Being a mom in tech is challenging. Being a new mom and fairly new to the tech industry is even more difficult. For a long time, I didn’t write about it. You’ll notice that even though I bring my child to conferences and speak on the topic, there isn’t anything on my blog about it. And that’s because it’s scary to write about. For me, it’s a little bit terrifying to put into print and onto my blog feelings about being a new mother and being in tech. Some of it is raw, a lot of it is very honest. I never know how that will affect future job prospects or people’s opinions of me as an employee. I mean, how many articles and studies are there about the motherhood penalty, the unconscious (or conscious) bias that takes place when interviewing a mom vs. a non-parent or dad, or the difficulty of moms to get hired. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a badass employee… dedicated, driven, focused, and solution-oriented, but i’m also striving to be an awesome mom, all of which comes with compromise and fitting as much as possible into each day. I would hate for any past, current, or future employer to question my abilities as a developer or as a teammate based on the fact that I’m a mother. I have also decided, however, that employers (past, present, and future) that may look down on me or find themselves with doubts as a result of me being a parent, are probably employers that aren’t the right fit for me anyway. So here goes… This is a post that I wrote (but never published) from December 2015. My son was nine months old at the time and actually processing what it meant for me to be a mom and be where I was in my career at the time.
Being a mom in tech Written December 9, 2015
A few years ago, I transitioned to being a software developer. I was doing nonprofit management for a few years, left it to launch a startup, and through that decided to learn to code. While I expected to hate it, I actually loved the challenges that programming brings and knew it was an industry I would never be bored in. I’ve been a developer for almost two years now and I do love it. It is challenging and interesting and I learn something new every day… which is not something I could say two years into any position i’ve had in the past. BUT therein lies the challenge.
When I started I put in HOURS of extra time. I knew as a career transitioner and an experience professional who was new to code, I’d need to put in the extra effort to get up to speed. I’d spend my weekends working on code side projects, studying more about the methods, practices, and tools we were using at work, and would watch videos, read books and do as much as possible to stay up to date.
As a women in tech I also didn’t mind being the only woman on a team. I didn't really feel different than anyone else, didn’t think I was treated differently, and when my female perspective was different, I treated it as a way to widen others’ perspectives and not something to shy away from.
And then everything changed… then, I became a mom.
Being a mom in tech has been one of the most challenging adjustments I’ve ever had and I am still working on how to balance life and work.
Because I learn something new every day, I need to be sharp every day. Something that isn’t always possible if your baby is having a bad week and you’re getting significantly less sleep every night. The weeks that I only get 4-5 hours of (interrupted) sleep a night and can’t depend on a few cups of coffee during the day to give me those pick-me-ups are tough.
Because I dive into tasks and can work on a problem for hours at a time in order to really understand and solve it, pumping is difficult. I have to pump every 2-2.5 hours in order to have enough milk for my little guy every day and when I pump, I need to force my brain through an enormous context switch… from knee-deep in some technical issues to a relaxed, clear, calm mind that mimics how I would feel if my baby was nursing. I’ve tried working through pumps before and I can do some ancillary email or light-weight tasks, but I can’t continue pushing through a complex technical problem. (and thank goodness I work from home because the days i’m not home and need to find places to pump are even more difficult).
And because I need to continue learning and continue improving my skillset, I need to find blocks of time outside of work to do so. There are no 4 hours blocks of time in my life anymore. Remember, even if I have 4 hours, I need to pump at least once during that time and the moments i’m spending leveling up myself are moments that i’m not spending bonding with or leveling up my child. It’s hard to figure out which is more important and when because neither is more important all the time. It makes it extremely difficult to decide if i’m going to commit to open source, work on a side project, or read some material on a subject i’d like to learn more about… all these options weighed against spending quality time with my child.
While it’s great that I have flexible hours in my industry, it’s also challenging because there isn’t as much understanding around the idea of a hard-stop at the end up the day. And while i’d never noticed many differences between me and my co-workers, those differences are getting harder to ignore and harder for them to relate to. And I understand… they don’t have the context and have never been new dads which might give them some empathy but still isn’t the same as being a new mom.
Being a mom is a new and different experience. It is different than being a new dad in tech, it is different than being a woman in tech. It is just different. I can’t be the only one that feels this way… newly pulled in different directions and trying to determine how to balance it all so that we’re advancing ourselves and our children, giving as much as we should be to our family and our jobs without feeling exhausted all the time.