Part of the Best of Both Worlds podcast mission is to share stories and strategies from of lots of different women. How do people from all walks of life make work and life fit together?
Sarah and I welcomed Hannah Olsen to the program this week. Olsen is a technical services librarian, a mom of two (7-year-old girl and a baby boy). Unlike Sarah and me, she’s a true Millennial (we’re in the “Oregon Trail” generation for lack of a better phrase!)
The discussion touched on a lot of topics, but here are a few highlights.
We all find our careers different ways. Olsen worked in the same library system as a college student. She hadn’t particularly been planning to do this professionally, but when a part-time job opened up, it seemed like a good thing to try. She decided she liked it, and wanted to get the education that could enable a career in library sciences. So she went back to school, taking online classes to get her masters degree in library science, and then moving into a full time library job.
Librarians don’t just get to read all day. Olsen says she reads on her lunch break! She uses this break during the day to recharge her batteries.
People ask librarians funny questions. Like there’s this book I want. It’s red. Olsen does what she can. She once solved a child’s book request — the child knew the book’s size — by figuring out that it was a book she had checked out in the past. The record provided the clues!
Extended family can make life work. Olsen is one of 10 children. Indeed, some of her siblings are close in age to her own daughter! Her mom watches her baby while she works. This turned out to be key to deal with another potential challenge…
Short maternity leaves are tough but women make it work. Olsen went back to work just a few weeks after her second child was born (by C-section). Knowing she was leaving her baby with her mother — who clearly has a lot of childcare experience! — made this more doable.
Different kids can lead to different choices. Olsen breastfed her first child for two years. After a difficult birth with the second, she decided to go the formula route. The upside is that he sleeps like a dream (a “unicorn baby” Olsen tells us).
Adopting opposite schedules isn’t necessarily a great strategy. Some couples aim to stagger their work hours to minimize the use of childcare. For Olsen and her husband, this was simply the reality of their work. She had traditional hours in her library, he worked in a restaurant, and consequently had a lot of evening hours. She reports that this was quite rough on their marriage. He now works in corporate food service, which means that he has normal office cafeteria hours. Much better!
Being a primary breadwinner can change some assumptions, but it’s also about the specific people. Olsen has generally been the primary breadwinner in their family, since her husband was working part-time up until recently. One might think that this, by itself, would change some of the traditional assumptions about who does what. However, some research has revealed this is not always the case. But Olsen’s husband is the kind of guy who believes in an equitable split. Also, as Olsen put it, “I asked.” Asking for what she needs has helped this young couple weather the two-career, two-kid lifestyle. She does the mornings because he reports to work early. He does the afternoon because he’s off at 2:30 p.m. He generally does the 7-year-old’s activities and cooks dinner.
Then the Q&A is about outsourcing and what it teaches children. Let me know what you think of Sarah and my answers!