Career Strategies for Librarians
Work in a Tenure Track Position and New Motherhood: Important Factors to Consider
by Ayodele Ojumu
Becoming a new mother can bring both excitement and anxiety. Expectant mothers will be excited over
the new life developing inside of them and tremendously anxious over their health, the health of the baby,
as well as all of the new parenting responsibilities that await them. When you are a working mother, you
may also experience feeling of guilt because you know that you may be only able to spend a short
amount of time with your baby after birth depending on the Maternity Leave or Family Medical Leave Act
(FMLA). After learning that I was pregnant, I wondered if I would be able to realistically continue a career
and be an involved mother. I knew that pregnancy and motherhood would alter my life; I just did not know
how and to what extent. Once new motherhood is staring you in the face, you are forced to see things
differently and organize your life accordingly.
Work in a Tenure Track Position
The primary purpose of academic tenure is the protection and promotion of academic freedom. The
ultimate benefit of tenure is job security. The academic tenure process, commonly referred to as “tenure
track,” is typically set forth in a policy which should assist the faculty member with an actual roadmap to
reappointment, promotion, and continuing appointment. The policy should also define the ranking
system, including the criteria for personnel decisions, and describe the roles of the candidate in these
actions. The policy, however, can still be difficult to understand. Depending on your situation and work
environment, gaining tenure is a process that can be difficult to manage at first, especially if it is your first
tenure-track position. Eventually you learn what works best for you and the institution you work for.
The road to attaining tenure is rigorous and challenging. It may several years for you to learn the process
and feel confident about making the long haul. Tenure responsibilities include: scholarship, teaching,
service, and professional development – not necessarily in that order and typically takes seven years.
Work in a tenure track position often seems like a constant state of unease. Tenure is a process
grounded in selectivity. You just do not know what may work for you or against you. As stated in the
Pennsylvania State University University Libraries’ Promotion and Tenure Criteria, “reappointment and
promotion require achievement; continuing appointment requires the promise of continuing
achievement.” If you are not aware already, learn all you can about the process and what is expected of
you to gain tenure. Speak to your supervisor(s) about options. For example, if travel to conferences is a
regular practice at your organization, see if you can limit your conference attendance to local events or,
consider using this time to write and getting published.
New Motherhood Considerations
There are many work-related decisions a woman faces after deciding to start a family and actually
becoming pregnant. These decisions may include breaking the news at work, reconfiguring your work
schedule or using flexible work options, thinking about maternity leave or Family Medical Leave,
childcare, and maintaining your career. Before making any decisions, know your rights and gain a solid
understanding of your benefits. Scrutinize your employers health plan and Family Medical Leave Act
(FMLA). Read your contract and make an appointment with someone in Human Resources, Personnel
Department or the Union. Determine your paid and unpaid leave timetable. Talk to others at the same
rank as you who have used family leave. They can give you the real deal between theory and practice.
Breaking the News at Work
Deciding when to break the news at work is up to you. Some expectant mothers choose to wait until the
second trimester when the chances of miscarriage lessen. Others spread the news as soon as they
find out. Be assured that it is perfectly normal to experience anxiety about informing your colleagues.
None of us wants to be treated with less respect or put our jobs in jeopardy. Realize and accept the
anxiety that revolves around informing your supervisor(s) and coworkers as well as how you will meet
your job responsibilities while pregnant and after the birth of your baby. Be conscious of whatever
physical and psychological changes may take place during your pregnancy and adjust accordingly.
When thinking about maternity leave or family medical leave, decide what works for you and the
organization that you work for. Options include: leave with pay, use of state, company, or supplemental
disability benefits, and unpaid leave.
Coping With Your Work Schedule
All libraries are not the same, especially when it comes to the type of service offered and the hours made
available to serve. Academic libraries are usually open to the public evenings and weekends.
Depending on what you do, such as reference service and bibliographic instruction, you may not be able
to get out of your evening or weekend shift. Explore flexible work options. Based on library-related
literature, telecommuting, flextime, and time grants are all being used in various types of library
environments. Maybe you can use one or all of these options to work around the evenings and
weekends that you may be required to work.
Maternity/Family Medical Leave
Talk with you doctor and find out how much time you should take off before and/or after giving birth.
Basically, the amount of leave you require rests solely on your health and the type of delivery you have.
Keep in mind that women who have a caesarean section delivery require more weeks of recovery time
than a vaginal birth -- if there are no additional complications. When preparing to talk to you supervisor
about your pregnancy, maternity/family medical leave, and its effect on your job, give thought to more than
one scenario. Never promise anything while you are pregnant! You do not know what your situation will
truly be like or how you may feel after the baby is born.
Childcare will ultimately make or break your situation at work. Since many expectant mothers are unable
or choose not be stay-at-home moms, finding dependable and trustworthy childcare is the goal.
Childcare options include: daycare centers, home daycare, nanny care, and relative caregivers. Do your
research and ascertain which situation is best for you. One great approach for finding decent childcare is
to get a referral from someone who has a child(ren) in a place that has served them well. The next best
approach is to visit a few of the national childcare web sites, such as:
The National Association for the Education of Young Children <www.naeyc.org>
National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) <www.naccrra.org>
National Association for Family Child Care <www.nafcc.org>
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care <http://nrckids.org>
The National Network for Child Care <www.nncc.org>
Balancing Your Household and Career
After talking with many working mothers, the consensus is not to try and do everything. It was
recommended that a new mother should take inventory of all that they hope to accomplish, prioritize, re-
prioritize, and then eliminate if possible. The amount of time and energy you have will change after the
baby is born. The basic idea is to maintain order without becoming overwhelmed. As far as tenure is
concerned, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Statement of Principles on Family
Responsibilities <www.aaup.org> states specific recommendations for faculty members, of both
genders, who are the “primary or coequal caregiver of newborn or newly adopted children,” in regard to
stopping the tenure clock or extending the probationary period. Seriously seek out the feasibility of
flexible work options if this is not an option or you would rather not interfere with the natural course of the
tenure process. Above all, remember that it is possible to continue working while pregnant and meet the
responsibilities of achieving tenure. The key is developing a time-management plan so that you can be
productive while at work and keep yourself energized, stress-free and healthy.
About the Author:
Ayodele Ojumu is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the State University of New York College at
Fredonia in Fredonia, New York.
Article published August 2003
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editor