Posted the May 1 issue of Info Career Trends today, on “building balance.” I especially appreciated Marcy Brown’s pointer to Making a Living Without a Job and the idea of creating “multiple profit centers” to deal with the inevitable ebbs and flows of self-employment.
I’m also reading Leslie Bennetts’ The Feminine Mistake, which talks, in part, about the long-term economic impact of women’s decisions to quit their jobs to stay home with their children. In libraries, this is pretty easy to rationalize: I make less money than my partner; I’m burned out working with the public; my salary would go to daycare; it makes sense for me to stay home. But, while our salaries may not be all that great, we shouldn’t dismiss the benefits of more years in Social Security and/or an employed-sponsored retirement plan, access to 403B/401K plans, more time to move up the career ladder and earn raises and promotions, better future employment prospects.
I don’t regret swapping full-time work in a library for self-employment, but think we need to go into any of these changes with our eyes wide open. I can’t contribute to a 403B, but I’m darn sure to dump the maximum into my IRA each year. I’m no longer participating in a pension plan, but I’m continuing to work for pay each year and trying to avoid those years of zeros being figured into my Social Security. I’m doing things related to librarianship that will put me in a better position if and when I do decide to go back to more traditional work. I didn’t quit right away, but took time to build up some freelance work. I’m incredibly lucky in that my husband’s workplace provides family health coverage.
Women (never men) come up to me fairly regularly at conferences or send e-mails asking, basically, how they can quit their day jobs too. I’m all for this, but think any one of us who takes that plunge needs to be aware of the long-term implications and to have a long-term plan and goals (however flexible or changeable these might be). This also points to the need for libraries to pay attention to work/life balance issues for everyone.
I was at dinner with a few mom friends the other night, all of us librarian or teacher types, and the conversation came around to goals. A couple of people said straight out that they don’t have any career or long-term goals, don’t think they need any, and that their focus is only on their kids and making sure they turn out well.
My kid (soon kids!) is my top priority, but I don’t think it’s healthy for either of us that he be my only priority, or to focus only on the immediate future of staying home with kids without also thinking about a long-term career path. We can’t truly build balance without an idea of what we want from our lives and our careers, and where our priorities lie in terms of both short-term needs and long-term goals.