On Work & Pregnancy – 3 Lessons

I’m half way there. Half way to meeting this little person I’ve been waiting to meet for most of my life. Being pregnant is incredible and terrifying in ways I didn’t anticipate. I won’t get too much into the personal side of this for folks who come here to read about Library stuff but suffice it to say it’s pure energy.

Being a recovering (Reforming? Restructuring?) workaholic while pregnant has been teaching me a lot I thought I might pass on for other workaholics, be they men or women.

1- Do less, do better.

This was also a lesson the universe slapped me upside the head with during my internship with Dokk1. The ability to do good work does not create a need to do said work. The observation that a hole exists does not mean you should be the one to fill it. There will be times stepping up to the plate and filling holes will be rewarding and fulfilling. That your ability to do good work will result in something positive for your community. However, work that is done for the sake of working almost never results in proper follow up and reflection. This will leave you frustrated and unable to replicate your success (or build on it which is what should really happen).

Being pregnant I’ve been forced to slow down. I’m closer to 40 than 30 and that means that in my attempt to listen to my body one thing has been made loud and clear. If I’m to do this well I need to focus and that requires time to be still. I will enjoy this to the fullest if I allow myself to revel in the minutiae and deliciously bask in each of these details I’ve been waiting so long to experience. As I’m working full time while pregnant I’ve allowed myself to shift my focus and allow myself to slow down and try out what I swore I’d try when I returned from Denmark: creating less at a higher quality.

Take a look at your work load by starting with your customer service. Are you able to offer yourself completely to each patron you encounter? If not then your work load isn’t properly balanced. Start from that customer service goal and then add on. When something isn’t getting your attention in regards to proper, thoughtful planning before and then considerate, honest reflection after you’re not properly balanced and should reevaluate. This is SO hard. But you can do it if you start being honest with yourself one task at a time.

2- Sustainability will save us all.

Working to create a plan for my work to continue while I’m on leave is both humbling and challenging. We are all unique with skill sets we feel are critical to our institution’s success. And for the most part we’re right. Those details and quirks we bring to the table contribute to the library microcosm in special ways that flavor the experience of our patrons.

Removing myself for months from that experience will have some affect unless I take care to bridge the gap and create a meaningful patch that will not jar the experience of our patrons.

A good example in my case is the sewing programming I teach on a weekly basis. I lead four drop-in friendly, group sewing classes (one at each of our branches) as well as up to 10 one-on-one private sewing lessons per week. While I am gone I’ve begun establishing a series of programs the branches will lead for the group lessons that will be taught by branch staff and will focus on their own sewing interests. It could be hand sewing focused so they don’t have to deal with the level of machine troubleshooting I’m comfortable with during class, it could also be teaching the basics of the machine (after they’ve been comfortably trained) so that everyone becomes a little more comfortable. It won’t be the same but it also won’t be lacking. I’m excited to hear how the experiment goes and to see coworkers flourish and learn how they adapt the program to their own unique needs. It will give me a better understanding as to the adaptability and replication of what I’ve been building for our system. Knowing it can be adapted means I’ll know I can share it with other libraries more confidently.

As for the one-on-ones we’re lucky enough to have another team member with sewing skills who will step in for some of the higher level requests. My teammates who regularly work upstairs will be retrained on the basics so they can all step in for the intro lessons that deal with the basics of operating the machine.

If you’re not building for your patrons you’re building for yourself and that doesn’t serve anyone except you. Your strength should lie in creating a legacy because of your work, not a vacuum where it used to be. Accomplishing your legacy will look different for everyone but start by imagining “what if I left?” And see where that takes you.

3- Use your time.

You earned it, taking time off for you will create a fresher, happier person for your community to interact with. As a (recovering/reforming/restructuring) workaholic I’m one of those proud folks who “never takes sick days.” I have recently become better about taking vacation time off, especially since I want to honor my body and my pregnancy but a good diet, healthy lifestyle, and my stubborn addiction to work still mean it’s rare for me to take time off for physical health.

Recently, I took the time to go see friends and celebrate together. Then I went to my mom’s house and relaxed with her. It was amazing. On the day I returned to work a normal Dr.’s visit resulted in a scare and a surgery. I had to take 4 days off for bed rest following the surgery. For someone like me this meant extreme feelings of guilt over abandoning my team, discomfort over the loss of my independence, and now I’m facing a set of physical limitations to begin adapting to so that baby and I remain safe as I continue work. Needless to say, this is all WAY out of my comfort zone.

However, because I took the time off to be with my friends and family ahead of this scare I had a good sense of self going into it. I was better able to be honest with my team and make the call to not try and tough through the problem but to respect my limitations and allow myself to heal because I was thinking clearly having basked in the love of friends, family, and my own self for two weeks. Moving forward I know I will need to ask for and accept help. I’ve struggled with this for years but for the first time I’m looking forward to the challenge. I love my team and I trust them enough to try this.

Allow yourself to take time for your physical and mental well being. You really will become better for it.