A few weeks ago I shared a post that I wrote a little bit after I had gone back to work with my first child. Well, fast forward a few years and here I am… pregnant with my second. I’ve kept my second pregnancy pretty quiet from social media, and was definitely nervous, even though I didn’t have a reason to be, about showing at RubyConf. But here I am, I’m pregnant with number two and due very very soon. But here’s some good news… I’m no longer as worried about sharing information about being a mom and a mom-to-be again. I’ve done a lot of thinking and reflecting over the past few months and here’s what I’m excited about and not so excited about this second time around.
I’m not sure if it’s because I have a child or because it’s just become more visible in the industry but it feels like I see parents in tech everywhere. New babies are celebrated and not hidden on Twitter. Moms attend conferences with their kids. I’m part of NUMEROUS slack teams that have parenting channels filled with amazing, supportive, honest individuals. Talking about being a parent doesn’t seem as taboo anymore. It feels like jus a regular life thing that happens and that people actually embrace. The tech world of today for parents, while still a work in progress, feels very different than the world of 3 years ago when I had my son.
Along with that fact comes better maternity leave policies. It seems as though almost everywhere I look (although I know it actually isn’t all places) parental leave policies are improving. From how long parents can take leave for to the constraints around that time, it feels as though there is a greater understanding and support for recognizing that forcing parents back to work early is not effective for employees or companies. And as companies of all sizes adapt more progressive policies, other companies are forced to do the same in order to remain competitive. That being said, however, my favorite question to ask random recruiters in LinkedIn is “what is the parental leave policy of the company you are hiring for since I only consider working for companies with progressive policies in this area?” If you’re not interested in recruiters contacting you, ask this question and most will stop messaging.
Next, I’m glad that this time around I’ll be more experienced in tech. For my first I had only been at my first full time job in tech for 10 months before having a baby. That is NOT a lot of time. Everything still felt so new. I never had any idea what I was doing and I was trying to build confidence in myself as a developer and then I was out on leave for 6 weeks. 6 weeks is not a long time to be out when you’re a first time mom but it’s also a lifetime when you’re a new developer. Not looking at code for that time set me back a bit and returning to work while still super sleep deprived and just barely understanding who I was as a mom and who my baby was made jumping back into everything as a junior developer really challenging. This time, as someone with a few more years experience, I don’t think it is going to feel quite as foreign to come back and I have a sense (although I could be totally wrong about this) that it won’t be as difficult to do little things like watch conference talks or read blog posts while on leave (if I choose to do so!)
And finally, knowing what’s up. This isn’t related to tech at all, it’s just me. I can go into this new parenting experience with a little more knowledge about what it’s like to be a parent. Every child and every pregnancy is different but I know how I changed as a person, how my brain chemistry and learning style changed, and how I am as a parent with my first. I have at least some sense of what to expect the second time around. I am going into the experience with better resources for what I need to be successful as a mom of two and more confident in myself as a mother. Even having a broad idea of what to expect and what I may need as an individual, new mom, employee, and more feels like I’m starting this journey in a much better place than I did with my first.
Oh and also onesies!! So many more companies have adorable baby onesies now! I can’t wait to outfit my new little lady in as many baby tech clothes as I can get my hands on.
There are lots of great things about being a second time mom and lots of positive changes I’ve seen in tech over the last few years, however that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I’m still dreading a little bit. Here are the things I’m not looking forward to.
Pumping. Uugghhh. Pumping is the bane of my existence. By far the worst part of being a working, breastfeeding mom in my opinion. That heavy pump you’ve gotta lug around with you everywhere. The forced breaks you have to take in order to do it. And for a full year! It honestly seems like forever when you’re in the midst of it. I pumped for a year with my first so he’d have breast milk until he was a little older than that and intend (hopefully) on doing the same for this second child. Fortunately, I work from home so there are a whole slew of logistics that I don’t have to worry about and I really only have to lug the thing around when I’m traveling but one of the biggest downsides to being remote and pumping is that you’re basically tied to your house. I’m not sure what my schedule will be like with number 2 but with my first, because he was not good at nursing, I was pumping about every 2.5-3 hours. This often meant it wasn’t worth it to try to get to a coffee shop or cowork because by the time I was settled, I’d have to head home. There’s basically no way to pump at a coffee shop and a vast majority of coworking spaces do not have locking, private lactation facilities either. When basically every break you take during the workday is allocated towards pumping, also being remote and tied to home really increases your isolation factor and, for me, is definitely a struggle.
