Hacking Parenthood in Library School: When You’re New to Parenting


My to-do list this semester looks quite a bit different:

  1. Feed baby
  2. Change diaper
  3. Rock baby
  4. Repeat

Yes, I’m taking a brief hiatus from library school for fall semester as the new mama of a baby boy. One month into the job, and I can definitely say parenting is the most demanding “course” so far, but also one that has already given me tremendous joy.

Yet even though parenthood was my chosen path and I am extremely happy with my choice, there are moments of doubt that creep in (particularly during particularly sleep-deprived hours). What about my career? What will it do to my job prospects that now it is that much longer till I get my MLIS? How will I juggle childcare expenses with tuition fees and writing research papers after being up all night with a fussy infant?

I also recognize the privilege I have with these concerns. I am fortunate to have an involved partner with good paternity leave and health insurance; a wonderful boss and workplace willing to let me take leave for a few months, and lots of local support from family and friends. Many students are juggling parenting solo, often with multiple kids and/or full- or part-time jobs, and sometimes with far less financial security and support. I have renewed respect for all y’all! This is the first of a series of posts about library school students  balancing the demands of school with work and parenthood.

If you are a library student new to parenthood or considering becoming a parent, it is worth exploring what kinds of family-friendly considerations your program may offer:

Option to take a semester leave without filling out official paperwork. My program (San Jose State’s iSchool) offers this option and it definitely impacted my decision to enroll in the program as someone pursuing a family. Since the arrival of a child always involves a certain degree of uncertainty, it was tremendously helpful to know that I could withdraw from classes if necessary with minimal hassle and without jeopardizing my schooling or academic standing.

Flexibility in changing full-time or part-time student status. I know this has helped several people who I know who had to lower their class loads due to a temporary family situation or change to their child’s schedule. I appreciate having this safety net when I return to school next semester, if I find it tough to meet the demands of a full-time course load with work and baby.

Asynchronous lecture and/or conference call requirements for online courses. Look out for any online courses that may have mandatory real-time lecture or conference call requirements. I find most professors these days are understanding of busy schedules (and the near impossibility of finding a good time for everyone’s schedule), and will record live calls or make attendance optional. Choosing classes accordingly will ensure you are not stuck shuffling nap time with live lecture requirements.

When academic and career worries strikes the tired parent, here are a few strategies that are helping me keep anxiety at bay:

Going outside. Even if it is just a walk around the block or as small a trek as standing on the porch, baby in tow. Taking a pause and inhaling some fresh air can often be enough to help me refresh and re-set.

Seeking out other people. I have been blown away by how many library student parents and colleagues have helped me out, be it a simple text or kind words of encouragement or advice. It helps me get out of my own head and remember that every parent struggles sometimes.

Reading. My ebook reader has been handy for sneaking a few pages of a novel or reading some library-related blog posts in-between diaper changes. I find reading keeps me connected to why I am passionate about becoming a librarian.

Finding gratitude. Savoring moments such as the smell of a new baby or my son snuggling up on my shoulder allows me to soak in the joy of this whole crazy new world, and reminds me of how lucky I am to be embarking on this adventure.

Image credit: Zazzle




10 replies

  1. Megan, thank you for writing this!

    My husband and I were beginning to make plans for starting a family after iSchool and found ourselves (mixed emotions–mostly positive–here) expecting. I’m in second trimester with a little boy, working full time, and am in the midst of a semester of MLIS course work. If I stay on this schedule, I can anticipate submitting the culminating project on my way to the delivery room. We’re… considering our options. Thank you EVERYONE for sharing a few!

    It is so surprising how pregnancy changes EVERYTHING about what a woman knows of herself. (Whose body is this? Where did these wild emotions come from? What happened to my stamina? Dropped a ball? No, I don’t drop balls!).

    Looking forward to future posts–and a walk through the neighborhood. Cheers.


  2. I can relate to this post so much since I’m also currently taking the fall semester off to be with my 3-week-old baby boy! However, this is baby boy #3 for me, so I’m not new to the parenting gig, but each child is different and somehow adding one more often feels like exponential growth!

    Absolutely yes to the ereader! I got together with my favorite public librarian when I was in my 3rd trimester and had her put together a list of ebooks she thought I’d like for once baby arrives so I don’t even have to worry about picking what to read next.

    My first child was born in the midst of my first Master’s program, and I did the exact same thing, taking a semester off and returning when he was 4-months-old (another September baby!). However, that was an in-person program with an hour-long commute from my house, so I’m grateful to be doing a 100% online MLIS program this time! I look forward to hearing how your return goes for you in January as we journey together through the MLIS program with an infant!


  3. Just a heads up, Family Status is a protected class in ALA’s volunteer work now. You cannot be kicked off of a committee or opportunity because you are having a child or have new childcare responsibilities. The organization has a responsibility to work with you to find alternative ways for you to contribute to the profession and have these kinds of opportunities. It was a Council Resolution at MW 2017.


  4. I so needed to read this now. I’m on a slightly different end of the spectrum (stay-at-home mama to 7 & 4 year olds who is just starting her MLIS). The great thing about programs like iSchools (why I picked it!) is the flexibility. I am grateful for this dive into a new career, but am already going into hyper-Type A mode with schedules and such to coordinate childcare, school, volunteering with my kids’ activities, etc. Never mind the cost! So just know, YOU GOT THIS. The beautiful thing about our program is that they allow for us to move slowly if needed, taking a part-time load of classes. And your kid(s) will eventually see and understand the work you’re putting into your dream. Even little guys pick up on that, and you are being a great role model for portraying that you can find ways to achieve your career goals while you also make time for your new family. Best of luck to you & all those other parents in the comments!


  5. YES! I agree with Diedre above: your kids will eventually see and understand the reason you put all this work into something. Thanks to my nontraditional entry into library school when my girls were 4 and 7, they now know about things like scholarships, online classes, conferences, and “mama has homework too!” All those things will serve them well as they get older and contemplate their professional options.
    Last weekend I saw a former classmate at a conference with her one-year-old along for the entire weekend. Sometimes you do have to bring baby along… but there’s always lots of willing aunties to help hold him/her!


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