Economic realities and psychological benefits have increased the need and desire for mothers to work. While we have come a long way in terms of women’s rights to pursue a career, working mothers still face the issue of women’s subordination in a society where institutions and structures penalize them. What it means to be a good mom (putting your children first), often contradicts what it means to be a good employee (putting work first). Participation in one domain impedes the ability to have full participation in the other, thus leading a double demand that creates tension and requires new social patterns.
Working in Higher Ed, I witnessed first-hand the struggle of watching mothers suffer from work-life balance, lack of support, lack of childcare, and/or insufficient funding for childcare. I've watched them have no choice but to drop out, or having to entirely pass up any sort of higher education due to these issues. THIS IS NOT EQUITABLE.
Unfortunately, mothers are part of a demographic that is rarely seen in the software engineering field. I think I know maybe 2 or 3 that have actually made it to an eng position, but they are only acquaintances. So, if you're a Mama engineer out in the world and you want to join my circle - LET'S LINK UP. BECAUSE I NEED YOU.
Switching into the software eng world has been one of the hardest challenges I have faced. Keeping up with new technologies can feel incredibly overwhelming while trying to maintain your workload and spending quality time with your children. We don’t have to struggle alone, yet we usually do. Because let's be real, we barely have enough time to breathe, let alone attend therapy, coaching, or a support group. And um, don't get me started on my best bud COVID (insert sarcasm here)! Good 'ol COVID is out here royally effing everything up for us, and then some.
Additionally, coming in the field in my 30's in a brand new field is already anxiety-provoking enough, but coming in at junior eng (and in my position I was the ONLY female and ONLY junior level engineer) takes a lot of time and resources away from seasoned engineers -- working for a smaller org it is incredibly difficult to get the mentorship you truly need to succeed. And as a Mama, I don't have the time to practice or do additional learnings post-work hours, I have to Mom.
You probably are reading this post, maybe as a Mama eng or just someone interested in looking at a guide to see how we make it all work. But the truth is, we don't know what we are doing a solid 80% of the time. We are making sh*t up on the fly and we are just out here trying to survive. There is not an essential guide because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every one of us comes with unique experiences, coping strategies, and kids that are completely unique in what they need (especially kids with special needs). So, what can we do as mothers? And what can workplaces do to be more equitable and inclusive of this demographic?
“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work”
-Thomas A. Edison
Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace! We are going to fail. We will not be able to get all.the.things done. We will get mad at our kids for seemingly little things. But it's not about having a life without challenges, it's about having purpose and the ability to smile amidst the challenges.
ADVOCATE. ADVOCATE. ADVOCATE. If you can't hack it, ask your direct report for help. Know your rights. Advocate for yourself if you're getting paid less, if you aren't being equipped with the tools and mentorship you need to succeed, etc. This is a great article on how to best advocate for yourself.
Find your community. Community is key. You need to find people who understand where you are coming from, who have done it, or who are doing it now and can support and lift you up! They can mentor you and you can mentor them - share tips and tricks, even orchestrate a babysitting co-op during these trying COVID times.
A few great places:
thelighthouse: a community of rising leaders coming from different industries, functions, and companies. You'll be able to connect with other members via 1 on 1 career conversations on topics that you're looking for insight on as well as topics that you have experience with that you can advise other members on.
virtualcoffee.io: a 2x/week dev coffee chat that's developed into an amazing community of ppl. Also, led by Mama engineers.
Here is a multitude of resources.
Pro-tip for pre-school Mamas: Practice letter recognition in your codebase while explaining what the code is doing (aka rubber ducking) - I have literally found SO many bugs this way.
“There is no doubt that a woman’s economic empowerment is very much interconnected to her health and the well being of her children.”
— Helene D. Gayle
Allot your employee tickets within a sprint that are for continuing learning - allowing Mamas out there a chance to do workshops and further their skills during their work hours without being penalized.
Don't micromanage your employee's time. You should have enough faith in your engineers and know that they are doing their work and their best. If I need to leave in the middle of the day to pick up my kids from school or take them to their appts - there should be no questions asked. Know that family will always come first and don't let that form misconceptions about our work ethic or capabilities.
Flexibility. Allow remote work - we are all doing this right now anyways and finding out how much easier and cost-efficient it is. But also, know that right now with our kids out of school, we are definitely flexing our hours. Coding with little demons running amuck for normal 8-hour workdays is definitely not happening. I tend to do some in the morning and the rest when their Dad gets home or I have extra help at the house. Sometimes I'll even pull 12-hour workdays when I can and take time off of other days.
Ensure you are hiring within this demographic. Actually finding a job after bootcamp or a career-switch is one of the biggest challenges. A lot of times Mamas don't even want to mention they have kids and/or are pregnant because they fear judgment. Provide a welcoming environment, a mentor, and even plug them into a support group.
Being a newb Mama Eng is such a struggle. But together, we can lift each other up. We can create the environment we deserve and we can all help one another achieve our personal and career goals.
Important tips for a self-taught developer
Rui Sousa -
Backend developer roadmap, skills, resources
Santhosh Reddy -
How to earn more as a Freelancer
Guy Ntare -
How I Became a Professional Developer and Built My Dream Career with No Formal Education and No Professional Experience
Ken Rogers -