Next, Recognizing the impact it will have on my career. I think with adequate maternity leave this time around the impact might not be as tremendous but in the talk I’ve done, BDD: Baby Driven Development, I speal about an answer to a survey question where parents answer if they feel having a child(ren) has had an affect on their career and if so, what this affect has been. The results are fascinating. More folks who identify as fathers feel having a child has had a neutral or no affect on their career however an overwhelming number of mothers feel it has had a negative affect. As I mentioned earlier, after 6 sleep deprived weeks, it was challenging to jump back into code. I had a lot of ramping up to do and that ramp up was slower as I learned how my brain worked differently. Additionally there is the greater mental load that comes with being a mother. Even if you and your partner are fantastic at sharing responsibilities related to house and childcare, it’s still very likely that the woman will take on a lions share of the mental load of being a parent. There are hundreds of small tasks related to being on top of children-related things and making sure your household is running smoothly. Having to keep track of all of that plus transitioning back to work (while pumping and with a sh*t-ton of new hormones in your system) is incredibly challenging. Career driven moms want to be awesome and want to be successful and I think a lot of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be all things to all people all the time. Plus, being a new mom means making some sacrifices. I spoke at a lot of conferences last year and while that was awesome, this year I’ve applied to less because of third trimester travel restrictions, knowing I won’t want to travel just after the baby is born, etc. Taking this sort of break is challenging for me and when I am able to return to conference speaking, I can’t do quite as much as a mom of two with a full time working spouse. I’ll need to be a little choosier about which conferences I apply to and what opportunities I seek out without letting that part of my career, which I love(!) go completely. In short, this time around, one of my goals is to recognize the impact all of these factors have on each other and be the best I can be while being realistic which, most weeks, will probably mean feeling like something won’t be quite as successful or prioritized as I want it to be.
Also, the prebirth schedule. Hi. It’s currently 5am as I write this. Why am I writing this at a ridiculous hour? Because biologically, as you get closer to your due date, your body switches you from being on a 12 hour circadian rhythm schedule to being on a 24 hour one which is what your baby will need. That means I’m awake. Every night. From about 3:30-5. And I’m super tired. Every day. From about 11:45am-2pm. Know what that’s not convenient for?! A FULL TIME WORKING MOM WITH A TODDLER WHO IS NOT DRINKING ANYTHING CAFFINATED!!! At least I feel like I’m using the time productivity this evening to write a blog post.
Finally, all the logistics. Do you know how annoying it is to think through attending an event or a conference as a breastfeeding mother with a full time working spouse?! There are about 1000 things I need to organize on the homefront before going away in addition to thinking through everything that will need to happen at the conference. This includes… will I have access to a fridge and freezer for breastmilk storage purposes, making sure you’ve got all the parts and pieces you need for pumping, coordinating with conference organizers about what pumping facilities will be available (this is getting better, thank goodness, AND I’m more willing to be picky about what conferences I won’t attend if they don’t respond or don’t have any available facilities, but 3 years ago it was a serious pain!), depending on where the conference is and where those lactation facilities are, how much of the conference will I miss because I’m pumping, and what is the travel like? Will I need to pump on the plane (which sucks and is still not something I’m super comfortable with) or at the airport (probably in a bathroom stall), how difficult will TSA be about getting breastmilk though security, how difficult will gate agents be about having a pump as an extra carry on, etc. (see, I told you pumping was super annoying). All of these factors are enough to make anyone think, well, I’ll just stay home instead. They’re not unmanageable but they are really taxing to think through.
I don’t know if everyone feels this way but I feel like there are both things I’m excited about and things I’m not as excited about. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom, it means I’m a person with complex emotions. In the end, though, there is something really awesome and powerful about being a full time working mom. At the end of the day, how many of your colleages can say they shipped a feature while also growing a freaking human inside of them! I’m looking forward to where this new journey, with this new child, takes me and what sort of kiddo this next one will be.