On motherhood and academic librarianship

Ava&Wren
Ava (above) & Wren (below)

I have 2 beautiful girls. At home, they expect me to play with them and cuddle them, and while I do that (I love to do that)- I am also thinking about the next thing I need to write, the next deadline for that upcoming book chapter, or what I could be doing to keep up in my field.

Balancing professional and personal life has never come easy for me – even after nearly 5 years of trying, I always slide into the habit of letting one thing slip a little further into the ether. I decided to continue pursuing my career instead of staying home, and that means I have to make choices on how I manage my time. Now that I have 2 children, it makes it a little more difficult to let the parenting aspect slide – I’ve got a pre-schooler and an infant, how could I possibly write more, how could I possibly stay ahead of the curve?

I’m writing this because I’ve found a few things that have helped me balance motherhood and librarianship. None of it is perfect, and it might not work for you, but it’s worth sharing.

1. Kids come first, and sometimes second

It’s easy to say ‘kids come first.’ Of course they do, but we also need to deliver as academics in the field, and that involves working outside of our normal, daily duties. It involves time at home writing, re-writing, editing, researching, working on presentations, catching up with folks in the Texas Library Association (yes, I need to do that soon) – and that’s when a trusty babysitter or partner needs to come in handy. To excel as both a mommy and a professional, we have to allow ourselves to know that it’s okay to spend time writing, we are not terrible people. The amount of “mommy guilt” that surrounds us on a daily basis cannot (don’t let it) affect our work if we want to say anything in our profession. In fact, it helps me to write this out because sometimes, even I feel that guilt creeping in.

2. Carve out time to write every single day

You’re exhausted. I get it, me too. But, we need to find that time to sit down and write, brainstorm, edit, read, and think. Taking time to ourselves is good for the brain, it keeps it fresh even when forgetfulness and so-called ‘mommy-brain’ got ya down. Trust me, mommy brain is a very real thing, and I’ve found that taking even just 20 minutes to myself to sit down and think, journal, or blog helps reel it in (my brains, that is). Plus, you can look back at what you’ve accomplished, even if you’ve come up with just 1 small solution.

3. Learn how to schedule and manage time effectively

This could be its own blog post. Managing time takes effort in itself, and additional time in your already hectic schedule. Get yourself a nice calendar – I prefer to handwrite stuff, but if you’d like, get yourself an awesome scheduley-app. Write everything down that you can think of: all the stuff that you need to do, and all the stuff that you want to do. Then, PRIORITIZE it. Set goals. Make it happen. If you struggle finding time to write every day, make a block of time once the little ones are in bed. i.e. I will write from 9pm-10pm. If you find that you’re not spending enough time playing with your children, write down that you will do it. Scheduling doesn’t have to be super rigid, but it can help organize your thoughts and priorities.

Speaking of goals, I have a few of my own that I need to work on:

  • Be a more participatory parent – Often times my partner takes over play-time. Probably because he’s so great at it, but I would like to let myself go a little more and play and try new things with the babies.
  • Publish/present more effectively – I think sometimes I am not very skilled at managing my time, but I’m working on it. If I could just turn this paper into a presentation, then I’ve killed 2 birds with 1 idea and chalked up a point in my win column (found under WINNING on my CV).
  • Just be a less-anxious parent – kids are going to get hurt, and they’re going to “be kids.” It’s okay to let go and watch sometimes 🙂 This is my hardest goal yet.
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