Sitting home today with 2 sick kids, ironically enough, I read a blurb in January’s Redbook magazine reporting on research showing that 78% of women in 2-income families report taking time off work when a child is sick, school is closed, or childcare arrangements fall through, as opposed to 28% of men.
(Someday, I would like to get a large grant to conduct research to which the answer is: Well, DUH. Any takers?)
Redbook’s cutesie take on this? “Proof that no matter how much the world changes, moms will always be the best medicine.”
Oh, for the love of…
I don’t think I need even to comment on that statement. But, I have been thinking lately about family and balance. Back in December, Meredith Farkas posted about the assumptions made by a commenter who suggested her career goals and priorities would change after having children. Whether or not Meredith chooses to have children is between her and her husband — but all of our career goals and priorities need to evolve, as the profession and the world around us change, and as our experiences change us.
My own career goals and priorities did change after having children, but I think that kids were just the catalyst of an inevitable shift. Pre-kids, I was following a fairly traditional public library career path, moving from entry-level to department head and beginning to investigate and interview for asst director (medium library) and director (smaller library) positions. I found myself turning down callbacks for second interviews because the jobs didn’t feel right (too long a commute, too bureaucratic…), and then found out I was pregnant. Since one of my priorities was to stay home with my kids while they were small, I stopped interviewing and went part-time at my former place of work, taking the opportunity to work on other (mostly writing-related) projects.
After a couple of years, I had the opportunity to move into a director position. I said no, because my son was small — but really, because I did not want it enough. After the flexibility of working from home — and some experience with the Board I would have been reporting to! — I realized I like what I am doing now a lot better. While it was hard to let the library director picture go, it doesn’t fit as well with who I am now.
But kids don’t have to be the catalyst. Pre-library school, I spent a couple of miserable years in a PhD program that was, let’s just say, not the best fit, pursuing a dream of being a tenured professor with a lovely book-lined office. (Which I can still picture!) I spent my last 6 months in the program with chronic tonsillitis, iller than I’ve ever been — and haven’t had a bout since dropping out 13 years ago.
Sometimes life tries to tell us something; sometimes, life gives us the time to reflect on our priorities. The challenge lies in knowing when to let go of that dream, when to pursue a new dream, when to modify our dreams. When I surveyed people for my upcoming alternative careers book, their catalysts for switching career paths ranged from the need to build better balance, to the realization that they couldn’t advance in traditional libraries without the MLS, to frustration with bureaucracy. Your catalyst may be kids — or may be something totally different — but most of us don’t follow step-by-step along the career path we envisioned in school.
Might I someday jump back onto the library management career path, or go back for the PhD? Sure I might, and I bet my goals and priorities will change yet again as my kids get older. So I keep my options open, and work towards a changing set of short-term goals.