My to-do list this semester looks quite a bit different:
- Feed baby
- Change diaper
- Rock baby
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