You meet the right person, fall in love, get married, and then the timer starts. When will they have a baby? Everyone’s thinking it. Your family, your friends, your coworkers. But for couples who struggle with infertility, the implied—and sometimes overtly asked—question of when is particularly painful. Teachers struggling with infertility deal with an even more gut-wrenching version when asked by a 12-year-old: “Why don’t you have any kids?”
Infertility affects your life physically, emotionally, and financially, but when you’re a teacher, and you’re literally in the business of children, infertility can bring on even more unexpected challenges. If you’re one of the many teachers struggling with infertility, I’m sure you can relate. If you’re working with one of these teachers, keep these situations in mind to best support your teacher friend.
Here’s what you can expect in the classroom environment.
Your Colleagues With Kids Have an Easier Time with Parents
You envy those colleagues who can instantly relate to parents by simply using the magical phrase, “I know with my kids….” It’s a real advantage, and understandably so. Parents can relate to the idiosyncrasies of raising boys, or twins, or kids in general, and when teachers talk about their kids, parents feel like they “get it.” They’ve been there. They’re not judging me.
Being infertile means not being able to instantly relate to a parent. It means hearing the phrase, “As a parent …” in a conversation, and knowing that you’re automatically shut out. If only they knew what you’ve been through and what you’ve been doing in the hopes of one day being able to use that magic phrase.
You Feel Like You Have To Do More For Your Team
You’ve been mentored and molded into the teacher you are today because of the amazing educators you’ve worked with. Many of them have kids, and even though they may not directly ask you to do more, your own guilt of knowing they have kids and I don’t means volunteering to do more.
This can quickly spiral out of control, and eventually, you can feel trapped under the expectation of doing more. The tricky part is that you want to do more! You know your teacher friends with kids are tired, and stressed, but resentment can build when the expectation becomes that extra work goes to you, the childless one—especially when you wish you weren’t childless.
You Get Extra Summer Judgment
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t all teachers get that summer judgment? Like we should be working second jobs because we’re off (which many teachers do), or just the general well what are you going to do all summer? If you’re a parent, this judgment is less inflicted. Obviously, these parents spend time with their kids all summer!
When you’re a childless teacher, people can’t imagine you would not work during the summer months. And you’ll feel the guilt too. What you can’t tell the summer-judgers is that you purposely scheduled surgeries, appointments, and medical tests for summer. What you can’t tell them is that you’re hoping this is your last childless summer. Summer, for so many infertile teachers, becomes an all-in poker game, but when the next summer comes, and you’re still not pregnant, summer can also be a painful reminder of yet another year of infertility.
You Feel Guilty for Not Being Able to Explain Your Absences
When you’re a teacher and you’re not at school, it’s both a gift and a curse that people—lots of people—notice when you’re gone. Your students (hopefully) love you, and when they ask “where were you?”, they’re asking because they missed you! But the normal “appointment” vagueness can wear off and start to seem suspicious when it’s often—and seems to be at the same time every single month. Or when it’s for a surgery you can’t talk about because it’s too hard to and too personal to explain. Or when it’s just for a mental health day after yet another big, fat, negative pregnancy test. Teaching is so personal, and it’s extremely hard to have to explain your absences without, well, the truth.
You Put on a Happy Face Even Though The Hormones are Making You Crazy
Infertility treatments start with hormonal medications—and it honestly just escalates from there. You might be taking Clomid or Femara as your first step when you’ve reached that something is not right with my fertility stage. From there, more intense treatments also involve taking these medications, so you might be taking them for multiple YEARS.
And… they can make you crazy.
You are more emotional due to infertility in general, but also because you’re chemically altering your body’s hormone balance. Those tears, those quick reactions, or even just the debilitating headaches you get are normal … but it sucks. It’s so much easier when you can say I’m sorry for what I said when I was on Clomid, but that won’t work with students, and it’s not a great option in general when infertility is such a personal and taboo topic. This can make you feel even more trapped, alone, and guilty—even though you’re already dealing with all the emotional baggage of infertility in general.
Are one of many teachers struggling with infertility? Come share on our WeAreTeachers Helpline.
Plus, many teachers (whether they are parents or not) are in danger of caretaker collapse.