Beginning a discussion on librarianship and parenthood

For the past five years, I have been working on writing about librarianship and motherhood and what happens when they collide.
This work has all been happening in my brain, I’ve been archiving and filing, pondering and musing, and consolidating my own experiences with my values and beliefs and the experiences of my friends and colleagues. I’ve also been reading up on the literature. I’ve slowly begun to save what I’ve found, so I can share it with you.

Many things happen when librarianship and motherhood collide. Many wonderful and life-affirming, many disheartening and disappointing. However, shit happens. And whatever order you did it in – perhaps motherhood before librarianship – you’d have an experience to recall.

I’d like to share some of my findings with you.

I want to write about the collision of parenthood and librarianship because I strongly believe, this topic is close to many of us and concerns many of us in the profession. My intention, like Gallin-Parisi (2015), is to, “inspire an honest conversation about this topic within the profession”. I also want this to be an open conversation.

You should be free to speak your mind, wherever your opinion aligns, or even if – especially if – it doesn’t align with anyone.

Around a couple of years ago, I started up this folder collating all these articles on librarianship and motherhood. A few articles about faculty status and parenthood are there, a few with a feminist slant, one that talks about a thing called ‘income penalty’, and others. One is titled, “Q: I am starting to think about having children. How do I start a dialogue with the people I work with, and with my supervisor?”

I read and found that the literature abounds on negative and corrosive discussions about the stress of doing both roles, and doing them well.

My question is: Do you want to talk about this?

Let me know.

 

References

Gallin-Parisi, A. (2015). The Joy of combining librarianship with motherhood. Retrieved from

http://digitalcommons.trinity.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1062&context=lib_faculty on Nov 19, 2016.

Bedoya, J. et al. (2015). How to hack it as a working parent. Retrieved from

http://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1034&context=lib_facpubs on Nov 19, 2016

Andersen, M. (2011). Power of choice: Problems with a female-dominated profession. Retrieved from

http://www.lianza.org.nz/michelle-anderson-power-choice-problems-female-dominated-profession on Nov, 23, 2016

Returning to writing professionally. It must be time

I’ve been sitting on this, and sitting on this, and sitting on this.
This thought, that it would be valuable to speak up about my experience in New Zealand, of navigating the transition from librarianship to motherhood. Of professional registration while on maternity leave. Of Librarian to Unemployed. Of the transition between professionalism in one arena, to trying my best in another.

The aspiring librarian’s career trajectory in New Zealand

What prompted me in writing this post, is reading about Christine Busby contending to be the next President-Elect for LIANZA. I have met Christine a number of times, mainly at social occasions back when she was with SLIS and living in Wellington. Christine’s career progression (and many others in my pre-kids Rolodex) reminds me of all the things I mean to get around to. Librarian position (tick), managing staff, speaking at a conference, LIANZA committee chair, Councilor, then naturally on to President-Elect.

I used to rub shoulders with Laurinda, now I rub shoulders with this one.

Photo of A and I
A and I

Watching how these women progress in their careers, I see the chasm between their career progression and mine. The movement in theirs, and the movement of mine along another trajectory. These are some harsh words to read.

I know that I’ve never learned so much and so quickly, in all my life, as I have in the past four years. I am learning so much from that inspiring little girl there. And her sister. And her brother.

I’ve learned so much about the human spirit, about empathy, emotion, love, compassion, the meaning of whānau. And of acceptance. I never ever would have learned this, without doing it. Without putting myself into the thick of it. Three children under four years old.

Women in the library profession, at some point – if all things are aligned how they want them to be – consider the question of when. When is the right time to start a family?

When is the right time to start a family?

The answer is different for everyone.

If I can help you with finding your own answer to this question, by sharing my experience of librarianship to parenthood, then I’ll feel even better for being here. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be right now.

Be honest with thyself

When you read someone’s credentials – their bio, their e-mail signature, their signoff, their profile; what do you think? What’s your first instinct? “Oh yes.. he must know so and so.. “, or “Hmmm graduated in 2010, just a newbie..”

I’m shooting myself in the foot here because I know many many fantastic individuals, great inspiring people and I could care less where they work and what they have to their name.

Maybe I exercise a Māori world view, one similar to how Sally Pewhairangi describes it.  When I meet someone, I do ask them where they’re from and where they work.

In a Pākeha world view, those two questions may result in the same answer.  I am open to interpretation.

When someone asks me where I’m from, I evaluate the question based on who I’m talking to.  Pākeha – Answer: Wellington.  Māori: East Coast.  In a lot of cases with Māori, all I have to do is say my surname.

I’ll go back to the leaving statement in Sally’s post,

People are more than just a job title or a box in an organisational chart.  The Māori world view recognises this.  People matter.

Amen.

I remember one of the first proper professional talks I gave with Kathryn and Con to an audience of 20 or so library and information professionals back in late 2008.  In my first talk, I felt it necessary and vitally important to articulate myself as indigenous, or Māori to this audience.  I remember one of my colleagues at the time, when testing my talk out on my mates at work, asking me why I was talking in Māori and whether I was doing that to show off.  I told him to listen to what I was saying and then he might understand.

I identify as Māori and a New Zealander.
I need you to see me as an individual regardless of my name.
I need you to see me as an individual, regardless of the fact I have three children clinging to me and I’m not working because I choose to be home for my family in these early years.