Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Cow Says Moo...

(Disclaimer for the lovely male readers of this blog:  While I know that I routinely refer to high heels, I try to make this blog for all teachers, not just us fabulous lady teachers.  However, today's post is a bit personal, a bit lady-centric and a bit...well, it's about pumping.  So, read on or check back tomorrow...thanks for reading!  The world needs more fab male teachers!!)

I know I've been on this personal blogging kick lately where it's all about me, but I promise you, I am not turning into a mommy blogger.  Not that there's anything wrong with mommy blogging - I read a few myself - but I will forever be a teacher blogger.  After I get this off my chest.

For a profession filled, BRIMMING really, with women, why does finding the time and place to pump feel like I'm trying to climb Mount Everest with nothing but a guide book and my best smile?  Other people have offices with doors that lock or lovely bathrooms with plugs or, in the fanciest of family friendly work places, whole ROOMS dedicated to pumping related needs.

It is the stuff of a new mom's dreams.

And not only do I have to figure this out once, I have to figure it out in every.  single.  school.  That means having the semi-uncomfortable conversation over and over and over.

Me: So, I have a seven month old baby at home and... (indicating pump with a brief but casual nod)
Them: Yes?
Me: I need toooo....(more forceful glance at my Medela-desperately-trying-to-masquerade-as-a-handbag-but-really-is-fooling-no-one)
Them: (kind smile)
Me: If you have a bathroom with a plug, I need to...
Them: Yes?
Me: Pump. I need to pump my breasts.

Okay, so maybe I leave off that last part, but MAN!  AWK-WARD!

And while every administrator has been extremely accommodating and lovely, I feel like this conversation presents a new problem for them to solve.  How is this possible with so many women?  I can't be the only educator to pump.

(It's like at my old school - when someone would need maternity coverage.  There was no plan in place and every pregnancy seemed to be treated as if it was this new and unexpected obstacle in a building filled with women in their late twenties and early thirties.) 

I have found myself in many an interesting place trying to balance a pump, bottles, my lady parts and all the other necessary accoutrement in between rushing to classrooms.

Cut to me in a supply closet pumping by the light of the microwave oven.

Or to me pumping in the copy room, squatting next to the photo copier because the only available outlet is behind said copier and the cord on my pump will only reach so far all while praying that the chair I wedged underneath the doorknob with no lock will stall any individual with copying needs long enough for me to put it all away.

Or to me running out to my car, hoping against hope that the windows are tinted enough to protect the innocent eyes of any little friends arriving late to school.

Teachers and mommies.  We are rockstars.

26 comments:

Sunny said...

I didn't nurse my oldest (now 15) but I did with my younger two (now 9 and 8). I was in college getting my teaching credentials when the second one came along and spend many lunch breaks pumping in the restrooms of the university library (I had an Avent Isis handpump). It worked out well but I agree -- it shouldn't be so hard for women ANYWHERE in this day and age to have a quiet, private place to pump. (I've since heard my alma mater allows female students to "reserve" empty classes so they don't have to pump in the restrooms!)

Zoe said...

oh wow! i don't know what state you work in, but in CA at least they actually have to have a place for you that is specifically not a bathroom or other shared space for you to pump/breast feed. good luck!

Valerie said...

Me, I usually pumped in the HS's day care center (for students' children); occasionally the director's office was occupied, so I plugged in on top of a dryer in their laundry room. It was right next to their book shelves, so as I stood there I got to read my first Ezra Jack Keats, among other things.

KellyTeaches said...

Lol- it is really strange how something is not done about these things but I agree, everyone I ever knew who pumped at work had drama behind it one way or another!

Jill said...

My reading counterpart pumps every day. We know that if her room is locked and there is a poster covering her window, keep out. The most awkward place I ever nursed my daughters? On an over-turned bucket in a janitor's closet at my cousin's wedding . . . and I don't miss manual pumps, since the lovely electric ones were too expensive 20 years ago.

Rebecca said...

