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Normalizing Maternity in Tech

erikaheidi profile image Erika Heidi ・3 min read

While browsing dev.to one of these days, I came across a post that triggered a lot of memories and emotions in me. In this post, @kaydacode talked about her uncomfortable experience being pregnant and working as a software engineer, and the whole anxiety and imposter syndrome that came along with that.

I definitely felt seen. More importantly, looking at the comments made me feel reassured: I finally realized that those struggles were very common and equally challenging to many other women working in STEM. I wasn't the only one who felt that they needed to work two or three times harder, and still not quite able to keep up with pre-pregnancy rhythm. Anxiety builds up, emotions get amplified. Seriously, there is a lot going on.

When you bring this into a male dominated field like ours, you can expect that there will be some struggles that come from the lack of representation. To give you a clear example, I've been to a dev conference in Amsterdam when I was visibly pregnant and I had to leave a room because I wasn't feeling well after 15 minutes standing on the back of a very crowded and hot room, while not a single person has offered me any help or a place to sit. In contrast to what happens in public spaces, where adults will typically help a pregnant women, this is appalling.

Now let's fast-forward to the moment when maternity leave is coming to an end: is reality knocking on the door, bringing you some news. Maybe you have a choice, maybe not. But the baby needs dedication, and at 3 months old (which was the case for me) they can't even sit yet, and they should be relying 100% on breast milk (which is proved to be the healthier, I won't discuss).

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. This is well-spread information that everybody should know. But people in general are very misinformed about breastfeeding, let's not even get into the ignorant souls who think that mothers should not be allowed to breastfeed in public.

I was ignorant and misinformed too. I thought I could just pump my milk, because I saw that in movies and on YouTube. As it turns out, I wasn't able to do it, period. And as a science/fact-driven person, I couldn't go for formula. That, along with the fact that I had the option, made me decide together with my partner that I would take a break from work and deep-dive into motherhood.

I didn't want to leave the company I was working for, but I felt I had no other better choice. What I really needed was more time.

And that time was decisive for me as a person; it gave me wonderful experiences with my daughter, and it really changed me. It gave me clarity, a byproduct of getting better at prioritizing things. Clarity helped me understand my career path and my skills better. So I applied to the same company, in a different job: technical writer. And the rest is now history :) I've been working for about 5 months now, after a 2.5 year break. IT WAS NOT EASY! But we made it (me, my husband and my daughter). Apart from daycare adaptation struggles and sick days, things went really well and I couldn't be happier about my new job.

I think what I'm trying to convey in this post is that we need to talk more about these things, we need to normalize pregnancy and maternity in Tech. Growing babies is hard, taking care of them is even harder.

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Erika Heidi

@erikaheidi

Code sorceress and machine enchantress. Passionate about writing and creating technical content for a variety of audiences.

Discussion

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Thanks for sharing your story! My son is 23 months now and I feel identified by a lot of what you say (although we dads have it way easier than you do and I'm sure we can't fully comprehend how tough it is for our partners even though we're there, listen and support)

❤️💪 Go mums!

 

Thank you for sharing this & bringing this topic more attention. It's difficult to convey how hard it is to make the choices we're forced to make when having children. And it's never cut & dry...

I chose to stay home with my children and drastically slow down my career for several years. And when I talk about that... I don't regret it- my children and my life have been enriched immensely by it. However, there have been very tough sacrifices for me personally & for us financially. Days when I feel the yawn of wasted potential and underutilized intelligence. Hard to admit, but real.

On the other hand I know many women not able to take extended leave for various reasons... feeling utterly heartbroken having to leave their babies to return to work. Or struggling with their own dreams vs paternal obligations. Not to mention the crazy cost of daycare. Neither choice is easy.

In my ideal world, couples would be supported to share parenting equally & reduce work hours for both parents. But we're a long way from that, with men only just starting to take parental leave.

Anyway, great topic, it's nice to see women in tech demystifying this. 😊

 

I feel you, I really do. That "wasted potential" feeling came to me many times as well, along with missing having a paycheck and feeling "really useful" as part of society. Honestly, sometimes I would just be bored AF, missing the mental space and quiet of working, of keeping an interrupted flow of thoughts, concentrate and create stuff. I'm not complaining and I don't regret the choices I made, thou! It's hard either way.

 

Totally.
I've managed to make things much less boring by bingeing dev podcasts & screencasts while doing the more mundane chores. :)

 
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"Unfortunately most Engineers/Developers are somewhere on the Autistic/OCD spectrum and being detail focused tend to lack empathy."

Most? This is not accurate information, nor is pegging those with Autism or OCD as necessarily lacking empathy.

Stereotypes like these are quite harmful.