Sunday, February 17, 2008

To Tell or Not To Tell?

There's an issue I struggle with on a daily basis and I'm wondering how the rest of you ladies handle this. How much information do you tell your employer about your situation or treatments? How do you balance work with your treatments and the emotions that go along with it?

While I have a very laid back, understanding boss, he is a man. He does have a wife and 3 kids and it does help a bit that it took them a number of years to conceive their first. He endured the rage of a woman and disappointing cycle after cycle for those years, but never had to endure the gamut of emotions that comes along with treatments. I often struggle with how much information to give him on what is going on in my life. I know that there are definitely things he would be uncomfortable with-he doesn't want the gory details and that is just fine by me.

Since September, I've had trouble focusing on work when I'm at work. I have to force myself to get through tasks throughout the day and at times I get very angry when asked to do things. There are times where I have to hold myself back to keep from blowing up at him. Sometimes it is in response to a decision he has made that I think is not the right one. I would do it differently or the decision is going to make my life more difficult or stressful. A lot of times, these decisions are political in nature (office politics) and I just don't always trust that he is navigating the mine field in a manner to get us both out alive (and he would be SO insulted if he were reading this).

I'd like to think that the normal me would take these challenges in stride. She would calmly try to reason with him and then go with the flow if he decided not to take her advice. Or, she would start looking for another job. Something where she felt she had a voice. That is one of the most frustrating things about my job, I'm often asked for my opinion or encouraged to voice my opinion, but it seems like no one really listens. Either that or I'm so off base on my opinions that only an idiot would take my advice (personally, I don't think that is the case). They let me voice my opinion and then they turn around and take the opposite course of action.

But the current me (the one undergoing treatments) can't do anything calmly. She rants and raves (at least in her head). She fumes and turns around and heads back to her own office to shut her door and steam in private. She wonders why she is so ANGRY over something like this. She recognizes the ANGER for what it is (something completely unrelated to work), but still can't swallow it and make it go away. She has dreams of telling off people at work. She snaps at her husband over insignificant issues at home. She yells at the dogs and then bursts into tears. She has no idea how to control the mood swings.

I often think that if we would just win the lottery I could quit my job and focus on treatments. Logically, I know this is a dangerous thought and I would drive myself batty focusing on treatments 24/7. I also think about finding a different job that is less demanding, more of a job than a career. But I'm sure I would get just as frustrated and it just isn't in my nature to just slide by at a job and not try to climb the ladder. It is that ambition that makes this hard for me. I know that having a family is more important to me than my career. But when you've worked so hard to get where you are, how do you just sit back and coast by letting others surpass you?

I had a conversation with my boss last week about what I've been thinking. I told him that I've been having trouble focusing at work and it is something I would like to address with the therapist we are going to see. The therapist's hours are 9:30-4:30, which means that I have to leave work in the middle of the day to attend a session. I felt it was best to be honest with my boss about where I was going. I figured if he notices my lack of focus, at least he will know that I'm aware of the issue and I'm doing something proactive to deal with it. I constantly feel guilty for coming in late or leaving early for doctor's appointments and monitoring. I always try to schedule appointments so that I miss as little work as possible, but it is difficult. He was very supportive (as I knew he would be) and he said he thought therapy was a great idea.

I am grateful that my boss is understanding, but I can't help but think about how this must slowly be seeping into his daily decisions. Good projects that he would normally give to me to run will go to someone else, or he'll do it himself, because in the back of his mind he knows it isn't my top focus at the moment. I'm struggling to come to terms with this, because I think it is inevitable.

At times I think about looking for a new job, but the flexibility I have and the maternity benefits at my current job make it difficult to leave. Although sometimes it seems silly to stay somewhere for the maternity benefits when it could take years (if ever) until I'm able to take advantage of those benefits.

Sorry for the jumbled mess of thoughts tonight. My head is all over the place.

If you work while cycling, how do you handle that balance and how much do you tell your employer?


Melanie said...

It is such a difficult balancing act and so much of it depends on your particular work environment. I work with primarily men (at least at the upper levels) and I haven't told any of them. And I won't, even my boss, because it's a fairly competitive, boy's club-like atmosphere. I simply don't want my reproductive life to be a topic of conversation. Even more so, if I have an off day I don't want it to be dismissed as "female" issues.

