30 Days of Back to School: The Work-Life Balance

I am cocooned in guilt. I feel guilty when I leave my toddler to come back to school for Open House or the school play. I feel guilty when I forego the homecoming football game in favor of spending time with my family. I want to be more active in professional organization, but worry that I won’t be able to fulfill my commitments.

School librarians are, of course, not the only ones dealing with the balance of life and work. Nor is it simply parents who struggle to find balance. We all have friends, hobbies, and professional commitments outside of our day to day work in our libraries. For example, a recent NPR piece pointed out that Millenials are particularly adamant about maintaining work-life balance having seen their parents work and work only to have it taken away by the recent economic situation. As teen librarians, we have the added stress of trying to help our patrons who may be struggling through weighty issues.

Clearly, we are all feeling the push and pull. Yet the typical advice given often won’t work for librarians. The NPR story touted the benefits of telecommuting, something difficult for librarians whose jobs are typically tied to a place. Or how about the suggestion “Learn how to say no”? We are a profession that prides itself on always saying yes.

So as I go back to work, I wonder how to maintain balance, to continue to do my best possible work all day, and still have some emotional, intellectual, and physical energy left for my family, my friends, and my writing at the end of the day.

I’ve done some poking around, and found a great set of articles at LISCareers.com that cover the stresses of our jobs, working with new children, and the stress of not work. Reading that others are going through the same thing as me is helpful, and I’d welcome more concrete suggestions. I don’t imagine that anyone has it all figured out, but please share any tips – or your own struggles – in the comments.

3 thoughts on “30 Days of Back to School: The Work-Life Balance”

  1. One thing I try to do is avoid responding to work emails from home, whether that means after work hours or when I’m away doing professional development stuff (or just home sick or on a personal day). I can’t seem to bring myself not to check the email, but I’m at least pretty good on not responding.

    I also find saying no very difficult, but I find that I feel better if I can say no in some aspect of my life–maybe not sitting on that second (or third) YALSA committee, picking and choosing which extra-curricular events I’ll attend… Then again, you’re looking at the new yearbook co-advisor, so clearly no isn’t very popular in my vocabulary!

  2. Ha! I just started as a yearbook co-advisor this year, too.

    I like the idea of not responding to work emails at home.

  3. I think another complicating factor for teen librarians in public libraries is that we want to be around when the kids are free to be here — after school, before dinner, late in the evenings. It’s no use to visit schools and say, “Come see me at the library! I’m here to help with your research! I want to help you find something fun to read!” and never actually be there when the teens are free to come in. But clearly, working till 9 every night and all weekend is a great way to burn out fast. When I talk to teens or their parents and think they may want to follow up, I try to remember to give them my schedule, or at least let them know which day I work late. And being available via email/facebook has been really helpful in lessening the guilt of being home with my family when I know I could be helping a bunch of teens.

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