You poor thing! It is so hard to find a private space in any school. My office is connected the bathroom at one of my schools (yes, I get to know everyone's...erm...business) and there are some moms who go to pump in there and then I get to be the one that says to every staff member wanting to use the restroom: "Someone's pumping their breasts in the there" over and over. The male teachers have never come back to that bathroom.

Lea said...

Oh, I am feeling you on this one. My oldest son never figured out the latching on part so I pumped exclusively for a year for him. We had a room off of the health office at my school where I could pump, after kicking out any sick kids laying on the "couches" in there. Inservices and field trips were another story though. Why do people think a bathroom is an acceptable place to pump? Do they fix their own lunches in the bathroom?

I also had other teachers get bitter that I didn't have recess duty during the 2 years that I was pumping (2 kids). Nevermind that I was practically the school greeter because all of my duties were before school.

Edris Goolsby Harrell, Ph.D. said...

My daughter was extremely lucky when her teacher went on maternity break--we had a long-term sub already working in the classroom before the teacher left so that the sub (who had just finished her teaching degree) would know what to do. Gasp! The school actually planned for it!

On the other hand, I recall when I was pregnant with my son that in one of the schools where I worked there were six other teachers also pregnant--and every single birth seemed like a big surprise and they were scrambling for long term subs. It's often a matter of not wanting to face the costs and the challenging decisions.

Kelly and Andrew said...

I did the same thing for 8 months! Pumping in the car is THE worst!! I would leave lunch early and go into the teachers bathroom every day. I put a bright sticky note on the door that said "Come back in 10 minutes." It was kind of understood among the other teachers. My advice to you: pump as long as you can! Formula is expensive...

Megan Germano said...

Okay, I was reading this and thinking I knew something about it... Zoe is right... according to law, you must be provided with a place other than a bathroom to pump...
President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, on March 23 and the Reconciliation Act of 2010, H.R. 4872, on March 30, 2010. (See the combined full text of Public Laws 111-148 and 111-152 here.) Among many provisions, Section 4207 of the law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express milk. The employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time for any work time spent for such purpose. The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk. If these requirements impose undue hardship, an employer that employs fewer than 50 employees is not subject to these requirements. The federal requirements shall not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor's Fact Sheet on Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.

The Teacher Geek said...

Strangest place I had to pump? On a field trip aboard the Clearwater Sloop sailing ship up the Hudson River. I had to use one of the crew member's below-deck cabins. It had a porthole window that was foot-level with the main deck. Kinda hard to get the milk flowing while watching 5th graders' feet shuffling about the deck and praying they wouldn't decide to peek in porthole. Good times.

Josh and Liz said...

Having the same problems with my 10 month old... my school office has been pretty good about it, but the only real option is a bathroom. It's private, but I find myself carrying in two chairs from the adjoining lunchroom so I can have something to sit on, and something to set the pump on. Nothing like walking out of the bathroom carrying two chairs with a bag over your shoulder to a lunchroom ful of secretaries... hello, awkard, how's it going?

Allison said...

You TOTALLY rock! Thanks for bringing up this very real issue and making me laugh at the same time.

My husband tells some funny stories about my pumping days. If ANYONE (including him) entered the room while I was "plugged in" my head spun around I spewed obscenities.

What a humbling experience it is... You're obviously a great mom in addition to being a great teacher and a great blogger. Keep up the good work. It's nice to be in your company. (Except, of course, if you're pumping...)

Thanks again for making me smile!

www.allisonwelch.com

Dance Cookie said...

OMG! I was dying laughing!! I had this problem when I first started teaching. While I did have an office inside of my classroom... I never really got over the fact that there were 13 year old boys on the other side of the wall...

Dia said...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41249239/ns/business-careers/

I happened to find this article just after I read your blog post.

Dia said...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41249239/ns/business-careers/

I happened to find this article right after I read your post. Seems like you're definitely not alone.

sarahp3440 said...