It sounds like you're doing the right thing by recognizing you've got issues with this ordeal, seeing a therapist, and talking it through.

The Town Criers said...

I told my boss (back when I worked out of the house) the basics--we were doing fertility treatments and this sometimes means I'll have early morning appointments or miss work. I sometimes let drop a bit of the emotional side of things but what I always thought about was how my success meant more work on her end. I would go on maternity leave. It's not just maternity leave though. I remember the head of school (not my direct boss) being cranky while another woman was battling breast cancer because of the work time that she missed. It's great when the employer is friendly, but I think at the end of the day, we have to remember that an employer is not a friend. She's a person who needs to make hard decisions about what is best for the business. So...probably, as someone outside your situation, I would advise on playing the cards close to your chest. Which sucks.

Io said...

I haven't told my boss anything yet, but that's mostly because I haven't *done* anything yet. I'm taking off next Friday to take Al to his surgery, so I'll probably tell him then.
I know that when I *do* have to do stuff, my boss will be very nice about it, so long as I get my work done. He's cool about being flexible, so he won't mind if I want to come in and just work different hours or take a little time off, but he seriously works 24/7 and has no family at all. So it's hard for him to understand exactly why I can't just work around the clock sometimes.
I do have a sinking feeling that he might offer to loan me the money for IVF. He does shit like that. Which would be very, very sweet, but I wouldn't be able to accept. And then I would feel even worse,

Mrs.X said...

I've been fortunate that I work from home, so I can sneak out for appointments - I also make my monitoring appts as early as possible in the AM so no one is the wiser that I'm out.

I have told my immediate boss in part because he should know what's going on and also because he has been a source of comfort - a lot of his friends went through IF and so he has some clue as to what it entails.

Can you maybe do something where you telecommute on days when you know you are going to have an appointment and that way you can still get your work done but you aren't constantly leaving?

I also think that the therapist will help you with focusing at work. I would definitely mention this and he/she should be able to give you some good coping techniques. It's bad enough that you are going through IF, but you shouldn't also be worried about plum assignments going to other people.

Good luck!

Maryanne said...

I am somewhat fortunate to work work with all woman that have seen another co-worker go through IVF several times. They have been so supportive and it eases my mind not to worry about trying to sneak around hiding everything from them. I think if your boss is understanding and since you have good insurance you should continue doing what you are doing! You have a very supportive boss!

Maryanne said...

I am somewhat fortunate to work work with all woman that have seen another co-worker go through IVF several times. They have been so supportive and it eases my mind not to worry about trying to sneak around hiding everything from them. I think if your boss is understanding and since you have good insurance you should continue doing what you are doing! You have a very supportive boss!

Anonymous said...

I struggled for a long time (during IUI etc), but then I found out that another co-worker had done IVF and talked with her. She had opted to tell everyone and offered that it was really an uplifting experience. I thought about it some more and then found out that our HR manager also had done IVF. So out I came. I sent all my close "friends" at the office an e-mail asking for their prayers/support after I had spoken with my boss, my boss's boss, and the HR lady. Everyone was very curious at first, but now they are just supportive. In fact, I started blogging so that they could check in at will instead of answering a billion questions.

It's just such an intensely private, and personal process. I'd go with your gut.

Ahuva Batya said...

Wow, I have been struggling with this exact same question in the past few weeks. I have a very flexible boss currently, which makes life a lot easier. I can tell you that if I were cycling right now with my former, old-school, AIS boss, I probably would have quit by now. However, my boss now is my age and very understanding, so I have been honest and upfront about what is going on. Iknow that by doing that, it may adversely affect my job, but that's the choice I've made. I struggle with the knowledge that as I put my IF treatment on the front burner, by the very nature of that choice I'm going to have to fade into the background somewhat at work. I will be honest, there are days when that's a hard decision, because I too have worked hard to get where I am. It's hard to watch others who are really putting in the attention and long hours which will result in recognition, while I am becoming somewhat of a ghost in the office. But that is my choice: I know I can't do both. I think it gwill take time for me to let go of the ladder, but I know that's what I'm going to do. I have asked to work from home for the entire month of March during my first ivf cycle, to help reduce the stress.

