Friday, June 1, 2012

Maternity Musings

Being a new mom gives me a totally new perspective on, well, everything. Teaching and all of the issues (time management, pumping at school, childcare, getting around 440 with a stroller, etc) that come with it has been eye opening.

First of all, our maternity leave policy is just sad. I know it's not only in teaching, but 6 weeks, unpaid, is just awful!! At many private companies you get at least 6 weeks, often 12, and it's paid. Had we not been responsible and saved up so I could stay home longer, I would have been an absolute wreck. I have a great baby, who sleeps pretty well, but there was NO WAY I would have been ready to return to work in March.

Then, unfortunately I had some trouble with major post-partum depression/anxiety issues. For me it was more the anxiety piece, but it was no joke. I was going to counseling through my midwives at The Birth Center, as well as a family therapist that I'd been seeing for years. I asked Employee Health Services if my wage-continuation/maternity leave could be extended due to my condition. They said I would have to get a letter written from a psychiatrist. Well, my counselor or midwives are not psychiatrists, so I found one and set up a few visits. She wrote me a letter right away, seeing my condition, and we sent it to Health Services. Within hours, I was told that the district physician did not consider my condition "medically severe" enough.

I was apalled. Thankfully, I'm mostly better now, but at that time, there is no way that I should have been cleared to work. As is often the case with mental health issues, it was not given the attention that it deserved. What frustrates me is how the district made their decision, by using a doctor who never even met me. How is that fair, when my midwives, counselor, and a psychiatrist all confirmed that I was suffereing from depression and anxiety?

I don't mind talking about it, and I'm not embarrassed about it. Maybe if enough people put it out there, things will change. I did ask if I could appeal, and was told that I could go through the union if I wanted to fight it. I'm sure I could have, and maybe even would have won, but at that time, 6 weeks post-partum, I was busy taking care of a newborn. Adding in a union fight would have only added to my anxiety, so I didn't appeal.

Now, with more clarity and sanity back in my life, I almost want to go back and do something about it. But, what's done is done.

So, then came actually returning to work. Which, thankfully, has been fine. All of the staff who stepped up to help in my absence was great! I'm thankful for all the well-wishes and loving words for Estrella and I. Not once was I ever made to feel guilty for taking over 3 months off. Not once have I been pressured to make up work that I may have missed. Super shout out to all the teachers, principals, secretaries and other staff that made coming back much easier than I had anticipated.

The hardest part (well, other than leaving my precious baby at home) has honestly been finding places to pump at work. This is something else that really should be addressed in a district our size. I know there are actually laws about this, and it's time the district got with the program. I do realize that they have more pressing concerns, but I've had to pump from my car on a a few occasions (luckily I have a car with a full AC outlet) and that's not okay. I generally use nurses' offices (since there are rarely nurses in most of my schools anyway, which is a whole other issue) and that's not so bad in terms of privacy, but the schools are just dirty. No lie, yesterday, in the nurse's office as I'm setting up my pump, a roach ran across the table. ACK! ICK! GROSS. Period. 

Two. More. Weeks. I love what I do, and these few weeks were good to "get my feet wet" with the working mom thing, but I'm ready for the summer with my baby girl. I'll stock up with more sanitizing supplies and be ready for September when it rolls around.

It's been a while...yet, not much has changed

Here we are, June 1st, and once again the SDP budget for next year has everyone in a frenzy. Here we are, getting ready for summer vacation, and once again many teachers are unsure if they will return to their positions in the fall.

Is it stressful? Yes. Is it annoying? Yes. However, I'm trying to go with precedent here, and believe that things won't be so bad when the end of summer rolls around. I know the district operates at a huge deficit, and this is a problem for sure, but ultimately, the city will not just leave students to be without classrooms and teachers come September. (Though, scary rumblings that Chester is actually closing the doors to its high school make my head spin!)

So, what are we to do. We're told to wear red every Friday, and stand in front of our respective buildings. I don't do this. I never have. I know I have some very union oriented teacher friends who participate, and I'm sorry, I just can't do it. Instead, this morning at my school, there was a teacher breakfast (complete with shrimp and grits, gotta love it) which is a much better way to come together as a united front. As the secretary here said (and a shout out here to all the great school secretaries, you are amazing!) these breakfasts are about morale building. And, boy, morale is something that is missing in a lot of schools.

Alas, I will leave on June 19th not knowing for sure where I'll be again in the fall. I've gotten myself to a place mentally where this is okay. I've taught now for 8 years, and with the exception of 2 years in a row as an 8th grade English teacher, I've never been in the same position year after year.

It's just sad to me that education is something that always seems to be on the very public chopping (or auction) block. I do this because I love it. I don't like to hear teachers blamed for problems beyond our control. However, this involves society in general opening their eyes to the real problems (mainly poverty and its symptoms), and no one wants to do that.

I feel like I was writing almost the same thing last spring...sigh.