I feel your pain. I am a pumping mom of a 5 month old who teaches first grade in a school with no planning periods. Yes, I am the reading, math, science,social studies, health, computer, art,and gym teacher for my little darlings. I only have time to pump during lunch. My administrators have been supportive but what am I supposed to do with 20 first graders while I am supposed to pump? I work in NE Ohio so they are on indoor recess everyday. It is no a game to them to try and get in my locked door when they are supposed to be in the room next door for indoor recess. You should see the comedy act that is me coming into work in the mornings. I am the last one there because I have to feed my baby because I can only pump once a day. I have my teacher bag, my pump, my water bottle, my tea (you know-up all night with baby-need caffine), and my shoe bag(remember gym cannot be taught in high heeels) all climbing over snow drifts because our custodians can not clear enough parking spots for us to park. Thank you for this post!

Laura Swain said...

I have to say...as challenging as it may be, I wouldn't be delighted with all these wonderful stories if it was easy to find a place to pump :) Thanks for making me laugh everyone!

K. Smith said...

I have to say I feel your pain. I was subing when my daughter was first born which meant figuring out where to hide in a room that had been permanently unlocked by the custodian or having that same uncomfortable conversation you mentioned with administrators or office managers. Be strong and know you're not alone! I even got walked in on by an unsuspecting IT guy (luckily I had a cover on....but we were both pretty red with embarrasement).

PS - sorry to any rock star males who braved reading the comments

CatNet Instructional Technology said...

I totally understand your pain. I am subbing this year because my second came in September. It is so weird asking the secretary if they have a room you can use. Yesterday I wondered around our High School, since I'm new to this town, wondering if I would find a place. I finally asked a teacher if I could use her closet. I wish things were different in the education field since pumping/breast feeding is the way to go these days. Good luck :)

Alison said...

This just makes me laugh. I just finished pumping and two other moms in my pod area have pumping signs up. I was very lucky to have a classroom door that locked and breasts that expressed lots quickly. Not to mention cars now have plug-ins which I know you all might get made, but I pumped on my way to school. Teachers are good multi-tasters. LOL

Katie said...

OH I know this problem! The only place to pump at my school was under my desk!! That is where there was an outlet...even with a locked door I was always freaked out that someone would walk in!! UGG!

Dorothy said...

Hang in there. I pumped for 10 months for each of my children, now they are 15 and 13. It is such a hassle, and yes, I remember the very embarrassing conversation, but it is so very worthwhile. I remember at the time thinking how hard it was, that it would last forever, but "this too shall pass". Now, I think back and it really wasn't that long of a time to do something that was so beneficial for my babies. They are both of normal weight, and neither of them had ear infections, and they are both honor students. Not that I'm bragging or anything! HA!

Chelsea said...

oh gosh, i've been there! i found your book today in my university library while wandering around through the writing-about-literature section, and here i am, a postpartum doula, student, and mommy leaving you a note. fate! :) i pumped at work too, for so long, and i would cringe when break time came, thinking about how i had 30 minutes to find a place, do it, pack it up, and be ready to work again. i can't help but giggle a little bit at the struggle because it is, in retrospect, probably as worthy of prime time tv time as the office or 30 rock or whatever tina fey show is on...maybe somebody should get on that. anyway, i'm so sorry. isn't there someone in administration that has an office that they can step out of for a few minutes? gosh. or the library? maybe there's a room in the library.
good luck, mama. looking forward to reading your book over the next week or so.

Jessica Marlo said...

"After I get this off my chest."

Sorry, I couldn't overlook that one!

When I went back to work after my second, they had no place for me and I refused to make my baby's food in the toilet. There ought to be a health code about that! So they set me up in this gigantic unfinished part of the building. Creepy and quiet. No wonder I ran dry so fast! Enjoy that baby, baby!

Miss L said...

Yeesh! Seen this too many times. My friend had to pump in the custodial closet. She said the mop handles kept crashing into her. Good mems.

Keep rockin' it out!

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