However, it sounds like you are not ready to let go of that ladder. If that's the case, I agree you should play your cards close, because in the end, your boss won't be able to help the fact that your treatments will play into his decisions. I think it's only human nature, no matter how great a boss he is. Telecommunting is a great way to take some of the stress off of the running back and forth, so if you can talk to your boss about doing that some or all of the time during particularly busy cycle weeks, that would be best. But again, then you run into the problem of losing visibility in the office, which can lead to not being taken quite as seriously. i think that may be necessary though, if it takes away some of the stress.
Sorry for the epic reply.

beautycourage said...

I work with 2 partners, and told them a while ago (during IVF 3). They have been very supportive, but I know it takes it's toll. I have thought about quitting or taking time off, but then realize that it is good for me to get my mind off of things while I wait for time to pass. I just hate feeling guilty for inconveniencing them on top of everything else. Then I get frustrated with myself for feeling guilty. So the cycle goes! :) Good luck with your situation.

Rebecca said...

I don't know what kind of job you have...I am in education, so the schedule is not flexible at all. I did decide to tell my principal and they were surprisingly great about it. My principal had gone through 6 years of infertility himself, so he was very compassionate. My Vice Principal (single woman) is in charge of sick days and time off...she has been kind of strict in the past, so I wasn't sure what to expect. She was great about it. Sometimes when you let people in, you will be surprised by their ability to empathize and some of the stress may actually be lifted from you. Good luck with your what your gut tells you to do.

~Carrie said...

I think you made the right decision in telling your boss about the therapy sessions. If you feel that you are lacking focus and your boss may have noticed, and then you left for therapy but didn’t tell him why you were leaving, that, I think, could have been more of an issue than being up-front with him. However, I know it’s hard to know when to be up-front, or when your honesty will come back to bite you when it’s promotion time, etc.

I honestly don't know how people handle cycling while working. Yes, I do it, but my RE is less then 15 minutes from my job, and my job is less than 10 min from my house. How on earth do people with less flexible jobs and longer drive times to and from their RE’s office manage it??!

At first I just said I had some doctor's appointments scheduled, and told my manager that I would either work through lunch, stay late, etc. It never seemed to be a problem - but I am also a contractor, which means my hours are much more flexible in general. I also work pretty independently, which lends itself to leaving and coming back to the office without it being a big issue. If I had an IUI, I tried to schedule it at lunch so it was less noticeable, though it always ran over an hour, so I made sure to stay late.

As things progressed, I stopped mentioning all of the appointments, especially early morning blood draws where I would just get to work a little late - and I start earlier than most people in the office so on days I was 'late' I would still be in before a lot of people. For later appointments I would just quickly head out to my appointment, and then make sure I stayed late, which I actually think was noticed more (staying late) than my super early 'lunch' from 9am-10am. But again, I am in a pretty convenient and flexible situation, all things considered.

As far as the egg retrieval, I just said I had a very minor surgical procedure scheduled and would not be in that day. If I had to do a second retrieval, I would not say anything about a surgical procedure - would try to come up with something else. I have a sneaking suspicion that my manager (who is very cool) may have an idea what's going on. For all I know he would be even more sympathetic if I told him …but I just don't feel comfortable saying anything. I came very close to telling him, but for some reason I just decided against it. But, now that I think about it, I probably would have actually said something if I had to take more time off, had a longer drive to RE’s office, etc. Part of my reason for keeping quiet was because of my ability to kind of come and go without it being completely obvious all the time.

Duck said...

SO I don't work, because I'm an anglo living in Montreal, the last job i had here I worked for the devil, which meant working 13 hours a day, being on call on weekends and doing heartless cruel acts. I lasted 6 months, and i got so sick.
MR. Duck does work, someone has to pay for the duck feed, and he has not told his current boss because he is a big meanie. However, the Mr just got a new job which he will start in April and he told his new boss (also a man) that we are in the process of doing IVF, and his new boss said not to worry he can be flexible.

