If we plan to have another child, I'd definately try to conceive Aug., Sept, or Oct. And see in Nov. how I'd feel about waiting until next year or not.(I have 2 winter babies, and dream of pool birthday parties...) As far as waiting like a poster above stated for the sake of the students- I guess it all depends on your priorities- career or family? You need to decide how much you can handle at once. Good luck,

Mary
Avatar for luvmyevan
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-29-2003
Mon, 06-02-2003 - 9:10pm
I would hope that anyone considering having a baby would never put her career ahead of her family (born or yet-to-be-born). If you are willing to put career first now, you will put it first later, and that is not fair to your own children. It is also very naive to think that students can't handle having a sub, especially if you have a good sub. YOU come first, and I hope that the original poster realizes that and doesn't worry about what others think of when she chooses to have children.

I have been out twice in the three years with the district I currently work for. The first time was just a few weeks into my first year with the district. My son was having his 3rd heart surgery -- open heart, and we were told that it could be months before I could go back to work. Using the logic that kids are not resilient, I should have resigned. It made no sense to do that, and thankfully I was only out for 3 weeks, but my sub was wonderful (a retired first grade teacher who easily assumed the role of reading specialist for a few weeks) and the kids forgot she'd even been there once I was back.

The second time I was out was this fall, at the beginning of my 3rd year in this district. I had a great sub, and again the kids practically forgot about her once I was back, although they did want to write her letters once to thank her for her time there.

My point, don't put your own life on hold because of your career -- whether it be having a baby right now, taking a personal day to take your child to his/her first day of school, etc. Do NOT put anything before your own family, whether that means just starting your family or adding to it. Family is family and will always be there. You can't get a 'sub' for your family, and you may regret if you wait to have one because of a job.

My $.02,

Katie

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 06-02-2003 - 12:43pm
If we all followed your logic, no teacher would ever have a baby! Yes, you have a responsibility to the children in your class to do your best for them but your own family should still be a priority! Part of fulfilling your teacher's responsibilities would be finding the best sub possible to continue the students' education while you are gone.

Jane

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Sun, 06-01-2003 - 6:57pm
Ladies: With all due respect, you are giving Jennifer advice from the teacher's point of view, and from the perspective of your own families, but fist of all, do you think it's really fair to be starting at a new school and then immediately get pregnant? Also, what about the students who you have committed yourselves to? Is it really fair to them to have to deal with so much transition? I know all about children being very resilient... but it is still a disruption and upsetting particulary in the lower grades, don't you think? Just something to think about ...
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Sat, 05-31-2003 - 8:38pm
Dear Jennifer: Yes, it is a very, shallow window of time. When my first son was born, I had to leave after Easter break. I didn't realize then how it must feel to the students. Now, I am also a mother and my own son's teacher just left on Friday to begin her maternity leave and all I can think is how hard even these last three weeks must be on little second graders. Not only that, but the teacher isn't coming back til November so it'll be even harder on next year's class.

I'd say try for that summer baby. If it doesn't work out that way, at least try to time it so that you can leave following a big holiday break because that can make the transition easier for the class.

Hope this helps.

-Jaynette
Avatar for veesmimi
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-27-2003
Fri, 05-30-2003 - 11:20pm
Wow, some really good responses.. thank you! About having a sub start the year out for you, I can see that as a possible negetive. I'm currently in my first teaching position and I took over mid-year for a retiring teacher. The kids and I, we had to start from scratch-- but the residual framework from the original teacher still lingers, and the kids' often need to be reminded of my expectations. So the end of the Spring/ school year plan sounds like it afford the most time home with your newborn versus the summer option. If only I weren't new to this school, I would probably embrace that possibility. If May is my month, though, I hope my new principal is the understanding type! Thank you for all of your insights so far!
Avatar for luvmyevan
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-29-2003
Fri, 05-30-2003 - 10:13pm
A couple more things, sorry --

Find out the rules for maternity leave where you are. We are only allowed 6 weeks (unpaid unless you use sick days) unless they have a letter from the doctor. My doc said 8 weeks due to my having a c-section.

Also find out about sick leave and if there is a 'sick leave bank'. Our district has a 'sick leave bank' that teachers can donate days to (5 per year) if they have more than they'll ever use/be able to cash in. I didn't have enough sick days to get paid for the entire 8 weeks (especially since I took a # of weeks 2 years ago for my 3 year old's surgeries), but they gave me sick days from the 'sick leave bank' and I got paid for the entire 8 weeks I was off.

Katie

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