Teacher Health Matters: Tackling the Bathroom Issue Head-On

It was a Saturday morning. I was doing small chores around the house, and I had to go to the bathroom. But I kept holding it. I was home alone, so there was no need to wait for a family member to get out of the bathroom. And I wasn't expecting anyone to knock on the door.

I just kept delaying. I threw in a load of laundry. I put some shoes in their boxes in the closest. I even vacuumed a room. I knew I had to go, but I figured I'd get a few things done and then go.

Why was I holding it? What sense did that make?

I realized that I have conditioned myself to not use the bathroom when I need to. I have had years of practicing this awful habit. And I am not alone. I suspect that the majority of the more than 4 million American school teachers are used to holding it, too.

We teachers simply don’t tinkle whenever we need to. Our jobs and workdays are not designed to accommodate it. Some of us hold it for hours. And going number two ... who has time for that? We complain about it to each other. We commiserate. But when it's all said and done, not being able to go to the bathroom when we need to is chalked up as part of the job.

We need to change this. We need to normalize using the bathroom when necessary.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) advises us to "go when we need to go." Holding it weakens your bladder and makes it difficult to empty the bladder completely, the organization explains on their Web site. "Urine left in your bladder can allow bacteria to grow and makes you more likely to develop a urinary tract infection (UTI)."

"Holding it" is what we do. We’ve been doing it for years. What can we do about it?

Just go, you say. Sounds logical enough. But it's not that easy. No teacher wants to leave students in a classroom unattended, although I must admit that I've done it a handful of times over the years. Those potty runs are stressful in themselves. I've been in the bathroom thinking, "Please, God, don't let there be a fire alarm or lock-down while I'm away from my kids."

One solution is for teachers to recruit a bathroom buddy who would be willing to check in with them during their planning period and cover their class during a brief bathroom run, if necessary.

Some female teachers preach the virtues of period panties. Others simply wait until they get home to hydrate.

Still others recommend Kegel exercises (contracting and relaxing pelvic muscles) to avoid team Teachers with Bladder Problems. Kegels at the ringing of each bell would be quite the workout!

Comment below with your ideas on how to deal with having to go on the job. And if you’ve had any experience advocating for self-care in the workplace, please share. Let's support each other.


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