My only advice is, if you can trust him, to tell him something, maybe not that it's fertility treatments, but medical issues. If I was working I would tell my boss that i have medical issues, or doing ivf, just so that they didn't have any just cause to fire me. I like covering my ass.

Amy said...

During my last cycle, I did tell my boss what we were doing and that I would be late for work on some days b/c of the bw & u/s in the am. This cycle, I'm not sure. I have a different I'm struggling with this as well.

Jen said...

It's so funny, both my hubby and I have told everyone at work.
It wasn't something we planned but both of us feel very fortunate to work in the environments that we do.

And the support we received has been wonderful. It obviously helps when I burst out crying, my coworkers know why. Or when my husband has a random doctor's appointment, his boss understands.

I don't know if it comes from us being very open with everyone about everything in our lives, or the fact his disease has made him so open to talking about his health, but, for us, it has worked out. And it really means a lot to me, more than my hubby knows, to know he's so excited about us cycling he feels the need to blab about it to everyone.

Anonymous said...

My co-workers and bosses know generally that I am going through the infertility treatment (maybe not specifics), and they are great about it. In past, for IUI, I had scheduled the IUI on the months that we are not so busy at work. This time, for IVF, it looks like that it will be in the busy month. My immediate boss and my subordinate knows that I have to take off a few days, and very supportive. However, my worry is to fight with my "ego" of trying to make up the lost work hours in somewhere during the IVF process either working on weekends or long hours when at work. I want the "bet rest" after the transfer to be relaxing time not only physically, but also mentally. I am afraid that I will try to check the work e-mail from the bed and start working. So, my struggle is pretty much internal.

You have done all the right thing by talking to your boss and seeing therapist. I think the last thing that your boss want is for you to leave the job because of this. I hope your heart gets lighter. Taking easy on your job for a year or two will not hurt your career in the long run!

HeidiM said...

My first IVF, I worked from an office and I didn't say anything to anyone. My RE was 5 min. from my office and I just disappeared whenever I had an appointment. I was super worried people would notice, but nobody ever said anything. It helps that I work on a global team -- my boss is in another state, and more than half of my teammates work from other states or countries.

My second IVF, I had the same job but worked from home. The decision to work from home at this job though after moving versus taking a different job in Denver was hard because I had to come to terms with the fact that working from home probably makes me less upwardly mobile. And it was also hard in the sense that it isolates me in a new city, whereas an office job would allow me to meet more people. But at my age (37), the time pressure played into the decision to put the ttc goal above work goals and social opportunities. Work will always be there, and there are always other ways to meet people, but possible semi-fertility will last only 3 more years for me.

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Maria said...

These things are seriously so hard to deal with. I quit my job and are stuck with focusing on treatments 24/7. And it is hard, but I truly don't think I could have handled the stress of a job that I wasn't happy at along with doing treatments. For me, it was one or the other. I'm also the type to let my work slide and not climb the ladder. I swear that if I hadn't quit my job, I definitely would have been fired.

I hope that you find a decision that makes you happy and that you feel comfortable with.

nancy said...

I'm a big teller with everyone EXCEPT my bosses. But my bosses are all out of the Boston office, so they don't have to know. I honestly don't know what I would do if they lived here. It's a stuggle, I'm sure.

And while I think it's a good thing you told your boss about it, there is that fear that you are bringing something to his attention that he may not have caught, in which he will now. But the fact you are helping the situation definitely would be a good thing.

This whole IF thing has me unfocused too. I wish I could just put IF on the side while I went to work. Just get a break from 9-5, you know?

PJ said...

I have told my boss' secretary, who I hope has told him so that I don't have to! I'd feel funny about telling him, I think. He makes me nervous.

I am ridiculous about telling other people, co-workers and such. It's mostly all women, which helps.

I'm a project-oriented person. Which I think is code for, I obsess about one thing at a time and right now it's getting pregnant!!!

Then I struggle with the fact that if I tell people my current status, then when I do get pregnant I can't hide it for a few months until I'm sure. 3 months? How do people actually wait 3 months to tell?

My big mouth!