At work this time of year, we are asked to fill out a survey about planning for next year: i.e. what classes we might like to teach, ways we'll contribute to the school, and so on. Our former principal always sent out a very short survey that barely required a complete sentence to answer any question. So I never spent much thought or time on it. However, we have a new principal this year and his survey had a lot more questions in it requiring deeper thought: for example, what we saw as strengths and growth areas of the school, what aspects of the timetable we would keep or change, and if we have training in any areas that we are not currently using that we would like to use. As it happens my professional experiences over the past two years have led me to be a lot more opinionated about certain things, so I had very detailed answers for most of the questions.
The hardest questions to answer were the ones that asked if I wanted to teach at a different job or school, and if I was interested in pursuing leadership opportunities and/or training. I have considered doing some or all of these things in the past two years, although I haven't seriously investigated any options. I've been at my current position for five years, and at the school for five and a half. Last year our former principal told me that I should consider changing jobs and/or schools soon if I wanted to continue to develop my career. Now, this was someone I didn't see eye to eye with on a lot of things. However, I do agree with him, more or less, on that particular matter (I've heard similar opinions from others, along the line that it is not a good idea to get stuck in one job or school). I wasn't in a position last year to invest time or mental energy in job searching. I care about my work at my current school a lot and several issues had developed that needed my energy, effort and knowledge to resolve. I wasn't comfortable walking away from the situation: it wouldn't have sat right with me. However, I did at the time decide to treat this year as my last year at my school. I wasn't committed to leaving, but I wanted to challenge myself to think of it as the last year, to get mentally ready for a change.
After getting the news about the IF diagnosis in January, that plan no longer looks so good. The thought of using ART (timeline unknown, but I assume we will commence treatments in the next 12 months) and trying to learn a new job at the same time scares me too much. My current job is no walk in the park, but at least I have a general idea of how the year goes and what is required. I also am part of a great, supportive team. I no longer feel comfortable giving that up. Even if I was laid off this year, I might hesitate before seeking another full time contract. I am almost certain that the stress of ART combined with the stress of a new teaching job would simply put me over the edge of sanity.
Here's the thing though: I feel hesitant and strange about admitting to people that I want to stay in my current job for personal reasons, not strictly professional ones. I know that it's important to prioritize and care about myself and all that. (Well, I sort of know.) But deep down I still feel that I have to offer a pound of flesh to the school community to really be worthy of my work. If I can be doing something, then I feel like I should be doing it, and if I'm not doing it I'm just making excuses. I also see myself as an efficient, capable, effective person (with my share of flaws of course) and I don't like admitting there might be limits to that.
I want to be a parent and I'm willing to take on ART and its risks, and whatever else the journey might bring. I'm not going to change my mind about that. But still, when it comes down to actually saying that my professional life is no longer priority number one, I feel some discord.
I hesitated a long time over the questions about what I want to do in the furture. Saying parenthood is a priority didn't seem appropriate, and writing about infertility was definitely TMI, especially since I still don't know all the details of what we are dealing with and what the timeline is. Once we have a treatment plan, things will be different: I plan to make some disclosure at least to the people I immediately work with. But right now I just don't know what I will be dealing with, except that it will probably be hard to deal with sometimes or all the time. I could have everything from a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, to a difficult pregnancy, to several failed treatments, to miscarriages and baby loss, to a multiple pregnancy. I'd like to think the first or second IVF treatment will work and I'll have an happy healthy pregnancy and a baby at the end, but I'm not counting on it. I don't want to get all paranoid and pessimistic, but loading my life up with extra stress next year seems like a very bad idea, whichever I look at it. But how do you say that to an employer? I finally settled for "Next year would not be a good time to look for a new job or pursue leadership training." I figure if that's not enough information they can always ask for more.
It seems like such a small thing, and yet it's got me thinking of all the ways this diagnosis is changing my plans and assumptions, in subtle but huge ways....