With 1 in 8 couples experiencing infertility, almost every company will have employees who are struggling to balance infertility with their responsibilities at work – whether that means doctor appointments, adoption agency meetings, or paperwork appointments at government offices. For those employees, the stress of the workplace is just one of many stressors they are experiencing as they continue through their infertility journey. As a former infertility patient who has been through this struggle myself; as the leader of an infertility support groups who regularly hears the stories of others experiencing this same struggle; and as adoption consultant with many clients managing this balance; here are my top tips for managing infertility in the workplace.
Tip #1: Decide who you are going to tell. Make reasoned and deliberate choices ahead of time about who needs to know what. For me, I had 3 categories. 1) Who needs to know everything? That was my manager. 2) Who needs to know a little bit? That was the rest of my team. During the medical phase of my family-building journey, I told them, “I’m having a medical issue right now. I’ll be fine but I am going to have a bunch of upcoming doctor appointments.” 3) Who doesn’t need to know anything? That was everybody else. Once you’ve made these decisions, stick to them. If you overshare in a burst of emotion, you can’t undo it.
Tip #2: Work closely with your clinic/agency and your manager for time off. Some clinics and offices offer early morning, late evening or weekend appointments. Regardless, you will need at least some appointments during business hours. Work with your clinic/agency and your manager to at least try to keep consistency in your appointments (early mornings, late afternoons, lunch time.) That way, your manager will know to try to avoid important meetings with you during those windows. The fewer unexpected disruptions to your boss, the happier work life for you.
Tip #3: Skip difficult work functions. This is probably my favorite tip -- perhaps because it took me a long time to learn it. And it applies to your personal life too. If you work for a large company, it probably seems as if there is a baby shower every other week. It’s OK to skip it; you don’t owe anyone an explanation. You’re going through enough without putting yourself through unnecessary pain. Schedule a bogus meeting on your calendar, hide in a conference room and do work, go to lunch with a friend, or schedule a doctor/agency appointment. Just take care of yourself and, let me repeat, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Tip #4: Treat your coworkers as such, not as personal friends. This harkens back to Tip #1. Stick to the decisions you made upfront and approach any conversation about infertility with an appropriate professionalism. More so than with other personal topics, you’ll want to keep your business and personal lives separate because there will be times when you need work as an escape from your infertility journey. If you blur the two, you lose the opportunity to have that escape.
Tip #5: Try thinking of your work-life balance problem as just another life hurdle. This is not meant in any way to minimize the crisis of infertility. I know first-hand what research shows – that those going through infertility have the same depression rates as those battling a terminal disease. What this tip means is to try to separate out the one aspect of ‘work/life balance’ from the rest of your infertility-related issues. Try to look at it in isolation. Realize that there will be other times in your life when you struggle with balance and this is a good opportunity to learn techniques to manage that. And realize that there are others in your office who have the same balance issue but for different reasons – perhaps they attend school at night, care for elderly parents or a sick child, or even just have a young child at home (which you hope to soon.) It can even be helpful to develop a lunch-time mini support group with these people during which you don’t discuss WHY you all have the balance problem, but you help each other with HOW to manage it.
About the Author: Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy (www.TheAdoptionConsultancy.com
), an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months.